Who really is Haitian Jonas? Don’t ask. You may not get a straight answer from the Brooklyn-born comedian born Jonas Jeannot. Or you might get a uber-comical reply or an impromptu-on-the-spot skit.
Like any serious comedian of the 2010s, the funny man makes good use of platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Twitter to pile up more fans. The Haitian Jonas YouTube page has over 22,000 subscribers and has already amassed more than 4.8 million views. Faithful subscribers look forward to the little email from YouTube notifying them of a new Haitian Jonas video, and if the newest one is slow in coming, they just rewatch older videos on the channel.
The channel is heavy on hilarity. Some can be as long as five minutes; others such as a video entitled “White parents Vs. Haitian Parents Waking You Up”, can make their hilarious point in under 50 seconds. In “Haitian Jonas Hate Trick or Treaters”, a Haitian father (played of course by Haitian Jonas), answers the door to find a gold-lamé-wearing neighbor (played by Steven Johnson) asking for his Halloween candy treat. The Haitian father is ultra-pious and ultra religious—and instead of giving the trick-or-treater some candy, he draws a cross on his forehead with dabs of lwil maskriti. The trick-or-treater knocks on the door again, after having it slammed on his face, and persists on being given his candy. The following conversation ensues:
Trick-or-Treater: Give me the candy…Your lights was on.
Haitian Jonas as Dad: My lights was on? That’s because I pay my bill.
The comedian’s ability to create videos that pokes fun at Haitian parents, Haitian culture and life has made him one of the most popular comedians among Haitian-Americans. When they’re not watching Jonas on their computers or mobile devices, fans go see him live.Jonas regularly participates at open mics in New York and has a weekly show in Brooklyn on Tuesday nights.”Haitian Jonas is a natural,” says fellow comedian SeJoe. “He performs with a lot of ease. When he’s on stage it’s effortless. He got it.”
It! It—the ability to tickle you even if you don’t have a funny bone. Jonas has the ability to make his fans laugh…even when they may not be in the mood.
Kreyolicious: How’d you get started in this comedy thing?
A friend of mine knew a guy that had a monthly comedy show. He told him to put me on for 5 minutes. The rest is history.
Kreyolicious: Now, how does a Haitian Jonas video have its genesis?
Sometimes, my parents might say or do something that spark an idea or I just dig in my thoughts and pull a situation out. For the most part, I really try to think of situations where a Haitian or West Indian kid can relate and build from there.
Kreyolicious: Have your parents watched your videos?
My parents laugh at them because [the videos] stem from actual things they did—just slightly exaggerated for entertainment effect.
Kreyolicious: Do you ever get preoccupied with offending others?
Not really—because in entertainment I understand you can’t please everyone. But I do keep in mind I have a huge underage following, so I try to be mindful as far as cursing and certain content.
Kreyolicious: Were you a class clown like most successful comedians?
Yup. Definitely was. I looked forward to being the class clown in the yearbook as well. I was the class clown—even though I wanted Best Dressed.
Kreyolicious: Does improvisation play a big role in your videos?
Yes, it does. For the most part, I usually have a general idea of where—and how—I want the skit to go. I just give my cousin the ammo and he shoots it out the park.
Kreyolicious: What would you say to someone who wants to get into comedy?
It’s a hard road and be ready to hear “No”—a lot. Stick in it for the love—not the money and you won’t go crazy. [Laughter]
Kreyolicious: What’s the biggest disappointment you’ve suffered since taking up comedy?
I lost in a competition I was in and I told my mom and aunt I was gonna win and take them to Bahamas. [Laughter]
Kreyolicious: [Laughter] How did you overcome it?
I overcame it by practicing and hitting the stage every day. Then, [I] entered the same competition the next year and won First Place.
Kreyolicious: That’s great…Obviously the videos you produce are a big way of staying in touch with Haitian-American culture. How else do you stay connected? Do you travel to Haiti or to areas with a considerable number of Haitians?
Well, yes. I travel [and do] shows all over the U.S. where there are many Haitians—Miami, Boston, New York—doing culture and benefit shows for Haiti. I haven’t performed in Haiti just yet, but it’s definitely on my bucket list.
Kreyolicious: What are we to expect from you?
More videos, of course—but on bigger scale—touching more serious topics. This year, I’m taking my stand-up a bit more seriously and really focusing just on my stand-up. So, be on the look out for my stand-up comedy special.
All photos provided by the subject.