Ask a few people who’ve seen Port-au-Prince-based comedian Kako Bourjolly live, and they’ll pretty much corroborate on one thing: the man is funny. “Kako’s appeal relies on his originality,” says Karl Jean-Jeune, the Creative Director at branding firm Ayilo. “You tend to relate his jokes to your everyday life or the Haitian culture itself.”
Photo Credit: Yelnats Photography
Chiming in, media personality Fabiola Coupet observes: “Making people smile is an art form…Whether you’re at one of his shows or just running into him at the supermarket, this artist is always armed with the just-right-something to paint a big smile on your face.”
Jean-Jeune says that he first heard of Kako via social media posts. “I used to see pictures and videos of the Gong Show on Facebook. When I moved to Haiti, the “Bingo Night” was already the craze, and honestly, I could not resist to attend and meet its host, Kako.”
In addition to enjoying his stand-up routines, Coupet says she lives for…well, his other shenanigans. “I mean… have you seen Kako in full “Dedette” costume?” asks Coupet. Dedette who? “Dedette is a female character he plays a lot in his stand-up shows,” Coupet explains. “He gets dressed full drag. And he just hits the nail on the extra fiesty Haitian woman attitude.”
The funny bone tickler performs with an energy that pulls in a consistently loyal audience. “I can count on one hand the amount of Kako’s shows in Haiti that I have missed,” observes Jean-Jeune. “This should tell you about my impressions after seeing him live. We do not have many comedians of his caliber in Haiti.”
Apparently—to the comedian—life isn’t just about laughter, it’s also about bringing perpetual joy in the lives of others. For this purpose, he created his own foundation—Kako’s Kids. Through this initiative, he’s had basketball summer camps for youths in the underprivileged areas of Port-au-Prince and smaller cities. Little boys who may not have enough space in their homes for a basketball court find themselves playing in a spacious basketball court with new sneakers to boot.
Kako and I worked together on The Sunday Project--—which was a community service based initiative to give back to kids,” says Jean-Jeune. “Honestly, Kako’s full support was a big push to the things we wanted to accomplish.””
Jean-Jeune, ever the zealous fan, looks forward to a whole lot more. “I would love to see Kako on the world stage,” he says. “Something like Kako at the Hard Rock, for example. I think the path that he is on right now will lead him among the greatest.”
And now, let’s get up close and personal with the man himself…
Kreyolicious: Tell us about yourself.
Well, I’m Kako—a very shy guy who loves life, loves his job, loves Haiti. [I am] someone who really feels blessed to be in his position…a kind of guy who takes nothing for granted. And a hard worker…I love kids and sports.
Kreyolicious: What made you get into comedy?
Believe it or not, the fact that I am very shy played a lot into my getting into comedy. I was what you called a funny guy. I always had the gift to make people around me laugh: my classmates, my friends, and members of my family, and of course, all the people I knew. Since I knew I had that gift, I kind of used it to get pass my shyness. At a party, you’d see me around a few close ones, and cracking jokes. It was way better than go chat with people I didn’t know. The word was going around fast that Kako is a funny guy, and next thing you know, I was invited to do a comedy stand-up [show]. It took me at least one year to accept getting on stage. And that first show was amazing. Will never forget it. Even after accepting, I was showing signs of backing out, so the promoter decided to have another comedian…so I could open up for him. To make a long story short, I cracked up the place three months after we had a [show repeat]. And I was the second guy. [I will] never forget those first shows.
Kreyolicious: Whose idea was it to name you Kako. Your mom, dad or someone else’s?
I got that name from [my cousin]. It became my stage name, but I had it since I was very young. My cousin and I are the same age. His name is Michael. They called him Mika. I couldn’t say it; I called him Kika. It stayed for him. Me, they called me Jako. He couldn’t say it. He called me Kako, and it stayed for me too. Kika and Kako were created. Lucky [thing] ’cause my name is Jacques. Just imagine calling someone on stage and saying, “Make some noise for Jacques”…Pfff. [Laughter]
Kreyolicious: Which comedians made a mark on you in terms of comedic timing, stage, presence, career milestones, and the like?
As a Haitian comedian, we are blessed here to have our idol Languichatte. I grew up watching him, and with time, technology, you are able to see other comedians like Eddy Murphy, Jamal, Gad, Rachid to name only those. But, my list is very long ’cause I respect the work of every comedian and their own styles.
Kreyolicious: What’s the unfunniest thing that’s ever happened to you?
I guess you are talking of my comedian life. [Laughter] Well, that should be right before a show. I had dialogue written down. I was rehearsing it, and left it on a table. While I was sitting there, the wind too it off, and we were outside on a very tall building. That paper went five minutes before the show.
Kreyolicious: Do you get nervous and anxious when you are trying a routine for the first time?
Whewww, I get nervous anytime before a show. All the shows either new or old…I calm down on stage after the first few seconds. Sometimes, it’s longer depending on the reception, ’cause I kinda feed from the crowd a lot.
Kreyolicious: Some folks love laughing at a comedian’s jokes, but don’t realize all the work that goes into preparing material for skits and routines. What can you tell us about your own creative process? Has it changed over time?
For us Haitians, it’s even harder, as we don’t have that opportunity to travel around the country. So, often, it’s mostly always the same crowd, and with that fact you really have to have a creative mind, as they love new stuff.
Kreyolicious: What about collaborations with other comedians? How does that work?
I have mostly good experiences in all my collaborations. But when it’s real, you know it’s from the heart.
Kreyolicious: When one ponders on the history of comedy, one can think of many duos like Oliver and Hardy, Abbott and Costello from the 20th Century. Do you think that duos could work in our times?
Definitely: The formula is to exploit the best of each comedian. I really don’t see why not. There are a few duos out there that are making it big.
Above: Kako’s Kids Foundation at work.
Kreyolicious: What would you say has been your crowing moment in comedy?
There are a few, but for now, I would say, in the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal Canada—in French of course, Juste Pour Rire. And it my first skit in French, ’cause I usually work in Creole…2400 seats, sold out.
Kreyolicious: Your biggest regret?
Well, it would have to be the fact that I lost my dad before my big moments in comedy. he supported me so much. I know he is watching over me, but if I could only see his proud face, and hug him after a show…that would mean so much to me.
Kreyolicious: Sorry to hear about your dad…What pearls of hard-earned wisdom would you like to send to comedians who are just getting their start?
Love what you do. Respect it. Put the passion into it. Talent is important, but not close to the hard work and dedication that comes with it. Be humble, guys. That will open so many doors.
To read about other emerging talents, emerging directly out of Haiti, please CLICK HERE to read other interviewees in the STRAIGHT OUTTA HAITI/HAITI’S GOT TALENT series.