Chinasa Anukam: The Art Of Stand-up Comedy And Laughter
Chinasa Anukam, although born in the United States, started her stand-up comedy career in the United Kingdom. However, she is so much more than just a comedian; she is also a screenwriter, actor, presenter, writer, and content creator. When Chinasa isn’t on set, she has a YouTube web series titled “Is The Seat Taken?” where she goes on a date with a public figure with whom she has an unscripted conversation.
She speaks to Guardian Life about what makes her show tick.
What was your childhood like, and how did you get into comedy?
My childhood was fun. I have three siblings, so we often entertained ourselves. I believe I was able to have a very enjoyable and imaginative childhood because of the fact that I was born in 1994, when social media, smartphones, landlines, and none of that were commonplace.
I have always known that I was funny, and I just used to write down jokes I came up with in my notes. In 2019, I was in drama school in the UK and I had gone to watch a stand-up comedy show and I said to myself, “Chinaza, just try this thing, and if you are bad at it, that is fine.” So for my 25th birthday, I decided to do an open mic regardless of the consequences and I also decided to do it in the UK, where I know people will give me honest feedback and it went well. That brought us here today.
As a female stand-up comedian, how is it like navigating through a male-dominated industry?
I believe that as a woman, you always have to give yourself permission to take as much space as possible. You are entitled to be there because you are good at what you do, and that is all that matters. So for me, the focus was always on the quality of the work because once you are good, everything else is irrelevant.
Your YouTube series is one of a kind, especially in the Nigerian YouTube scene. How well do you think you have done, and what do you hope to achieve with it?
People say the market is saturated, so I am always looking for unique ways to do stuff, and I will say that the show has exceeded my expectations.
What I hope to achieve with it is to build a community. Just being able to do the first installation of “By The Grace of God and Black Man Blood” off the show proves that the show is already helping me in essence.
Did you adjust well to the Nigerian comedy scene since you weren’t born here? How can female comedians be encouraged in Nigeria?
I wouldn’t say I am fully immersed in the Nigerian comedy scene yet, but if we want to talk about young people, specifically those between the ages of 18–24, I don’t think the current comedy scene in Nigeria is catering to that demographic, which is a big part of my audience. What I am trying to do is to provide comedy that is relatable and enjoyable for people of this age. So it is really just looking for gaps in the market, looking at my own strengths, weaknesses, interests and perspective, and approaching it from there.
The most encouraging thing you can do is take action because it shows people that it is possible. When I get to a place where I can provide opportunities for other people in any way I can, I want to encourage more young Nigerian women and, honestly, young African women to take up space.
How will you define your style and personality?
My style, I would say, is comfortable but striking; minimum effort and maximum results.
In terms of my personality, people always say I have such a vibe, so I will just say a vibe, a good time, playful, but also deep. I will say I am “seriously unserious” because I embody those two things very well.
As regards the web series, who is your favourite collaboration so far?
Honestly, I am just grateful that everyone even accepted to be on the show because it is also an investment of their talent and time, and they have all brought something different. However, a standout for me was Prettyboy D-O’s episode 110%; that episode was just amazing. There is another episode that isn’t out yet; unfortunately, I can’t release the person’s name.
Your show, By The Grace Of God & The Black Man Blood, was a success. What is the idea behind the name and what should we be expecting from you?
It was a success. God is good. The idea behind the name was that anything we achieve in Nigeria is in spite of the country. So it is just honouring people’s journey, ambitions, drive, relentlessness, and really saying that we are just getting things done “By The Grace of God and Black Man Blood”. Black Man Blood speaks to the Nigerian spirit of resilience because we have that as a people.
You should expect so much from me. Definitely expect a comedy tour, TV shows and films, and more content. I am also starting a new show on my channel pretty soon. Picture Issa Rae plus Trevor Noah and Kevin Hart in one person; expect all of that from me.