‘Insecure’ Actor Yvonne Orji on Being a Comedian in 2017

If you haven’t noticed, black people are having a moment in entertainment. Our beautiful, brilliant art is being invested in and celebrated by the “mainstream” (aka white people). That means more exposure and more young creatives seizing opportunities to bring their visions to life.

Everyday I turn on my TV…well, my laptop and phone…and see fresh, amazing, talented artists getting the attention they truly deserve. Actress and comedian Yvonne Orji is one of them. Though she had launched a groundbreaking web series on being a first-generation immigrant, nothing compares to the accolades she’s received for playing Molly on the hit HBO show Insecure, created by Issa Rae. Molly is smart, beautiful, ambitious, the best friend you’ve always wanted and, also, a perpetually dissatisfied hot mess.

Yvonne, on the other hand, is smart, beautiful and ambitious like Molly, but is less “hot mess” and more spiritually grounded and full of joy. Just a few years ago, she was working in public health in Liberia. Now, after answering her own “call” — literally, she heard the voice of God tell her what to do — she’s on a successful show and poised to take over the industry. Girlfriend has a story. And she tells every last bit of it in this episode.

Who knows if this wave of America loving #blackgirlmagic will last. I’m a child of the ’90s, so I’ve seen what happens when Hollywood becomes really fascinated with diversity and then totally loses all interest (#notbitterjustrealistic #notcynicaljusthonest #reallyexcitedthough). But I know that no matter what, with driven, visionary women like Yvonne opening doors and blazing a trail, there will always be funny, fearless women pursuing their purpose and creating inspiring art for us all to enjoy.

Tune in to her episode above, and read and excerpt of our convo below.


Yvonne: Humor, and laughter, is a [way to] disarm. I genuinely love people. And I think that’s why I was drawn to sociology, because it’s so interesting how people process the world. I’m fascinated by that.

Comedy taught me how to navigate the current situation, and how to keep things light. Everything’s not a joke, but there are very few things in my life that are so serious…At the end of the day, most of it is all good.

Erica: That’s such a good attitude to have, especially now, with everything that’s going on in the world. It’s such a heavy time. The things that are happening are important, and they do matter, and they are hard. But to understand that and to still be able to walk through life with a sense of lightness and joy — it’s hard for a lot of people.

Yvonne: There are people who have real problems. I’m not trying to minimize that. But it’s perspective. A lot of things that seem super-heavy are really perception. And then there are a lot of things that are actually really heavy.

Everyone that moves out here [to L.A.] is like, I can’t do nothing without an agent, I can’t do nothing without a manager. That’s very defeatist. How do you break out, because you seem stuck? Th[e] whole conversation is very depressing. So I’d ask myself different questions. What can I do on my own?

Collage by Maria Jia Ling Pitt.

Erica Williams Simon

Erica Williams Simon

Erica Williams Simon is the host of The Call.

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