Sat | Oct 31, 2020

Leighton Smith, made for comedy

Published:Tuesday | January 14, 2020 | 12:00 AMMarcia Rowe/Gleaner Writer
Leighton Smith performing at the Christmas Comedy Cook-Up 14th anniversary show in 2017.
Comedian Leighton Smith.
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When stand-up comedian Leighton Smith takes the stage, his audience is guaranteed a wide range of riveting satires. The stories are creatively worded, and, with clinical precision, they find the targeted funny bones.

Smith’s very effective, non-expressive style is essential to his delivery.

“I think if you tell a joke you need to maintain a straight face. You don’t give somebody something and take it back, so it is with laughter. I can’t be up there laughing. I must allow you to laugh. When mi finish now and come offstage, and remember something that I saw up there, then I have a laugh, but not on the stage,” he told The Gleaner in a telephone interview.

Born in Thornton, St Elizabeth, Smith’s career as a dramatist and, subsequently, a comedian was ignited by his community. “Once you are in a community with rum bars and churches, you are going to be up for quite a number of outstanding jokes to take you to your grave; and you would not want to go to your grave with those jokes, you want to share them.”

Smith’s training began at the Thornton New Testament Church, where he formed a now-defunct drama club. From then, he auditioned for the Comedy Bus, in 2006.

“To go anywhere in life, you need a vehicle, so the Comedy Bus took me on the road,” he explained.

The ‘countrinarain’ recalled that hundreds had turned out for the audition, held at the Portmore Mall. He was not worried. “When you know you have material, you do not have to watch the noise in the market, people will come to your stall.”

He received a ticket, “and from there on I have been driving.”

His journey has taken him to the annual Ellis International Christmas Comedy Cook-Out, initiated from a chance encounter with Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis who had seen a similarity between Smith and his older brother, Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis.

A teacher at the Whitfield Primary and Infant School, and the pastor at Hour of Prayer Church, Smith has found a way to balance his roles.

“When I am at church, you cannot come to my church and tell that I am the comedian, because nothing comedic should be going on there [church],” he said.

But at school, there are times when his students will comment on seeing him on television. But even then, he has to maintain the balance.

However, these roles are not the reason that his satires are highbrow. But because he made a promise to life that he “must be able to perform everywhere”.

From Tarrant, St Elizabeth, comedy has taken the talented Jamaican afar. His advice to up-and-coming stand-up comedians is: “Do not think you have arrived. Seek guidance from established comedians who you admire, pay attention to your preparation and delivery of jokes, and understand your audience.”