Kreol Magazine catches up with Jerrod Guillory, a comedian from Southwest Louisiana who is proud of his Creole heritage and finds it a rich source of material for his return to stand-up after a 15 year absence.
Hitting the comeback trail in the fickle world of entertainment is one of the hardest gigs of all, but Jerrod Guilleroy is managing to pull it off pretty well. He’s carved out a second career under the spotlight that in just over a year has already surpassed the success he enjoyed in his first stint on the stand-up comedy circuit. Apart from being older and having a lot more life experiences to draw on for the raw material of comedy, his unique selling point is the fact that his routine is free of expletives. Some may consider that a bit of a constraint to a modern comedian, but Jerrod’s success is proof that you can keep it clean and still get the laughs. So what made him decide to delete the explicit language from his routine and what’s he been doing for the past 15 years?
A “weird” comedy career
He admits his career has been “weird” and when he first started out, there was no real plan.
I was 19 years old and working as a bouncer in a nightclub. We had a comedian who came in once a week and we got to be friends. He was the one who encouraged me to go on stage. Eventually, we ended up doing a double act, and then I started doing shows on my own.
His solo career lasted for 10 years, working the clubs and producing a CD, ‘101 Jokes I’ve Heard’, that was published in 1993. Then, married and with a young family of three daughters to support, Jerrod decided to find a more reliable way of making a living. His “day job” lasted for 15 years but when his employer sold the company, Jerrod suddenly had more time on his hands.
In 2015, he started doing stand-up again and soon met up with a contact from the comedy circuit who made Jerrod an offer. He suggested they do a show, but with one important restriction: there would be no explicit language. The idea was to appeal to a broader audience. Originally, Jerrod and a comedy partner were to do it together but three weeks before their first performance the partner pulled out.
I did it solo. I prepared an hour and a half show, which we videod – and it was outrageously successful!
In some ways, the digital age has made it easier to reach a wider audience and create a buzz, but that only works if the product is any good in the first place. Jerrod is more of a storyteller than a teller of gags and says the stories are mainly based on characters he knew growing up in southwest Louisiana and his experiences of being a father.
I have the most colourful people around me and a lot of the stories I tell are actually true!
He also cites his creole heritage as a source of inspiration.
I’m proud of the Creole culture and I love the diversity. This helps with the comedy as well because I see things from a multi-cultural position.
Broader appeal and outlook
He describes his brand of humour as observational.
I’m now in my late 40s. I have the experience of being a father and a husband, so I have plenty of material. I can talk about the expense of raising three daughters – basically, I get to vent on stage!
His explicit-free routine has also opened up a lot more doors to him. Since re-launching his career, he has taken his stand-up to corporate events, a national doctors’ convention, senior citizen banquet, as well as working the clubs and other venues. A typical show lasts 90 minutes and although he has a broad outline, Jerrod says he has an ‘on’ switch that he relies on to keep his routine spontaneous and responsive to the audience. His act may be free of expletives but is by no means bland and basically no areas are off-limits.
The first time I realised that almost any situation can be funny was at my grandfather’s funeral when someone made reference to him in a way that just made me laugh, even on such a sad occasion.
As he knows all too well, a comedian’s existence can be precarious but Jerrod is 100% determined to stick with it. Using multi-media, he hopes to reach a national audience while staying true to his Creole roots. “Growing up Creole, it didn’t matter if your friends were black or white because you were part of the same thing.” Asked what he would wish for going forward, Jerrod reflects before answering: “To keep my family happy, healthy and safe, and to take my comedy to the level I want it to be.” And his message to readers? “Be proud of the Creole culture. Learn all you can about it – it’s awesome!”
For more information, see http://www.jerrodguillorycomedian.com/