I started off on what they call the ‘black circuit’. The gigs I played and audiences that came along meant the material I began with was probably more relevant to the diaspora. It was more nuanced, which was okay, but eventually I found it a bit limiting in terms of the scope. My own taste in comedy was quite eclectic by this point and I was ready to play bigger rooms. I find playing to 3,000 much easier than 300. If fewer people laugh at a joke, you’re less likely to notice in a room of 3,000.
The first big turning point was going to Edinburgh for the first time in 2014. That show ended up earning me a nomination for Best Newcomer – I was the first British black person to be nominated for that award, and it made people notice me. It led to a sitcom I’d written being commissioned by the BBC. That then propelled me into things like Live At The Apollo, which gave me a certain level of credibility in the mainstream, and latterly to the podcast and shows like Bamous.
Another big turning point was the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. It was a weird time – the pandemic was only a few months in – but it gave people time and space to really hear a lot of things that had previously gone ignored. That included all the things I’d been saying in my comedy show. Around this time, I met Howard Cohen – a producer – and we discussed ideas for a new podcast.
People say they find my style of comedy cathartic. Ultimately, comedy is cathartic – both for the comedian and the audience. I usually end up talking about things that piss me off and people, audiences, listeners… They relate to that. They feel like they can let their guard down, and they laugh. It’s like I’m able to say what everyone’s usually thinking. The subject matter we tackle on the podcast feels like a natural evolution of that, with a bit more inquisitiveness and a thirst for knowledge thrown in. I look at it as adding depth that my comedy shows sometimes gloss over.
People often ask me what it was like entering the podcast space – especially as it can be seen as pretty saturated. But it didn’t faze me. Comedy was pretty saturated when I got into it, and that’s even more so the case now. I always say the comedy industry is full of people looking for validation who can’t afford therapy – so as you can imagine, that encompasses a large demographic. But I was confident in my style then, and I’m confident about it now. That’s the difference: you have to believe that what you have to offer is unique enough to stand out. If you believe no one sounds like you, that’s a start. Build it well enough and people will come.