White Yardie brings his brand of Jamaican wit to Bermuda
White Yardie never intended to become a stand-up comedy sensation.
Ten years ago, he was a delivery driver in London. He was Bored and started playing around with a now defunct app called Keek that allowed users to upload videos.
“I started doing short comedy skits, and videos of me,” the 37-year-old said. “I was just talking about my views and opinions and things. People found it funny and said you should try stand-up. So I did.”
Since then, he has had his own comedy special Straight Outta Jamaica, has upwards of 570,000 Instagram followers, and was nominated for Best Comedian 2016 by the UK Entertainment Awards.
He will be performing in Bermuda next month in the Can’t Stop Mi Comedy Tour put on by Epic Entertainment.
Much of his humour centres around his childhood growing up in St Elizabeth, Jamaica. His parents migrated there from England in the 1980s.
“They loved it out there,” he said. “But when my mother was pregnant with me she flew back to England, because she had had a miscarriage prior to having me. She just wanted to make sure everything was OK.”
They returned to Jamaica when he was three months old and he stayed there until he was 18.
But he is careful to point out that although he is White, he did not grow up “rich” as is sometimes assumed.
“I came to the UK as a change of life,” he said. “I wanted to try something different. I had a lot of friends in Jamaica who were moving away after school going to America, Canada and England. So I said I wanted to move away as well and see something different.”
Because he spent his formative years in Jamaica, he considers himself to be Jamaican, and still has an island accent. In recent years he has taken some flak for calling himself Jamaican in his comedy. He is dismissive of his critics.
“People will say what they want to say,” he said. “Even if I was not doing comedy or social media, or wasn’t as well known as I am today, I would still be me. It is not like I have done this because it would work in some favour for me. This is who I am on a day-to-day basis. But I don’t really care. I have learnt over the years not to care too much about what people think about me.”
In interviews he is frequently asked about the secret to comedy. His answer points to honesty and authenticity.
“When I first started in comedy there were people who were saying oh this is just Jamaican stereotypes,” he said. “Then I started to do more jokes about myself. Then it was a bit different. Now I can go on stage and do an hour and not even mention Jamaica. I feel like it is about learning more and more how to put jokes together, and what is funny and what is not funny.”
He said people new to comedy needed to respect the craft.
“Don’t just get into it and think, yeah, yeah, I’m funny, I can make people laugh,” he said. “There are ways to put jokes together. And there are different types of jokes.”
He does a mixture of things online such as skits of himself in different scenarios and reaction videos. His live performances are more about himself.
The pandemic brought with it some challenges for him as a comedian. He does a lot of work online, so he was OK, but he missed live comedy.
“Performing to people live is what I enjoy doing,” he said. “Not being able to do that did make me feel a little bit depressed at times. I feel like even coming out of Covid-19 it was a little bit scary because you did not know what it would be like.”
And he said after not performing for an entire year, being on stage again felt like starting over.
But this year he has been touring extensively. He has already been to the Cayman Islands and St Croix, and after visiting Bermuda, will be doing the Cayman Islands again, Belize, St Thomas and Canada.
“It is picking back up now,” he said.
This will be his first trip to Bermuda.
“I am only there for a few days, but it would be nice to be able to see some of the island,” he said.
No matter how many shows he does, he always gets nervous before going on stage.
“You never know how that set will go,” he said. “In your mind it has worked 100 times already, but deep down you don’t know, because every audience is different.”
Travelling so much he has to be sensitive to differences in language and dialect.
“You tailor your material based on where you are going,” he said. “British humour is different from Caribbean humour, and Caribbean humour is different from American humour. It is all different. But I think as long as your material is not too English or too Jamaican, it can translate. It is about painting that story and getting the audience to feel engaged. When I travel I will ask questions. I will say, in England we call this a football jersey. What do they call it here?”
Performing in the Caribbean he feels a little freer.
“One thing I do enjoy when performing for a Caribbean audience is I can be more free,” he said. “I am not thinking that person there might not understand me if I speak too fast or say certain words.”
For White Yardie, comedy has always been an opportunity to say what other people are too afraid to say. But in more recent times he has had to become more careful about what he says in his humour. He believes that audiences have become more sensitive.
“There are so many different things happening in the world, you have to be very careful of not saying the wrong thing that could upset some groups of people,” White Yardie said. “There are certain jokes now, that might have been funny, but because of how things are being perceived you have to be very careful. It is almost like comedians are being censored.”
The Can’t Stop Mi Tour Comedy Show will also feature Kyrah Gray, Chris Savag, and Eddie G, and will be hosted by Mr Fotogenik with music by DJ Chubb. It will be held on September 4 at 9pm in the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium at CedarBridge Academy in Devonshire. Tickets are $75 each available on www.ptix.bm.