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Dufton goes regional

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Local comedian Dufton Shepherd is still buzzing following his performance in Barbados last Sunday.

He was part of a string of Caribbean comedians, which included Trinidad's Allan D Entertainer and Di Drunken Saint; Chow Pow from Guyana and Barbadian homeboys Rum and Koke, Rick Rick and MacFingal, who were part of Caribbean Comedy Explosion, which was held at the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium.

Shepherd, who is currently in Trinidad as the only stand-up comedian in Jamaica's contingent to the Caribbean Festival of the Arts (Carifesta), said last weekend's trip to Barbados served as a great preparation for what he will do at the festival.

“The show was well promoted and so the auditorium, which holds 5000 people, was filled to capacity. There were some people who turned up on the day to get tickets and could not get in... the show was sold out. For me I try to tailor my set regardless of whether I'm performing here in Jamaica or outside. For outside the island I make a special effort to make it more personal. I was happy that I had a day to spare before the show and just took a bus into the town and was hanging out with three other comedians, two from Trinidad and one from Guyana, and their cultures are similar . So by just being in the space it allowed me to pick up on a few things that I could use to tailor my set. I had a chance to meet the Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and was able to poke fun at her during my set to make it more personal. But due to the similarities in our culture I didn't have to go too far and so I did a lot of stuff that audience could relate to once they are Caribbean.”

“For me it wasn't about the regular, trying to just do well on the show. It was also about the mix in the audience. So my challenge was to translate who I am as a comedian to that audience which was so mixed. I must say my set was really well received. I am proud of it not just as a Jamaican comedian, but as a comedian in general. This marked my first time sharing a stage with so many other Caribbean acts and was that precursor for me for Carifesta. There is a huge comedy show as part of the festival that has in excess of 15 comedians, so the show was that kind of prep,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

To his audience in Trinidad, Shepherd is promising more comedic material highlighting the Jamaican culture with what he called an “international vibe”. He explained that his objective is to have everyone, irrespective of their background, enjoy his set equally.

“Where it is we want stand-up to be, specifically Caribbean stand up, we have some work to do. We can't just be Caribbean stand-up comedians, we have to become stand-up comedians from the Caribbean... there is a difference. I don't think a lot of Caribbean countries are seeing. A lot of us are happy doing a show in Guyana or Trinidad, but what about Australia, and Ireland and all the other places where English is spoken. So that is what I intend to bring to the Carifesta stage... a lot of Jamaica, but a lot more fun, laughter and enjoyment.

In October of last year Shepherd was among a group of Jamaican comedians billed for Outburst, a major comedy event in Kingston headlined by America stand-up comic and actor Mike Epps. For many, it was Shepherd who came out shining after the set by the American left the local audience dissatisfied for the most part. That show would be a watershed and major confidence booster for the Jamaican.

“Unfortunately, if there was an all-Jamaican line-up for the Mike Epps show I don't think we would have had the turnout that we had. People turned out for Mike Epps. I had been on the local scene and my set wasn't written specifically for the show. It was just new material. So for me it was work that had been happening, it was now just being seen by a totally different audience, who came out to see Mike Epps, was now getting the chance to see the locals perform. In a way, it was unfortunate that that was the way they got introduced to the work we do. But, it was also good to show that Jamaican comedians can be on par with anyone else in the world. It is good to have on your resume and a confirmation that we as Jamaicans can go toe-to-toe with anybody.”

Shepherd noted that after Carifesta he has a busy schedule heading into the next two months. These engagements include corporate events, performances, and his work on local television.