'Johnny' talks awards, COVID-19, entertainment industrySunday, May 23, 2021
Last Sunday, local actor and comedian Christopher “Johnny” Daley received what will be his third hold on the Comedian of the Year award from the International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA).
The Jamaican personality, who has been in the public eye for over 30 years, thanks to his breakout role on the television sitcom Lime Tree Lane which aired on the now-defunct JBC TV throughout the 1980s and 90s, welcomed the latest accolade, which he said is humbling and reinforces that the work he is doing in stand-up comedy is being seen and appreciated.
“For the last few years I have been dedicated to my vision of establishing myself as a stand-up comedian and creating a home for it here in Jamaica. I have been doing this on a non-stop basis. I am pleased and humbled that the work is being seen and what I am doing is working,” Daley told the Jamaica Observer.
He explained that part of his vision is to position local comedy within a global context. He shared that for the past four years this was being heavily promoted through his company Johnny Live Productions, which established a weekly live stand-up comedy show at various locations in the Corporate Area.
“Jamaicans are ready for this. If you talk to our patrons they can tell you all the acts on the international scene... so you know they are into it. Furthermore, laughter is part of who we are as Jamaicans. We were staging an event once per week for well over a year, so it was clear that the audience was ready for this to be part of the entertainment variety. I was also part of the Sandals entertainment block, performing for an international audience at the popular resort chain. We also had the special which also showcased our talents to an international market.”
Then came the pandemic.
Daley explained that at the end of 2019 he was on a roll. He had completed a five-island Caribbean tour with Nigerian child star and Internet sensation Emmanuella. This saw him poised for a great year in 2020. He told the Observer that he had bookings all the way up to November 2020. The pandemic resulted in all his events being cancelled and his plans flatlined.
He explained that he has been able to sustain himself and family through the support of corporate entities such as Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS), which has named Daley its chief happiness officer, and retail outlet MegaMart, which continues to utilise his services in its infomercials.
However, there are no smiles from the comedian when he discussed the response by the authorities to COVID-19 and the entertainment industry.
“I am disappointed in the response to entertainment generally. There has been a broad-brush approach. In the more than 12 months since the pandemic was declared I believed we have learned enough about COVID to get entertainment, such as theatre, stand-up comedy, and even some forms of musical entertainment, up and running in a controlled way,” said Daley.
“In the first six months I felt like there was more of a willingness to discuss with the players in the industry, but now the only thing the authorities have done is resorted to a shutdown,” he continued.
Daley suggested that certain forms of entertainment events should be given the green light to operate under strict guidelines, including social distancing as it relates to seating, mandatory wearing of masks, and the use of sanitisation stations throughout the venues.
“I know the first thing people are going to say is that Jamaicans are not disciplined. But you have to look at the audience that attends the different types of entertainment events. I can say the patrons who attend a stand-up comedy show is different from other events... it's a more disciplined audience who are aware of the health risks associated with not complying with COVID-19 protocols.”
Despite the shutdown of the sector, Daley said he too has pivoted during the pandemic, outfitting his own space, Johnny's Place, located on Dunrobin Avenue in St Andrew, for the demands of the virtual entertainment world.
“I am stepping up to the plate, getting ready for a return of live entertainment, but also offering the facilities to keep up with the times. I heard the prime minister recently speaking to the entertainment sector and the need to be ready. Well, Sir, I am ready,” said Daley.