Nkechi Chibueze - New Orleans Blossom

July 11, 2021

Photo Credit

Nkechi Chibueze

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Sara Cline

Listen
2021 Summer Vacation Series

Destination - New Orleans, Louisiana

The world is in the midst of a host of debuts, including the blinding sight of faces that haven’t seen true sunlight for many months, poking out of doors and taking the cautious first steps back into the great outside.
It’s only fitting that we debut something of our own for the podcast: the 2021 Summer Vacation Series. While we’re in no way on vacation, the theme speaks more to that most summer-y of concepts, traveling to new places near and far. Many of our guests are local to Austin, but during the pandemic we had the honor of “hosting” comics from around the world on our Isolation Comedy series, and the Vacation Series is our way of bringing them back for the full Comedy Wham interview treatment.

Take a moment and think back to your school days, if you can remember them. I certainly can because I am a baby, and I look about as old as a zygote. (In fact, I was just at my local DPS to get a new license, and I had to repeat the phrase “I’m not a minor” more times than I care to admit. Is that a humble brag?) Probably the funniest thing that ever happened in grade school—besides the class clowns torturing substitute teachers with fake names and identity switches—was when a teacher swore. Whether it was a “Sit your ass down,” or a history-teacher-slash-gym-coach saying “bullshit,” hearing a teacher let out a curse was a special kind of delight. Hearing forbidden words from the authority figure meant to set a good example, from the mouth telling us not to swear—it peeled back the mask a little, made them human, fallible, candid.

Watching Nkechi Chibueze—a teacher/comedian/photographer out of New Orleans, Louisiana—brings me back to that exact kind of delight. Sure, knowing that she’s a school teacher makes certain jokes extra satisfying: Teachers aren’t supposed to say “titty pocket.” But it’s not just that. It’s her entire energy—her ability to deliver devastating punchlines with an upbeat tone, her flounce and flair mixed with a certain matter-of-factness. Whether in a classroom or onstage, or even on Zoom, she knows how to make a room perk its ears up and pay attention.

It wasn't until I moved to New Orleans that I feel like things blossomed for me.
Nkechi Chibueze

So, to what do we owe the pleasure that is Chibueze and her comedy? Well, fitting the theme of our Summer Vacation Series, she’s quite the global individual: born in England to Nigerian parents, raised in El Paso, and currently living in NOLA. But for her first thirty years of life, Chibueze never imagined herself becoming a comic. Still, one day she found herself in an improv class in Dallas. The experience was a mixed bag, to say the least. Or, rather, the lack of a mixed bag was the problem: It was a homogeneous class of well-acquainted college students, and then there was her, thirty years old, feeling like the proverbial sore thumb.

“And then it wasn't until I moved to New Orleans that I feel like things blossomed for me,” she reflects, “because I took improv again in New Orleans. But then I was in a class where it was people from different walks of life.” Their differences made them all the more determined to find common ground and build scenes from there. More than that, though, Chibueze credits The Big Easy—and, more specifically, its talented and supportive black femme comedians—for her stand-up career.

Surviving on her teacher’s salary, Chibueze began attending free comedy shows in the city, eventually stumbling upon the Black Girl Giggles comedy festival. “All the comics were so different,” she recalls of the fest. “Everyone had their own perspective … I was like, ‘Wow, it's so nice to get so many different perspectives.’ Like it was just a fresh breath of fresh air.” Before she knew it, she was “voluntold” to do an open mic – one in which the microphone was forcibly plucked from her hand, as she had no idea about allotted time, nor about hosts frantically waving lights at the end of said allotted time. Still, to her surprise, she received a personal invite to yet another mic; and, to her greater surprise, she got some real laughs there. “And I was like, ‘Oh, so if I do it more, then I get better,’ and then, you know, hearing all the laughs ... you get addicted to laughs and all of that. And so that's how I started.”


I'm just focusing on making sure I'm the best comic that I can be.
Nkechi Chibueze

Four years into comedy, Chibueze is as smitten with New Orleans as ever. “No one's trying to be like … mainstream comics that you see, you know, on the TV. Everyone's like, ‘No, we’ve got our own thing cooking here.’ And that's why I just love it.” She even stands as a proud founding member of No Lye Comedy, a NOLA-based collective of black femme comedians dedicated to building a diverse community of color in comedy. Of course, the city also has its unique challenges, like the struggle to pay comedians for their time, given the expectation of free entertainment from barhopping tourists. That’s a work in progress they’re still navigating.

Even with all her accomplishments, Chibueze admits that she struggles to recognize her own successes; self-criticism is imbued in her from her strict African family, full of medical professionals and narrow expectations of excellence. The downtime of the pandemic has actually been a bit of a reprieve in that sense, giving Chibueze time to slow down and reflect on how many plates she’s been impressively spinning—between teaching, comedy, photography, and now grad school.

Now that the city is thawing again and returning to indoor shows, she wants to move forward more purposefully, channeling the energy of Simone Biles—doing things because she can, and in the way that only she can. “I'm just focusing on making sure I'm the best comic that I can be, and then finding the venues and avenues to display that comedy to people that want to see it. And maybe it may just be one person that wants to see it, but it still counts.”

We can’t wait to see Chibueze continue to school everyone in her comedy, photography, infinite wisdom, and actual school. And we hope she continues to say “titty pocket.”

Want to know more about comedy in New Orleans, Louisiana?

Nkechi's recommendations for comics to check out from New Orleans include: Xander Bilyk, Amanda G, Keeda with a Q, Geneva Joy, Marcus Bond, Lane Lonion, Lane Sparkus, Rochelle McConico (and her alter ego Stangela), and Kamari Stevens.If you're in the New Orleans area, check out the comedy scene which is naturally inclusive, incredibly diverse, and will leave you laughing. Because so many shows are free in NOLA, Nkechi encourages audiences to tip comics or otherwise support performers financially.

Follow Nkechi


Nkechi can be seen and heard:

  • No Lye Comedy
  • Funny but Make it Fashion show
  • Black Women in Comedy festival calendar - stay tuned!
MORE ABOUT
Nkechi Chibueze