|Simmy the Trini |
JULIEN NEAVES Sunday, August 13 2017
ACCORDING to Forbes Magazine, the number one fear of the average person is public speaking. Now imagine not only speaking in public but doing stand-up comedy and having attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
This was the case for Rhea-Simone Auguste, stage name Simmy the Trini Comedian, when she held her debut show Simmy’s Stay Classy Stand Up Experience on June 2 at Kaiso Blues Cafe, Woodford Street, Port of Spain.
Following the success of the show Auguste returned to Kaiso Blues on July 28 for Simmy presents A Tinderella Story.
Auguste chatted about her comedy and her condition during a recent interview at Newsday’s offices in Port of Spain.
Asked if she was funny as a child, Auguste recalled that when she was selling tickets for her first show a number of friends from primary and secondary school remembered her being a class clown.
She never had much of a filter and was always saying things that are extremely blunt.
“It can be interpreted as funny by some people, by others - not so much.” As an adult, Auguste was diagnosed with ADHD, a condition that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control impulsive behaviours. She was not aware of it as a child but she recalled having problems socialising with children. She did realise that if she could make people laugh they would like her and it was the quickest route to making a friend.
“So being silly helped me overcome fears of interacting with people.
It helped me to overcome my own issues with anxiety in social settings.” Auguste said she has siblings but they were much older than her and her mother was a single parent, so she was forced to entertain herself a lot. She fondly remembered watching 90s cartoons and now entertains her children with impressions of Sesame Street characters like Ernie, Prairie Dawn and Herry Monster.
She reviewed the footage from the first show and found that, while she was strong with storytelling, her ADHD “took over” while she was on stage and she forgot material and had to improvise, though the audience likely never noticed. At both her shows she spoke about her condition, as raising awareness about mental health is one of the goals of her comedy.
She even joked about her weight.
For the show, A Tinderella Story, she highlighted the issue of male/ female dynamics and romance in a social media age. Auguste has a conversational style similar to American comedians and the comedy was more sophisticated than just telling jokes or slapstick.
The humour is adult and at times raunchy but it is mostly slice of life. A Tinderella Story also featured three other up and coming comedians–Anil Kumar, Gervail Lemo and Kwame Weekes–and each brought their own unique brand of humour.
Auguste said that even with her Facebook posts she thinks about what will get people to laugh and makes them “deliberately silly” to brighten someone’s day.
“It makes me feel better. Like I’ve contributed in some way to somebody’s life somewhere that made them smile and that makes me feel better about myself.” She said it was a similar experience while performing on stage and hearing people react to her. She stressed that if the show had bombed she would not have done a second show. She recalled that from the time she heard the first laugh, which was within the first few seconds, she took a deep breath and, despite the fear, anxiety, sweat and nerves she told herself, “I’m doing this. I’m going to make them laugh.” She described getting the feedback as “addictive” and “almost like a high.” ““Even though I’m not 100 per cent into the performing and I am still pushing to do writing, it is still something I am enjoying. I am taking it one day at a time.” She also described performing as “free therapy” as she found it therapeutic releasing her thoughts.
Auguste recalled, at age 13, sneaking to look at a video of Eddie Murphy Raw, a stand-up performance by the actor/comedian.
She said since that time she would put on stand-up comedy while she did chores. Some of her favourite comedians were the late Richard Pryor, Ellen DeGeneres and Wanda Sykes, the latter she would love to meet and shake her hand.
She also recalled that late Express women magazine editor Angela Martin told her she should be a comedian because she had such a good sense of humour.
On her material, Auguste has a notebook where she writes down “stupid thoughts” and showed a recent entry about “What if men felt compelled to do plastic surgery like women and put implants in their (testicles).” She is hoping to videotape her shows, package them and market them so they can reach beyond Trinidad; she chose the moniker Simmy the Trini so people will know where she comes from. She said Trinidadians are some of the funniest people in the world but it is not marketed. She pointed out that comedian Dave Chappelle was paid US$60 million for comedy specials on streaming service Netflix, and Trinidadians can also get their shows sold abroad and “take us somewhere differently.” She said it is a lot of hard work and sacrifice but she wants it.
“I want this. I want to see how far I could go with it.” A former award-winning journalist, Auguste said she was bringing more intelligent humour to the table and compared her style of comedy to The Daily Show host Trevor Noah and not comedian Amy Schumer, known for her sex comedy. She also pointed out that her humour is not about politics, having an obese woman “wining” on a dwarf or being crass and “bacchanalist.” “For me it is not reflective of what I want in my comedy.” Auguste said she prefers to focus on people, relationships, experiences and other cultures. She noted that with the recent death of singer Chester Bennington people were talking about suicide and depression but things in this country were usually a “nine day wonder.” She expressed hope that for her shows people will come out not just to laugh but can check themselves and their mental health.
She said if she can have her passion be financially sustainable she would be creative for the rest of her life.
“Just do what you love. I love creating content. Creating things.” Auguste said her stand-up comedy could have been “sit-down comedy” as she had to have back surgery some years ago for a condition.
She is grateful for her blessings and grateful to her friends for their support in her comedy which has “made a world of difference”.
“It has opened doors for me they don’t even know yet.” Her next show, Exceptions to the Rule will be held November 3, at Kaiso Blues Cafe, at 8 pm. For more information visit Simmy the Trini Comedian page on Facebook.