So essentially what happened was this: I’ve been doing comedy 13 years, and I’ve never taken a month off. So, getting back on stage after a four-month hibernation was scary, and then you add in the fact that there was so much happening in the world, with George Floyd, and the BLM rallies.
But, this June, (a local club) opened its stage to local comedians to headline. In the time that I’ve been in Edmonton, I have never seen them give this opportunity to every-day, local and Canadian comedians before, so it was exciting. And yet, at the same time, you haven’t performed in four months, and you can’t really feel comfortable up there doing your old act, because it doesn’t apply to what’s going on in the world — there’s so much on your chest. So I decided to abandon my pre-COVID act and go with what was in my heart, with what I saw and felt in the last four months.
When you’re doing new material, you don’t know what’s going to happen. But when I finished, people lined up after the show to take pictures and talk with me. When the host, Celeste Lampa, passed me onstage, she gave me a look that confirmed what I felt — like, wow, great job. When I came off stage, Scotty Belford, a comedian who’s known me for 12 years, said it was the greatest performance he’d ever seen me do.
And, as he is saying these words, the manager comes out and says he is very disappointed in my performance and the topics I discussed, that he had given me a platform to be funny, that my topics were inappropriate, that I was “bumming out white people,” and that “no one wanted to hear about my Black issues.”
I was shocked. I’ve never seen a comedian being told what they can and cannot do on stage at this club. I spoke on how systemic racism has silenced the voices of the people being oppressed by this system, and here it is happening to me with somebody who claimed to be a friend. I was crushed.
In the moment, I didn’t want to lose favour with the club, so I said I wouldn’t do it anymore.
I had knots in my stomach the whole next day. To be honest, I didn’t even want to perform. And as I walked in, Celeste goes, “You’re not gonna bitch out, are you?” And that gave me the strength to perform. So I doubled down and did that set for the rest of the week.
When I went to pick up my cheque, I told (the manager) to his face that what he said was disgusting and racist, and I no longer ever want to perform at (that club).
But I’m not telling anybody to boycott this club. What I want is for people to see that systemic racism exists, and it’s something we go through as Black people that holds us back in our jobs and everyday lives. And I promise that even after it’s published, people will say it wasn’t that bad, or talk about how many Black friends they have. But these are the tiny little thousand cuts of death that we don’t complain about, because it can be difficult to prove racism. It’s exhausting, and I’m tired of it.
(Edify contacted the manager of the club, who declined to comment. We also reached out to the owner of the club for comment, but did not receive a response.)
If you can get vaccinated before the end of summer, will you consider going on vacation?