A comedy fest showcased three funny and talented individuals who brought comfort, joy and laughter to more than 300 San Quentin inmates in San Quentin’s Protestant Chapel.
Chuckles and Laughs was the theme of the Nov. 30 nighttime show as comics shared funny and edgy stories and jokes.
“Laughter is the cure to the soul,” said Ramon Watkins. “I came in with things on my mind and the laughter made me feel much better.”
Watkins enjoyed Oran “Artwork” Hutson, 40, who “brought down the house” with his performance of Staff Talkers, Unforgiving, Going Back to Africa, and PTSD.
Hudson, incarcerated 22 years, said he became a comic two months ago; however, it appeared he was a natural. He was not afraid to talk about his family.
“I had to thank my mama for not smoking crack. I had to thank her because I could have been real messed up if she would of stole my video game and the toaster and microwave,” said Hudson. His performance had the crowd toppling over in laughter. In the end, the audience gave him a standing ovation.
Ten-year veteran comedian Kerry Rudd, 38, gave an edgy performance with a conservative style. His jokes of crime, punishment, drugs and family earned a few chuckles and laughs, but more heckles and ridicule. He made light of his past life as a robber. He said he represented himself in court once on robbery charges, during which he joked with the prosecutor and judge.
He told a joke about how he earned the title “Thief.” After he burglarized a house, the resident chased after him yelling, “Stop thief!”
That joke got a few laughs from the crowd of young hecklers who scrutinized Rudd early during his performance. However, host Andress Yancy encouraged him to continue.
Rudd said he discovered he was funny at age 20. He said that his childhood was serious, so he turned to comedy as a relief.
During the intermission, Charles “Pookie” Sylvester and Yancy did a two-minute skit reminiscing about their childhood. They knew each other on the streets, when they were members of different street gangs. The two now stood on the same stage doing jokes about each other’s past life and entertaining the guests.
Richie Morris performed intermission music.
Also Chisom “Fakir” Jo, 49, gave the crowd a blast from the past with his “Popping Dance.”
San Quentin resident Dennis Barnes was not in a good mood before the show, but that feeling changed after he heard the comedy and music from the performers.
“Those comics made me laugh and the music was good too,” said Barnes.
SQ Resident Timothy Holmes also enjoyed the entertainment. Holmes was feeling down, but his emotional state changed after his favorite comic, Jesse Ayers, performed.
“He was the best comic to me,” said Holmes. “Yeah, Jesse and Artwork were my favorites, but Jesse was the one I could feel.”
Ayers was the last performer. He performed multiple jokes of prison situations, like the homosexual aspect and real life events that the crowd could relate to.
“I remember when I first came to San Quentin,” said Ayers. “I was used to being at those tough prisons where there were all men. I heard about San Quentin and the history of it, so I was expecting some tough reception from the inmates when I arrived here.”
As Ayers continued, the crowd was on the brink of laughing. “When I got to the tier, I heard this lady’s voice inviting me to his cell.” Ayers did an impersonation of a woman and the crowd exploded in laughter.
Ayers grew up watching comics Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Richard Pryor and the television show “In Living Color”.
“One day it just clicked,” said Ayers. While he was out with friends and being his usually funny self, one of those friends encouraged him to attend a comedy show. That’s where Ayers decided to become a comic.
The 39-year-old had the crowd boiling with laughter from a prison phone-call joke.
Ayers said he is a natural at comedy, but it didn’t happen overnight. To reach his current level, he had to practice.
“I did jokes on people and things around me,” said Ayers. “I was real poor and laughter was the Christmas for me.”
The show was brought to an early close due to a “recall of the institution.” Everyone had to return to their cells.
Eugene “Shaylee” Williams, a longtime resident of San Quentin, praised the event.
“This was a good thing for convicts to come together and laugh to relieve the pressures of the prison system,” said Williams. “I’m used to the early recalls but, as usual, I knew it would resume because there’s never any real danger or violence here; alarms are always about a sick person.” He laughed as he walked away.