Let’s face it: the pandemic has been hard for comedians. Not only have several comedy veterans come under fire for their archaic and bigoted ‘jokes’, but a stand up set through Zoom doesn’t quite have the same oomph as it would in front of a live crowd. As the social climate shifts, performers like Setoiyo Ekpo shine like a beacon of levity in the harsh darkness of reality.
We managed to sit down with Setoiyo before his recording to ask a few questions about moving to Philadelphia and his experience within the local comedy scene.
What brought you to Philadelphia?
I had a very sneaking suspicion that staying in Ohio was not going to help me become a better performer and a better artist in the way that I felt I needed to. I had also seen a lot of my friends go from Ohio straight to New York, and I saw that really not work out because they weren’t used to the lifestyle. So a lot of my friends would move to New York from Columbus and I would see them over the holidays, and I’d ask them ‘Yo, how’s comedy going?’, and they’d be like, ‘I haven’t done comedy in nine months. I’ve been paying my rent, I work all day, and then I’m sad, and then I go home.’ And these were cats that were big deals in Columbus, so I decided that I didn’t want that to happen to me, and I also wasn’t sure if I liked the east coast. Then it dawned on me that I had never seen an artist come out of Philadelphia that was bad. Every artist coming out of Philly, none of them was bad. You have folks like The Roots, Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Kevin Hart, Bradley Cooper… You come out of here and it makes you something. So I thought, let me come out there and I know the place would beat the sh*t out of me, but I’m pretty sure it will make me a better performer and I believe it has done so.
What made you pursue comedy?
I was a (break) dancer prior to comedy. I had torn up my knee real good to the point that dancing at the level that I was dancing at was not going to be a possibility long-term going forward. My friends had been telling me for years that I was a very funny person and that I should give stand up comedy a try. I had ignored them for years, ‘cause dancing was just much cooler, quite frankly. But at one point I found myself with nothing to do. I was home rehabbing and I found myself going through a sort of identity crisis, because the way I had always presented and seen myself, I knew that it was about to change. A close friend of mine suggested comedy again, because they didn’t want to see me at home all banged up like that. So, I wrote out a 5 minute set list of jokes, went to an open mic, asked them how it worked, and they told me all the rules. I then went home and edited those jokes for two weeks, which seems like a crazy thing to do now, but then I told all of my friends and a bunch of them came, and I went up at this open mic, did 7 minutes, and it went way too well.
Hot off the stage from his first album recording, Ekpo continues to blend his particular blend of whimsy with the sometimes-cruel facts of existence at PunchLine this week, featuring for Sydnee Washington, March 4-6.