If Jamaica is known for Reggae Music , Reggae Boyz, and Reggae Girlz, then Jamaica should also be know for Reggae Comedy.
There are some good comedians in Jamaica who can effortlessly make anyone laugh anywhere in the world. Many of whom have a struggle marketing and promoting their product and their brand.
Comedy worldwide is a multimillion-dollar industry. Kevin Hart, who is one of the highest-paid comedians said “everybody cannot do comedy”.
He is right, but everyone can appreciate good comedy. It is a wonder then that more comedic content is not available on Jamaican mainstream or cable television.
I believe that if given the platform comedy, in particular satirical comedy can change lives in the Caribbean as it were in other parts of the world.
The word satire, originally from the Latin meaning “mish mash”, is credited to the ancient Romans who imported Greek traditions of comedy making. The Romans did well in this regard and expanded the form to Western civilizations. Of course as Africans we have our own history of story telling. Instagram and Twitter content makers that take great liberties with serious and not so serious issues are carrying on the legacy of Mish Mash.
As with every product that’s going to market you need a name to define it, brand it and market it.
Defining reggae comedy is understanding that culturally Jamaicans take everything for a joke, no matter how serious the situations may be. Jamaicans will make fun of a speech impediment or an obvious amputation by calling the person “Oney” or “Stamma” until the entire community forgets the person’s real name.
That’s the basics but their are broader, and more sophisticated topics that may be handled in the same vein where no subject is out of bounds.
Reggae Comedy placed as a 2 minute satire segment during the nightly news would be a welcomed coping mechanism for the otherwise hard to digest content. Especially in a time when gatherings are contained Reggae comedy must now makes its move and become more important terrestrially.
If before the Covid-19 pandemic, Stand Up Comedy shows in Jamaica were inconsistent and sparsely populated. The genre could re-emerge as one of the most sustaining forms of entertainment.
Comedian Owen “Blakka” Ellis, said he encountered much difficulty while trying to bring some satirical scenes to mainstream in the past. He tweeted recently that he “I drove from Black River to Kingston arguing all the way with TVJ about an IFC(Ity and Fancy Cat Show) skit that they still refused to air because it made fun of a former Prime Minister Edward Seaga”.
That in itself is laughable as Mister Seaga was a man a humor and politics: the very ingredients of good satire.
The cartoonist always hit the mark with satire. Both Clovis and Las May consistently cause dialogue and laughter around politicians and their daily gaffes through illustrations in the newspapers.
I believe the prime minister should recommend by way of the Minister of Culture that local Television stations should allow airtime for at-least half hour of local satirical comedy content per week.
Satirical comedy is not mindless distraction but it is a useful and deliberate tool for nation-building.
There is a show in Israel called
Oh, what a wonderful country, which depicts the rugged nature of Israeli life. Israel has been at odds with their neighbouring Palestine since the 1940s, and the people still develop an appetite for satirical comedy in-spite of their evening news.
The use of satirical reggae comedy to mirror harsh realities can bear a similar consequence in Jamaica and showcase the diversities of Jamaican life to the world.
As Blakka stated there is currently serious opposition to satire on the serious news focused networks. Some people don’t like change and have accepted religiously, the patterns that are already set.
Reggae Comedy should be seen as important going to the doctor.
Laughter is good for your health
• Laughter relaxes the whole body.
• Laughter boosts the immune system.
• Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
• Laughter protects the heart.
• Laughter burns calories.
• Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load.
• Laughter may even help people to live longer.
The country and the world is going through uncertain times but laughter can be a sure shot in these times.
First we laugh, then realize we shouldn’t have. Then we will think. It is in thinking that our problems are solved.
Donovan “JR” Watkis is the Executive Producer of Legends Of Jamaica: A satirical comedy album. Available on all digital platforms 4.20.2020