A couple of years ago, standup comedian Gina Yashere posted short videos to YouTube every few days; they were more like absurdist performance art pieces than comedy. Each segment of Yashere’s This Day Today is a minute or two long -- sometimes shorter -- and features the Anglo-Nigerian comedian reclining on an antique, velvet upholstered armchair. Against a tropical island background fringed with palm trees and lapping waves, Yashere recites a short monologue relating to obscure-but-strangely-compelling moments in the history of everyday inventions.
“Today in 1839, Josephine Cochrane was born,” Yashere says directly into the camera in her Mar. 8, 2012 segment while drinking energetically from a coconut with a straw. “Know who she is?” Yashere doesn’t wait for a response, but just goes right on, her tone growing quickly indignant. “Of course not. She’s only the woman who invented the mechanical dishwasher.”
The plucky attitude, smarts and oddball quality of This Day Today carry over into much of Yashere’s comedy, both online and in the live space. Check out this segment, shot in San Francisco on the now New York-based comedian’s last visit to the Bay Area, in which she launches into a diatribe against hip-hop culture, wondering why rap stars insist they’re from the ghetto while adorning their palatial homes with crystal chandeliers and imported Italian tile.
After growing up in London the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Yashere started to break into the U.S. comedy scene in 2007 when she made it into the final 10 contestants in NBC’s Last Comic Standing. She then went on to become the first and only British comedian ever to appear on HBO’s lauded Def Comedy Jam and has since made appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Nightly Show on Comedy Central and elsewhere.
Yashere is back in San Francisco this week as part of Punch Line comedy club’s Women in Comedy program in honor of Women’s History Month. And she's touting her new DVD, Ticking Boxes, shot in front of a crowd of 2000 fans at London's famed Brixton Academy.
With her strong feelings about the meaning of the word “ghetto,” it’s possible the firebrand performer might not approve of being bundled into the female comics corner. Still, Yashere is part of a kickass lineup that also includes Cristela Alonzo, Ms. Pat, Emily Heller and Beth Stelling, profiled at KQED Arts here.
Catch Gina Yashere at the Punch Line Comedy Club in San Francisco from Wednesday, Mar. 9 - Saturday, Mar. 12. For tickets and more information, visit www.punchlinecomedyclub.com.