When the character Morenike started appearing in the second season of the CBS sitcom Bob ❤️ Abishola, the original idea in the show’s writers room was that she would be a rival to Kemi for the romantic attention of Chukwuemeka (played by Tony Tambi). But by the third season, which just wrapped in May, Morenike (played by Tori Danner) had come out as queer and the various reactions, including some homophobic from her family and other members of Detroit’s Nigerian-American community , where the show is set, has become a fashionable scenario.
Kemi, the show’s quirky best friend character, is played by Gina Yashere, who is also the co-creator of Bob ❤️ Abisholawith the famous TV sitcom mogul chuck lore (Young Sheldon, The Big Bang Theory, two and a half men and so many others). And anyone who knows Yashere and his comedy beyond his Kemi character knew that eventually something gay had to break out. Bob ❤️ Abishola.
Morenike’s coming out, while not exactly based on Yashere’s own experience of coming out to a Nigerian immigrant community, was drawn from Yashere’s world.
“It was definitely my idea to introduce a gay character,” Yashere said. Extra in an interview. “We wanted to tell this story, but we didn’t want to tell it in a mealy, ‘Oh, and everybody’s happily ever after’ way. We wanted to tell the societal aspect of being gay, the religious aspect of it. We’re telling this story cover to cover, so it’s not over yet.
Morenike has had a tough run so far. Dating his own mother, Yashere didn’t know what to expect. As far as she knows, her mother, who is “super Nigerian and super religious”, could have disowned her. “But for my mother, the love of her child won out over her religion,” Yashere says. “I think she was at a certain point in her life where she was like, ‘Why do I care so much about what other people think?’ She wasn’t happy – she doesn’t like it when I do shows talking about gay things, and it’s not like she comes with me to pride parades – but she accepted me for who I am and she loves my girlfriend. So my story is different from Morenike’s. But I have a lot of friends who have had Morenike’s experience and people are more likely to have Morenike’s experience than the mine.
Bob ❤️ Abisholawhich debuted in 2019, has become one of most-watched network television comedies in the United Statesin competition with behemoths like The simpsons and family guy in the leaderboards – Yashere has a serious hit on his hands. But the journey of a black British lesbian, born to Nigerian parents, to the beating heart of Hollywood was, as you might guess, unpredictable.
Yashere was born and raised in London, UK and worked as a lift engineer before embarking on a career as a stand-up comedian. at this point, she’s been a comedian for 28 years. She had some stage and screen success in Britain, but the appeal of the United States, which has a huge comedic scene compared to other countries, was strong. She reached the final 10 of the 2007 season of the American reality television show Last Standing Comicand this success prompted her to cross the Atlantic.
The stand-up comedy scene is, of course, famous for being straight, male and white. Yet from the beginning of the American phase of her life, Yashere’s material leaned into her cultural background and sexuality. “I come from an African family and if you’re over 16 and you’re not married with eight kids, you’re a lesbian, that’s it.” she said, performing in front of an audience in 2007. “So when I go to my mother, I have to borrow a child. Unfortunately, I can’t always have the same child, so my mother is a bit confused. “Last week he was three months old. Today he is 12 years old. “Oh, they grow up so fast, mum, don’t they?” “Yeah, but he’s Chinese.”
After Last Standing Comic, Yashere lived first in New York, where she still goes to perform in comedy clubs, and then in Southern California, where she currently shares a home with her girlfriend of nine years, a Chicago-raised assistant professor. in a criminal justice college. It’s a ridiculously cosmopolitan life. I ask Yashere what’s most British about her: “My accent. I’m not a big fan of tea unless I have cookies to dip in it. The most Nigerian thing: “My work ethic.” And the most Californian thing: “I have two dogs, which I love very much. Nigerians are not pets. Hair, dirt, no way. But the California sun affected my psyche. Now I have two mini Australian Shepherds: Kemi, named after my character in the series, and Kayo. And now I hike and play pickleball.
