Shoreditch comedian Prince Abdi laughs as he remembers the almost non-existent reaction to his jokes five years ago. “I told the first joke; nothing, so I told the second joke and nothing again. Then I just lost it.” His grin makes it clear that he has moved on from that night. Thankfully, members of the audience no longer pull out a pack of playing cards and start a game in the middle of his act.
Twenty-eight year old Abdi is the only Anglo-Somalian comic working in the UK. Born and bred in Brixton, the ex-primary school supply teacher wanted to be a footballer. He had trials for both Millwall FC and Dulwich Hamlets but says now: “I was alright, but I just didn’t have that self-belief and it got to a point where I just didn’t think I was good enough.
“Then comedy: I used to watch it a lot on TV and DVD and I thought, ‘I’m going to get in to it’. I went and watched a live comedy show and from then I thought it was something I wanted to do.” After performing for free for a long time trying to make a name for himself, Prince Abdi was able to give up his weekend job at B&Q, quit teaching and become a fully fledged, full-time comedian.
Enthusiasm oozes from him when he talks about the career he loves, and audiences seem to love him too. He was nominated Best Newcomer in the Black Entertainment Comedy Awards, came third in the Revels Chortle Comedy Awards in 2007, won Your Comedy Star in 2007 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and made his stand up television debut on ‘The World Stands Up’ on Paramount.
However, his multiple awards have not stopped him from getting nervous before every show: “It comes with the territory, so you have to just go out there. It helps if you have done the venue before, if you’re doing it for the first time, you don’t know the room and you don’t know the audience so it’s hard, but either way, you don’t know what is going to happen.”
Prince Abdi prefers a venue to have low ceilings and closeness between the stage and audience. He especially likes when the places are packed with a big crowd. “When you’re performing as a comedian, you want your voice to be heard clearly. If there was a high ceiling, your voice would go up. There can be different atmospheres, but I’m always nervous, you use it as a good energy; an adrenaline rush.”
Sometimes it just doesn’t work: “The audience are just tired or they’re very drunk or they’re just not with it, but you have to just keep going and you learn to deal with it. The longer you’re doing it, the more experience you have. the better at responding to it you are. A bit like being at work and nothing is really working. The photocopier is not working, sometimes the computer crashes but you know you still have to try and work through the day.”
After doing shows in the United States, Canada, Amsterdam and throughout the UK, the father of one believes that the traveling is the perk of the job. “Traveling abroad, international gigs; they are the highlight.” This is not to say that he does not appreciate the British fans though; “The UK has got the best comedy circuit in the world, everywhere you go there is a comedy club.”
“The best advice if you want to be a stand-up comedian is be patient; very, very patient… you have to get out there and perform. You have to not look at the money side of it, you have to love it and then the money will come… don’t ever think about how you’re not being paid, you just need to enjoy it, perform and give.”
Prince Abdi is performing his show ‘Christmas Time!’ at the Comedy Cafe, Shoreditch on Saturday December 3rd
Abdi is also performing in a series of shows from December 6th-10th
Written by Melissa Drewett