North London born comic Emmanuel Sonubi has played the Apollo, toured with Jason Manford, and is now ready to venture into his debut tour, ‘Emancipated’. It was in 2015 that he decided that comedy was what he wanted to do. He describes being roped into an open mic night and feeling terrified about it for weeks, “and then when I got on stage, from the first joke, I thought this is exactly where he needed to be” he tells me. He said he has always loved comedy and making people laugh, but never considered it a career until that moment. And what a career he is making so far. This comedian is one to watch.
“I feel very fortunate because not a lot of people get to dream of something and it actually happen” Emmanuel states proudly.
On asking what it was like to perform the Apollo, he says it was like becoming a part of British entertainment history, describing it as so much more than a show. However, even with this incredible start to his career, also making a TV debut on comedy central and being nominated for Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards Best Newcomer, performing live is still a nerve-wracking experience.
He bashfully states that he has luckily never had a show which has not gone to plan, but this is what makes him most nervous, thinking ‘is this this one time you will have a bad show’. Once or twice he has been heckled, but he explains, “a lot of the material I talk about is about my physical presence, so most people don’t heckle.” “I have had more instances where people are shouting compliments at me, I am like, ‘I don’t think you know how to heckle!’” Even between telling me these stories we laugh, proving that comedy is natural to Emmanuel.
Emancipated starts in Soho, and the weekend dates are already sold out. Although he is extremely excited about the shows, he talks about the added pressure of a debut tour: “normally at comedy clubs I go to see the audiences and now the audiences are coming to see you, and that is more nerve wracking”.
The name of the tour refers to Emmanuel’s comedy journey and that freeing feeling of not having to worry about certain things anymore. Deciding on the name of his tour was not an easy one though. “At one point [the tour] was gonna be called ‘you are what you eat’” “there was all these names that, after thirty seconds I thought ‘I hate that name, I am not using it’” and a few days before the deadline, the title Emancipated was chosen.
Having watched Emmanuel’s Apollo set online, I can confirm that it is the fact that the jokes are personal that make them so hilarious; they are relatable. I wondered if some of these stories were exaggerated but he tells me “some of the stuff is word perfect”. Personal stories, for Emmanuel, mean a bigger connection with the audience because what he has realised through doing comedy is that a lot of his experiences are shared, and sometimes people get “to see that they are not alone as well” when he addresses things that people may not know how to speak about.
He gathers most of his inspiration for his jokes through everyday experiences, seeing the funny things that happen. We laugh about the time where he went skiing, and went to take a selfie, but ended up with the snapshots of every second of him slipping over in the snow instead. “I don’t know if I live a comedy life, or if I see a lot of funny in things that happen”, he summarises.
Also in Emancipated, Emmanuel tells jokes about his time as a bouncer for around fifteen years, which was great for content because “seeing how people interact, especially when they are drunk is hilarious, is like watching your own reality TV show”.
Before doing stand up, he would simultaneously spend his weekends doing door work and weekdays in musical theatre, training or doing auditions. Asking how you make the transition from a bouncer to a successful up and coming comedian, he explains that a lot of the skills are transferable because “it is all about presence on a stage, dealing with sometimes quite rowdy crowds, diffusing situations before they happen”.
As well as his past careers, Emmanuel writes material on family life and his opinions on kids, of which he has two of his own. “They are critics,” he laughs when I ask if they are fans of his comedy, “I would love to say fans but they are constantly telling me jokes I should do” proving that they are supportive of his work, even if they don’t always provide the best material! When it comes to balancing family life with comedy, he says that luckily the children – the youngest especially who is five – have never known any difference.
Once Emmanuel has the material for his shows, he takes pride in being able to read a room and a crowd of people to ensure the joke always lands correctly, possibly why his gigs are always so successful. He writes his material in chapters, knowing what subjects to talk about but dismissing the use of a script because “that would become mundane”.
“I try to cater to the audience that is in the room at that time”
Exemplifying how he might do this, he says he would speak slower in a more reserved room, or swear more in a rowdy room. He says the audience are the most important people, “they are paying money for a night out so we need to give them a good time”.
This confident stage presence, he believes, is all to do with his background in musical theatre where he could be performing in a show in a different country, in a different language. Now, he is doing shows he writes and really cares about. It was as Edinburgh Fringe Festival where this was confirmed to Emmanuel, because a lot of acts understandably struggled, while he “could do that every night and it still sound fresh” having so much fun that it did not feel like work.
At Fringe, Emmanuel also describes having a drink with Mickey Flanagan, and tells me he remembers thinking “this is my life – I am at work right now and this is really fun”. Russel Kane and Romesh Ranganathan are also big fans of his, and he learnt a lot from supporting Jason Manford on tour. He says that he would love to do more collaborate work with comedy acts and I question if he could ever consider writing a TV sitcom like a lot of the UK’s favourite comedians have. “It is something I would love to do”, he starts, “but I think at my essence I am a stand up comic”.
You can catch Emmanuel Sonubi in his element on the 23rd of May at Komedia, and he defines it as one of his favourite clubs. “Brighton is a great night out, a great weekend away; I don’t think there are any complaints about Brighton at all” he triumphs, and promises to bring the same energy he has always brought to Brighton – a lot of love and fun. It will be one not to miss, and I personally cannot wait to be in that crowd.
Get your tickets to see Emancipated at Komedia here: https://www.komedia.co.uk/brighton/comedy/emmanuel-sonubi-emancipated/
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