Yashere came out publicly around the time she moved to the United States, around 15 years ago now, and was initially nervous about being called a “lesbian comic”. It seemed like it might curse a career that was already rocky, even as she landed herself comedy specials, movie parts, and movie appearances like The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. “That’s why it took me a lot longer to come out. Because as a black comic, black comic woman, black comic woman who doesn’t have a certain look and whose body and face don’t don’t adhere to European standards of beauty, I always had those things against me when I started. I wasn’t going to get the gigs that some other comics get,” she says. “I didn’t want to add to them another label to take me even further away from what I thought I could do. I just wanted to be a good comedian. But I think I’ve transcended that. I think I’m a really good comedian, writer, and comedic actor, who also happens to be a lesbian. That’s what I hope.
His first book, Memoirs Cack-Handed, came out last year to acclaim – and was therapeutic to write. “A lot of traumatic things have happened to me. Going back in time and writing these stories and looking at where I am now and how I came out of it, not angry or bitter or self-harming, but coming out of it pretty good. It definitely gave me a new sense of myself. You never stop praising yourself, but that’s what this book did for me.
She is currently browsing offers to have Cack-Handed turned into a movie or TV series, something she says she will pursue more seriously after the end of Bob ❤️ Abishola, that she expects to last at least two more seasons (it has already been renewed for season four). She estimates that working in the writers room for the show takes about nine months out of her year.
From inside the Lorre Empire, her fears of being a “lesbian comic” seem to have mostly evaporated. When she and Lorre first crossed paths, she had started her own show, based on her own Nigerian family, and was “closing doors in my face.” Lorre had recently toured Africa and decided he wanted to do a show about a female protagonist of Nigerian descent, Yashere says. Based, it seems, solely on her reputation, her team approached Yashere to see if she would work as a cultural consultant for the proposed show. She was skeptical. “I refused it. It seemed bizarre and exploitative. Ideas had been stolen from me before and turned into something horrible. Persuaded by friends to change her mind, she meets Lorre and his team for a series of meetings. “After a few days, Chuck said to me, ‘I like you, forget that consultant thing, we’re going to do a pilot and you’re going to be a producer and co-creator of this show.’ We got on well in the room.
Her first love remains standing, and shortly after her work on season three ended, she was booking comedy club dates. Yet Yashere is aware of the power of the success of Bob ❤️ Abishola he gave him. “My dream was to be someone else’s sitcom best friend, get all the funniest lines and use them to sell out. It was my dream. I had no intention of being a writer or an executive or anything like that,” she says. “When I started creating this show, I saw it as an opportunity to create this best friend character that I always wanted to play. So I used it to make my dream come true. Then I found out that I had a talent for writing and for producing stories. And I was able to bring in other black talents, other black writers, Nigerian actors who may never have had opportunities like those that they have on this show. And I found that I could make real change in this industry. So. I’m going down that road now.”
Featuring two of Yashere’s self-produced comedy specials, skinny slut and Laugh at Americastreaming on Netflix, I had to ask her what she thought of her Netflix peers Ricky Gervais and Dave Chappelle telling jokes poking fun at trans people.
“That’s a difficult question to answer,” she says. “All I’m going to say is that as a comedian, I prefer to hit sideways or hit upwards. I never hit. And that’s the key to good comedy. My comedy is also self-mockery , making fun of myself as well as others. Here’s another way to judge my jokes: if I’m talking about a specific group of people and I feel uncomfortable making those jokes in a room full of those specific people then I have to look at those jokes. That’s how I judge my material and that’s how everyone should judge their material. If you can’t do that then you know those jokes are racist or misogynist or transphobic or whatever.
Yashere says she has material for another memoir, this one focusing on her move to the United States. It looks like he will have a happy ending. “My trip to America was long and difficult. It was a struggle, a real struggle,” she says. “Bob Hearts Abishola Couldn’t have come at a better time. I was at the point in my career where I was ‘Where are you going? What is the end of the game?’ And now I can do a show about love, a show about how immigrants make America great, not the other way around. Now that I have my foot in the door and am able to turn around and open that door to other black creatives who have never had opportunities like this. So everything happens for a reason.