Gina Yashere

Gina Yashere

Date of birth: 06-04-1974
Born in Bethnal Green, East London, to a Nigerian family, Gina Yashere turned to comedy after working as a lift engineer.

She made her Edinburgh debut in 1995, and in 2000 completed her first stand-up tour, and has been regularly on the road ever since.

Her first TV exposure was as a regular on the BBC Two comedy show Blouse and Skirt (originally called The A Force) in 1996. Other TV credits Live at Jongleurs, The Comedy Store, Jo Brand's Hot Potatoes and talking heads shows such as the I Love...series for BBC Two. In 2001, she briefly hosted a BBC Choice chat show, Up Late With Gina Yashere and she provided the voice of Keisha Marie in the Channel 4 animated series Bromwell High

In 2007, she took part in the NBC reality show Last Comic Standing, giving her a foothold in the US. In 2008, she became the first British comic to appear on the influential black stand-up show Def Comedy Jam.

She has also branched out into acting, appearing in the films Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Mr In-Between, as well as in the West End show The Vagina Monologues.

She was named best female at the Black Comedy Awards in 2002, and nominated as best female stand-up in the Chortle awards the same year.

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Gina Yashere: Russell Peters stole from me

Accuser becomes the accused

Gina Yashere has accused Russell Peters of joke theft, a week after the Canadian comic claimed that new Daily Show host Trevor Noah stole material from him.

Peters subsequently tweeted that his accusation of Noah had been a 'prank'. But Yashere is unequivocal in her attack, claiming that Peters admitted to his plagiarism and reneged on a promise to reimburse her for it.

Speaking on Stuart Goldsmith's Comedian's Comedian podcast, Yashere said that before Peters became internationally famous, 'he used to come over to England a lot and do gigs, we used to do gigs together … and what I didn't realise, he was taking my jokes and probably other people's, not just mine, going back to Canada and performing them.'

Among the jokes Yashere alleges Peters stole from her is one from his breakout 2004 performance on the Canadian television show Comedy Now!, in which his Indian father misunderstands the Jamaican slang for vagina, 'Punani', believing it to refer to a tropical fruit.

Yashere says that she originally performed this joke about her Nigerian mother, 'one of the first jokes I ever wrote and it was one of the jokes that made Russell Peters famous 'cos he stole that shit! … He admitted it. I confronted him.'

The similarity came to light when Peters invited former stand-up and 11 O'Clock Show writer Veronica McKenzie, a mutual friend, to watch him perform in Canada.

'He went up to her before the show and went "I'm going to be doing some stuff that's very similar to Gina's",' Yashere told Goldsmith. 'And then proceeded to go on stage and do my material!'

The comic reveals that she confronted Peters about the incident a year later, and that he apologised, claiming 'it was an accident, it was such a good joke'. But she realised that he had continued performing it - after she was later accused of stealing material from him.

Yashere confronted Peters again at the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival when she saw him use her material in a special, recorded 'at least five years after' he told her that he was 'going to stop doing my stuff'.

She added: 'He promised to pay me but he never did. I think he got mad because I told other people. It still irritates me because I'm not getting credit, although this guy's making millions.'

Peters' representatives have not yet responded to Chortle's request for comment.

This is the joke he's accused of stealing:

Yashere made the same accusation against Peters on the online talk show LOLSHOW UK with Donna Spence last month:

She argued that only black comedians on UK screens are 'non-threatening' acts like Andi Osho – who she describes as 'the non-threatening, blander version of me' and Doc Brown.

'I'm less palatable [than Andi] I suppose. That's what they think … I'm not going to get the opportunity to host my show, get my own, I'm never going to get that'.

- by Jay Richardson

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Published: 13 Apr 2015

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