It’s rare to find yourself at a comedy show that highlights comedians of colour, LGBTQ folks, and women while rejecting the racist and sexist humor that permeates the comedy world. But ISSA Comedy Show does exactly that. Mayowa Osinubi, the creator and host of the show is a filmmaker-photographer-model and just recently added comedian to her roster. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Mayowa started her monthly event in August 2017, with the mission to create a vibrant community. Her stage presence is bold and fearless, mixing goofy and ridiculous thoughts with kernels of wisdom that provide enlightening insight. We asked her all about why she started her own stand-up comedy show, how her many creative disciplines are connected, and the business side of an artist’s career.
You just started doing stand-up recently, when was your first show, the first time you performed on stage?
March or May, 2017.
And then you were like, now I’m just going to start my own thing? That’s ambitious.
Yeah, it’s ambitious, but I felt really good doing it. I’ve started so many things in my life, that I know the process of when things feel right, and when things don’t feel right. The first time I got on stage I was like, this is so right, and I worked so hard, I was genuinely putting in so many hours. I’ve been doing stand-up like five times a week. What I lack in experience I make up for in my work ethic.
What are you trying to do with ISSA Comedy Show? What do you want to bring to people and what do you want people to get out of it?
I want loads of people to come from many different backgrounds. I just want to build a really strong community of people who are tolerant. The one thing I want my show to bring to people is just tolerance, to be able to be like, okay cool, this is this person’s perspective and it may not be anything I’ve ever experienced but I’m walking through their storytelling to empathise with what they’re going through. It’s never people you’re used to seeing on a stage. It’s people who I think get made fun of a lot in the comedy world but they’re like “Hey, this is my time and you’re going to listen to what I have to say and everyone’s going to listen.” And I just think that’s really powerful.
So this is a space to empower?
Yes, and to teach and educate, I try to teach something every show.
How do all your creative roles inform each other? What about filmmaking? You know the ins and outs of an audience; how does that enhance your stage presence?
The one word that I always associate with myself before artist, before comedian, before Youtuber, or whatever… I like to think of myself as a worker. I like to work, and I think work ethic is number one, and everything else comes second. Work ethic in a creative sense, work ethic in a fun sense. I think it’s so important to constantly create content, and that’s something that’s just a part of myself. When I think about creating content, I try to create a new video every week, because I know it’s a muscle. It’s the same as working out, they’re all parts of myself that I’ve always had, but I just haven’t worked them out. Now, I have a routine – this is what you’re gonna do this week and this week, this is how you’re making your money, this is what’s fun. I’m able to work out all these muscles and they’re all interconnected.
How has your creative process evolved since moving to Berlin?
When I first came to Berlin I was always waiting for someone to discover something in me. I was waiting for people to realise I’m a good model, waiting for people to realise I’m a good photographer, waiting for them to realise I’m a good comedian, and I think the shift in my creative process was: Don’t wait for anything, just do it! Just do, instead of waiting for someone to give you a chance, give yourself the chance, create what you always wanted to see. Berlin taught me a really strong work ethic to just create what it is that you want, create what you don’t see in society. Cause it’s not going to be there if you don’t make it.
In the promo video for ISSA Comedy Show Vol. 3 you played this spiritual lady, and then all of a sudden she experiences this dance party and finds her booty-shaking inner freak. I get the feeling you’re a spiritual person, do you have a particular practice?
Yeah, I am a spiritual person. Every time I act out characters it’s an extension and exaggeration of one side of myself. One side is like – “Oh my God the universe, oh my God keep your chakras clean”, and then there’s also this other side of me that’s like “I Love Nicki Minaj, I just love to listen to hard-core angry music”. I find it hard to balance spirituality and anger. Those are two things I have inside of me and I think I would like to bounce back and forth without having one of them define me heavily. I don’t want to be this angry Nicki Minaj-loving, romp-shaking kind of woman and then having to balance the “Love Yourself, Treat Yourself” attitude. Both are me. I like to understand myself, and I like to understand people. And I feel like all the art forms I do feel very spiritual. Every time I do comedy I feel that it’s super spiritual because you have to ask yourself questions that are really uncomfortable, to be able to connect with another person, and I like that. But at the same time, I will not always be correct. The thing about spirituality is that it’s kind of scary when it elevates you. And that’s not me either.
Do you identify as a feminist?
From a young age, my mom was like, “You’re a feminist!” It’s so important to support your sisters, your women, etc. I love feminist theorists, I’m in love with Bell Hooks. My goal in life is to meet Bell Hooks.
What would you say if you met Bell Hooks?
I honestly would get down on my knees and I would give a legit bow. I would be like, “Thank you.” And then I’m out. I’m also afraid of her one day ripping me to pieces, and being like, “What you do wrong…” The hard part about feminism is that it means a lot of different things to different people, and I think feminism is a very accessible thing to say you are. But Bell Hooks says it’s an art form that you have to keep working at. And feminism is not only things that affect women. So right now, in my feminism I’m really interested in understanding masculinity. So I’m a feminist who wants to learn more about how men are treated in society and how masculinity is portrayed, because that shows a lot about feminism.
The foundations of a comedy career, of a filmmaking career is business, you’re a business woman. You’ve said you enjoy that part of it, you enjoy marketing.
I love it. I think marketing is a true art form, actually. To be able to look at something and say how do you put this together to where it translates to people? That’s a true art form. And I think you should always be very weary about hiring to do something that you can’t do yourself because you’ll never know if they’re just abusing your money without giving you the worth that you have. How do you know how good you can be? I think people look at marketing as a sell-out thing. But if you’re putting in the work as an artist, you need people to see it, that’s the whole point.
The next ISSA Comedy Show will be on March 31st at Musik & Frieden.
Header Image and 3rd picture: Sash Seurat Samson