Q&A/The Festival Sessions/Comedy/Fringe World Festival

Finding comedy in cultural clash

12 January 2021

Perth-based comedian Emo tells stories about adjusting from life in a refugee camp in East Africa to life in suburban Perth in his Fringe World show Black Santa.

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You could be forgiven for thinking Emmanuel Majok – AKA Emo – might not have much to laugh about when he considers his childhood. The Sudanese comedian arrived in Perth as a refugee from war-torn Ethiopia in 1996. But Emo promises side-splitting stories in his Fringe World show Black Santa, which tells stories about the cultural clashes involved in that move.

Seesaw: Emo, can you tell us a about yourself and your work?
My name is Emo. I’m 32 years old and I am a stand-up comedian based in Perth, Western Australia. 

My comedy journey start in November 2016 at an open mic night at the Brisbane hotel. It wasn’t something I could see myself making a living off, until I saw the success my childhood friend Joe White. 

At the time Joe was starting to make a name for himself, I wasn’t active in the comedy scene but he would always ask me to come along. Then one day Joe gave me an opportunity to part take in a split bill titled Joe White vs Joe Black (I was, of course, to be Joe Black). 

At the same time my ex-partner registered me for the Raw Comedy competition. I didn’t take it very seriously and as a result I was wildcarded, meaning they may or may not call you for a second shot. But luckily two weeks later they did call me back as a wildcard to compete in the semi-finals and I made it through to the finals. 

The finals were very exciting as I was up against some local comedians I admired. I didn’t think I stood a chance against them but I won the state finals and was flown to Melbourne to compete in the national finals at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I didn’t win the Nationals but I knew from that day on what I wanted to do for a living. I was hit by the comedy bug.

S: You’re bringing your show Black Santa to Palace Cinemas for Fringe World 2021, with a one-night-only show at Metro City. How did you come up with the title for this show?
Well, being a refugee from Africa, we were never taught to believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or any superheroes for that matter. 

Black Santa is all about my story, my experiences of culture-clash, side-splitting stories of adjusting from a refugee camp in East Africa to giving out jokes on a global scale.

My favourite part of my show is being able to take the audience on a journey about my life, through laughter. More importantly, it’s about being able to share my craft and leave a lasting impression. 

S: And what else are you presenting at Fringe World 2021?
I’ll also be presenting a stand-up comedy showcase called The Who’s Who of Fringe, January 15/16/17, also at Palace Cinemas. The showcase includes some of Fringe World’s funniest comics, including Andrew Wolfe, Corey White, Jason Wood, Rory Lowe, Wakka just to name a few. 

S: What inspires your comedy acts?
My comedy is a reflection of my reality. It is my story. I’m inspired by the comedy greats such as Dave Chappelle, Eddie Murphy and Steve Harvey.

S: What makes Black Santa different to all the others on offer at Fringe?
Black Santa is different to the other shows for an number of reasons. I treat my live performances like a one-on-one conversation at a family BBQ (Fringe Feed****), allowing the audience to feel comfortable and in the moment.

My show is also different because, being a father of three, I have learnt to be very knowledgeable in a lot of subjects. I’ve had 60 plus different jobs and it helps that I’m a 32 year old man with the face of teenager. 

S: Aside from your own show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe World 2021?
Aside from my own shows I will be running around from show to show MCing, hosting and doing spots on other shows. Fringe is a busy time of the year for me. But it is a great time to meet, and work alongside other great comedians.

Black Santa (Metro City Edition) plays Metro City, 13 February.
Black Santa plays Palace Cinemas, 20 January – 14 February.
Emo-tainment presents The Who’s Who of Fringe, plays Palace Cinemas, 15-17 February.
All shows are presented as part of Fringe World 2021.

Pictured top is Emo.

“The Fringe Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing at Fringe World. Stay tuned for more!

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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