By Marcus Henderson
The Protestant Chapel held its “First Christian Comedy Night,” which was filled with healing and laughter.
The comedy fest featured seven diverse incarcerated men with different ethnicities and backgrounds. The common thread was how they process prison life through laughter.
Deavon Torrance hosted and coordinated the event. He opened up the crowd Richard Pryor – or Mike Epps – style, except cleaner.
“If Donald Trump can get onstage with a backward toupee and make a fool out of himself, I know I can,” Torrance said.
Torrance stated that laughter is an outlet for the many serious issues in prison.
“We’re not taking this prison time lightly,” Torrance said. “But I think people would rather have us laughing than to be angry.
“It’s about the attitude: laughter intensifies happiness.”
Protestant Chaplain Mardi Jackson quoted Proverbs 17:22 from the Bible. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”
Jackson added, “Everybody’s gifts and talents are valuable and an expression of God. It’s about God’s vision.”
After a prayer circle in the green room, Rob Rodgers was the first to hit the stage. He tackled the economic situations of prison, starting with the telephone sweaters (people who are on the pay phone all day).
“Haven’t you noticed they don’t receive packages?” Rodgers said. “Man, they are spending over $200 dollars a month on phone calls.”
He joked about high food-sale prices and how we are paying $24 for eight pieces of fried chicken, but nobody knows where the money is going.
J. “Huggie” Davis commanded the stage like Cedric the Entertainer. His hysterical storytelling had the crowd falling into the aisle and drew a standing ovation.
He joked about his first fight in prison with a guy in a wheelchair and how the mosquitoes in Brazil are going to have a field day when Serena Williams arrives for the Olympics.
Jonathan Chiu held his own as he masterfully attacked Asian stereotypes by using Asian stereotypes.
“Just because I’m Asian, everybody assumes I’m good at math,” said Chiu. “I don’t know nothing about math. People come up to me with their college work and be like, ‘Is this right?’ and I be like, ‘Yeah.’”
The crowd roared with laughter when he joked about a guy who said his girlfriend left him because he got rid of her dog. “Well, my girlfriend left me because I ate our dog,” he said.
Upu Ama generated a standing ovation with his animated set. He played on the stereotypes of being Samoan and how, because of his size, everyone thinks he’s good at sports.
“After a while I just started to play along,” Ama said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ I almost got drafted playing football, until I tore my rotisserie cup.”
He drew laughter on not being computer savvy when it comes to the new U-TABs tablets prisoners now can receive.
“I can’t play any of the games. My player’s always getting stuck somewhere,” he said. “Now I have to take more groups (rehabilitative programs) just to deal with the stress.”
Ama stated seriously, “We want our victims to know we are not making light of our sentences. This is about healing and making amends.”
“I’d rather put a smile on someone’s face instead of tears — unless they’re tears from laughing so hard,” he said.
Charles “Pookie” Sylvester took to the stage, then became overwhelmed by the crowd and forgot most of his material, but his quick wit still received laughs by saying, “This is crazy.”
“Being a comedian is what I want to do,” Sylvester said. “I wanted to get this experience under my belt. This will show the people that we are working on being a positive change, living for the community and not the streets.”
Mike “Yah-Ya” Cooke opened with, “I never thought I would be performing in front of such a captured audience.” He stated that since they could not cuss, the church host did not want the show to be funny. “They should have called Bill Cosby,” Cooke said. “Oh, he might be on his way to San Quentin.”
Aaron “Showtime” Taylor entertained with his parody song “State Bologna,” inspired by singer Ginuwine’s “Pony.” The crowd erupted with laughter at the many ways that Taylor wanted his bologna fried or boiled and how it even woke him up at three o’clock in the morning.
He did a song called “Dedicated to My Neighbors” about how they use to look at him for keeping them up late at night as he practiced his guitar.
“I did this on a dare,” Taylor said. “My real passion is to be a serious jazz guitarist.”
The July 27 event left many with smiles on their faces.