5 Questions with ‘Johnny’ Daley

Next weekend, Rebel Salute 2020 will offer patrons a little more than they usually bargain for with the first-time inclusion of a comedy hour on Friday, January 17, spearheaded by long-time comedian Johnny Daley. Though a first for Tony Rebel’s annual reggae music festival (and birthday celebration) – having a dedicated time slot just for laughs – comedy has often stood centre stage, tempering audiences in between sets and placating their tired sensibilities as the sun would rise over the venue.

“Let’s talk about Rebel Salute,” Daley said. Some of the emcees we’ve had over the years have laced comedy throughout their sets. One of the emcees that has been on it for years, who uses his comedy quite well, is Mutabaruka. People don’t necessarily call Mutabaruka a comedian, but if you’ve ever seen Muta do a hosting bit, he’s always using stand-up comedy as a tool to pass the time. He may do it in his own style, but it is comedy. Humour is something that is used all the time. Humour is something, I think, that can be on any stage.”

Daley has taken his comedy to other stages at music and food festivals. But let’s talk about his first time at Rebel Salute, as booked talent, in this week’s ‘5 Questions With … ‘.

Is this the first time you have been invited to include a comedy set at a music festival?

It’s not the first time that I’ve been invited to do comedy at a music festival. Years ago, I was invited to the Wadadly Festival in Antigua for comedic entertainment. Also, I’ve been invited to the jerk festivals overseas. That usually happens before or during the entertainment sets. So usually, it’s music and comedy that is the combination at jerk festivals.

Was it your idea or Tony Rebel’s?

 This particular invitation happened over a period of time. I remember Dufton Shepherd mentioning that Tony and he were having a discussion about perhaps putting stand-up comedy on the small stage when the festival had a small stage. And then Tony and I engaged in the same discourse about a year and a half ago after I hosted the launch of Rebel Salute. It has been an on-and-off engagement until I got a serious call this year.

How do you respond to those who may think comedy has no place at a reggae show?

Comedy generally works with most other genres. It’s an artistic form. Because it’s not a rigid form, it then can be used to mix with others, segue into other genres or just to add it as part of the entertainment package. Stand-up comedians are opening for major musical acts in the US, and that is happening all the time.

Comedy is a potent enough genre, and one that is flexible enough to be utilised on many different shows and in many different ways. I think Jamaicans are just waking up to that reality.

Not asking you to give away your set(!), but what kind of preparation are you going through for Rebel Salute?

It’s going to be interesting. What I can say is I will not be the only comedian on during my set. That’s part of the surprise. I only have an hour – and we plan to make that hour the best that we can make it.

The comedic fraternity is a pretty tight group, and we have been able to weather the storms of individual passions and keep it together as a unit. I think that’s what’s happening, why comedy is showing up and is working as a genre in Jamaica.

Are you a fan of the show? Are there any acts you’re excited to see?

I am a huge fan of the Rebel Salute festival. I’ve been a fan for years. I used to actually trek down to Manchester when the Rebel Salute concert was just one day, and it used to have rain all the time. I used to be in that traffic there, trying to get in. I’m excited man! The show has a great line-up this year. The Saturday night is very exciting, with Beenie Man and I-Octane and folks like that one the show. But I also love the vintage vibes of a Toots on a Friday night. I think there’s a blend of acts that will be there to please everybody. And, hopefully, people will be as excited as I am to just roll out and come support a festival with a great history.

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