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Gina Yashere: Still special

COMEDY: Gina Yashere returns to London at the Underbelly Festival Southbank for three nights only next week (Image: David Burgoyne)

GINA YASHERE has been around the world a few times, telling jokes and delivering top quality stand up and if the mission to garner global plaudits is to be considered a success, the next goal is to secure the bag.

For those who are not familiar with the term, securing the bag is urban vernacular for getting paid. While there is no doubt that Yashere has been handsomely remunerated for her comedic endeavours over the years, the east Londoner is still a way short of being paid the reported $60M the likes of Dave Chapelle earned for his standup special.

The subject of comedians being paid for their specials was top of the agenda earlier this year when US star Mo’Nique had a very public spat with Netflix over what she considered to be a derisory offer from the subscription-based, streaming video-on-demand service.

Yashere has her owns views on that particular subject and as her ardent fans are probably already aware, the 44-year-old has her own special as part of the new series of The Standups on the same platform.

Talking about her ambitions to see her talent rewarded financially, Yashere told Life and Style: “I got a nice fat wedge (for the Netflix special).”

She added: “I’m not going to tell you the figures, it was six figures and it was nice. “I think Monique was one hundred per cent right, they lowballed her.

“Wanda Sykes also came out and said they only offered her $250,000 for a special which is absolutely an abomination, Wanda Sykes is one of the best comics out there right now.

“But Mo’Nique went about it completely the wrong way, she was her own worst enemy. She was correct in that they lowballed her, but asking people to boycott Netflix, people who earn a fraction of what she earns, because they only offered her half a million dollars for an hour’s work, at the end of the day any normal person looking at her is going to ask what are you talking about?

“What she should have said is something along the lines of ‘listen, this is what I have been offered for my special, it’s a decent amount of money, but in comparison to other mediocre white comics who I know are earning a ton more than me and have done less than me, what I want you guys to do is tweak that’, and get them to show her what they pay the male comics verses the female comics. People would have got behind her if she had done that.

“It doesn’t just happen in this industry, it’s all industries. Black women are underpaid, under compensated, undervalued in every industry, it’s not just this industry. I have the same problems as an engineer that I do as a comedian.”

Yashere admits having just done her own independent special and sold it to NBC, she wasn’t looking to do another one until next year because it takes a while to pull good content together. However, she couldn’t turn down the offer from Netflix.

Taking a break from travelling the globe and making a splash in the US, Yashere returns to London at the Underbelly Festival Southbank for three nights only next week. Having promised L&S she will divulge some hysterical tales from the past year, fans will be looking forward to her no-holds-barred content.

Previous UK performances at Underbelly, the Brixton Academy and Just For Laughs Festival were all sell-out shows and organisers have encouraged fans to book early. Talking about what we can expect over the three days, Yashere enthused: “I love coming back to London, it’s where I am from, it’s where I can be completely myself and talk exactly how I want to talk.

“I love the Underbelly Festival, I do it every year. I like the vibe of it, it’s a summer festival, there’s food, there’s a beer tent and it’s a nice social setting where people come to see a load of shows.

“Even if you weren’t actually planning to book tickets for my show, you might see another show and when that finishes be up for seeing someone else. I’ve got no idea now what I’ll be saying, but I’ll write stuff beforehand and even that could change on the night.

“I do a lot of stuff for the audience, the venue is in a tent so the audience is sitting very close to me and I do a lot of stuff with the audience, which I always love because it makes every show different.

“There will be some new stories in there mixed with a few classics because people love the classics as well. There will be a bit of both.”

Away from the stage, Yashere continues to appear as the British correspondent for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and last year hosted BBC’s Live at the Apollo.

This, along with her appearances on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, The Jay Leno Show, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, The Wine Show, Mock The Week and, most recently, Celebrity Chase, proves why Yashere is one of the most sought-after comics in the UK and an inspiration to a generation.

The Underbelly Southbank Festival, Belvedere Road Coach Park, London. Friday 22nd June @ 9:15pm - Saturday 23 - Sunday 24 June @ 7:45pm

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