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Elevator engineer turned comic keeps rising in unusual ascent

Elevator engineer turned comic keeps rising in unusual ascent

UK comedian Gina Yashere, who will perform at Pontoon tonight, worked as an elevator engineer before getting into standup. She’s been on the up-and-up ever since.

Speaking on the phone from a tuk-tuk on the road in from the airport yesterday, the Londoner said her career in comedy came as a bit of a surprise.

“I took redundancy at my job and was planning on just having a summer break before finding something else when I started doing a few club nights,” she said. “They went really well and it all just went from there.”

UK comic Gina Yashere performs tonight at Pontoon Club alongside US standup Emo Philips
UK comic Gina Yashere performs tonight at Pontoon Club alongside US standup Emo Philips. PHOTO SUPPLIED

That was back in 1997. Since then she has become a regular on UK television shows including Live At The Apollo and Mock The Week while maintaining a near-constant tour schedule, selling out theatres around England and producing live show DVDs.

Yashere has also seen success across the Atlantic – her break came on the US comedy talent show Last Comic Standing – including a regular spot on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno appearing as Madame Yashere, the Surly Psychic.

Yashere said the character – who messes with passersby after luring them into her booth with promises of fortunes told – was an off-the-cuff creation borne out of desperation-induced creativity.

“They wanted me to come on to do some skits so I just came in with a bunch of ideas,” she said. “[Madame Yashere] was actually the last one, I pretty much made her up on the spot. I said: ‘How about a bad-tempered sarcastic psychic?’ and they went for it.

“It was supposed to just be a one-off but it ended up becoming a regular thing. I think I ended up doing about nine.”

She said that with so much experience in television under her belt, doing The Tonight Show wasn’t that big a deal.

“It’s really not that different,” she said. “I’ve done so much television now. I just come on, do my bit, and that’s it.”

Yashere said Leno’s chin was just as big in person as it appeared on TV.

“It really is enormous,” she said.

A regular visitor to Asia, Yashere has performed before in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia and loves Thailand so much she has a home there. This will be her first time performing in, and even visiting, Cambodia.

“It’s all going to be new to me,” she said, adding that she likes to incorporate a little local flavour into her touring routines – including her experiences in each country.

“Like, when I was in Singapore they kept on going on about the Malaysians being thieves and I was thinking ‘that’s a little bit racist’. And then I went to Malaysia and got robbed.”

Gina Yashere will be performing at The Comedy Club Cambodia with Emo Philips tonight at Pontoon (No.80, Street 172). Tickets are $10. The show starts at 8.30pm.

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