Nkechi Chibueze - New Orleans Blossom

July 11, 2021

Photo Credit

Nkechi Chibueze


Valerie Lopez


Sara Cline

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!
Nkechi Chibueze