Yvonne Orji: She's Got Jokes At 'Momma I Made It'

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[Interview With Artiste]

Winning-Smile Comedienne's Incubator Of Future Stars

Lovely Comedienne Yvonne Orji is a rising star in the comedy circuit. She's a 2010 Semi-finalist for the New York City NBC Stand up for Diversity Competition and a 2007 finalist in the District's Funniest College Student Competition.
Featured performances include: a one-hour comedy special on the African Channel, DC Improv, The JSpot, Comix Comedy Club, Soulaughable Comedy Special, The Miss Nigerian in America Pageant and Worth the Wait Revolution Event Hosted by Jonathan Slocumb.
Her style of comedy is a unique blend of good, clean humor with a Nigerian/American flavor. In addition to jokes, her talents include modeling, acting, and MCing events. She says she owes her blessings to "God and His faithfulness."

BSN: Tell us a bit about "Momma I Made It"---what type of comedy joint is it? Where is it located... When was it launched? What was the inspiration? And What's the Mission?
YO: Momma, I Made It! is a weekly comedy showcase that takes place in the Flatiron section of Manhattan at the popular Limerick House Irish Pub at 69 West 23rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues every Thursday night at 6:30 PM. It's poised to be the premiere open mic in the New York City Area since its inception in September 2010. MIMI, strives to give both new and veteran comics a real world atmosphere to perfect new material and breathe new life into existing old stuff. And by real world, I mean an audience consisting of more comedy fans than comedians to effectively gauge the strength of your set and a stage set up that feels more like a show than a dress rehearsal.

All comedy performed at MIMI is clean. Which means, no cursing! And here’s why. Sure, a comic can have a slew of sets laden with the craftiest four-letter words they can think of. Suddenly, Jay Leno or Jimmy Fallon calls. This is it! Primetime! Where we all, if you're serious about this comedy thing, wanna be! So they’re gonna need a solid clean five minute set! That's just the reality of the business. So essentially, I like to think that MIMI is practice for the big time!

The notion to take over the existing comedy show at the same location was a pure leap of faith. But when the opportunity presented itself, every pro greatly outweighed any doubts. As producer and host of the show, I’ve been fortunate to meet many talented fresh comics and watch the growth of the regular performers.  Additionally, it pleases me to be able to offer  New Yorkers quality, family-friendly entertainment at a very affordable rate--which is for free.

BSN: What's with the name?
YO: Every performer dreams of the day when they finally get the chance to grab the phone and call the woman who means so much to them as say these monumental four words: "Momma, I made it!" So each week, the show is dedicated to mommas everywhere eagerly waiting for that call. So, comics bring your A-game! You're Momma is counting on you!

BSN: How do comedians sign on to perform and is there a basic level of funniness they need to scale to be eligible?
YO: To receive stagetime is fairly simple. Comics email mommaimadeit@gmail.com  in advance and I start building a lineup. I do have rules that help structure every show. In addition to performing clean material, I encourage comics to remain as off-book as possible. And rather than comics paying cash to receive 5 minute of stagetime , regardless of how good they are, five minutes is a long time to do horribly in front of a judgmental audience, so I’ve implemented a time accrual system: All new comics, new means Yvonne has never seen them perform before, even if they have been performing standup for 15 years, get three minutes. The funny comics get to advance to five minutes. If they continue to do well at five minutes, then they can get bumped up to seven minutes, etcetera.

BSN: Talk about the quality or the range of quality that a visitor may encounter on a typical night?
YO: The great thing about Momma, I Made It! is that no two nights are the same. There is always a safe and fun atmosphere for both comics and audience. There are those comics that really shine through and there are those that it’s obvious need a bit more grooming. I always end the show with an experienced headliner, so the audience feels like they’ve gotten their money’s worth, even though it's free.

BSN: Are the audience very demanding and should a rookie have legitimate reasons to fear trying their new works? Might she or he booed off the stage by the audience?
YO: No, Not at all. The audience is very understanding and quite supportive. Of course, they have their favorites, and they offer a bit of nervous, yet encouraging laughter for those comics not doing so well. But everyone enjoys the experience together. It’s like a roller coaster ride. It has some good parts, then the road can get a little woosy, but the finish is great and you can’t wait to get on all over again! To keep the show fun, I encourage audience participation. Imbedded into the show is the “Everyone’s got jokes” contest, where I give up to 3 audience members a chance to win a cash prize by telling a joke or funny story. The best one, determined by audience applause, wins. It really gives the audience a chance to get in the hot seat and feel what comics feel each time they step up to the mic!

BSN: Who is the typical audience member that comes to Momma and tell us about how many people attend on a given Thursday? What's a typical full house?
YO: It’s usually your after-work audience since it starts at 6:30. It’s a great mixture of young and a little bit older. I love the fact that both the audience and comics are a mixed variety. It’s not a “Black” room, or a “White” mic.  We’ve had 40-something Jewish moms and 20-year old Indian college kids perform.  And the same with the audience. Of course a lot of my actor friends come through to support, but I market it to everyone! We host it in an Irish Pub for goodness sakes! Good food and drinks know how to draw any and everybody in.

BSN: If I am a visitor to New York or a comedy lover why should I come to Momma given the choices? What sets Momma apart?
YO: I think any visitor will enjoy the easygoing atmosphere, the fun crowd, the varying caliber of comics and of course, the beautifully talented host! lol.  It’s a good way to spend an hour and half before embarking on other adventures the city has to offer.

BSN: Since the launch have any known-name comedians popped in? Chris Rock? Tracy Morgan? Dave Chapelle? If anyone of them popped in, what might each one of them say about Momma.
YO: No famous comics as of yet. I think they will say, MOMMA!!! I MADE IT!! because Now, I’m on MOMMA, I MADE IT!!

Tell us a little about yourself?
YO: I’m a Nigerian-American model, comedienne and actress. And quite simply, I’m just a lover of happy. I love living a happy life. I love making other people happy, and I think that’s just part of my purpose and destiny to infuse joy to the masses. My full name actually translates to, 'Archer of Happiness.' So, I guess, I’m doing something right.

BSN: Is there a website or mailing list so comedy lovers can stay in tune?
YO: My website is actually being developed at the moment. Folks can see some of my comedy clips on my YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/YveeO and look out for my Facebook Fan Page. To those readers who have the African Channnel, they can catch my one-hour Africa Laughs comedy special.
Momma, I Made it! Will Help produce the next great comedian. So, come on out and be a part of an incredible ride to stardom.

Yvonne's contact Yvonneorji@gmail.com

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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