Fools Circle founder Jonathan Teklai on pandemic comedy


Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Taylor Steele, @shotxsteele

Circle of fools it all started in a basement. Host Jonathan Teklai’s basement in Brooklyn, to be exact. It was the Bay Area native’s 30th birthday, and what better way to celebrate than to host “a roast of my life”? This first stand-up comedy show / house party mash-up took place in December 2018, and the “pop-up comedy party” has, well, been hitting theaters nationwide ever since. .

You already know what’s coming: Any place you would describe as a ‘venue’ wasn’t exactly ready to host a pop-up anytime in Spring 2020, and everything that looked like a house party. has been canceled indefinitely. So Teklai took the show to Prospect Park – then did it again, 14 more times in the past year.

“At first I didn’t know if I should do a show because it was around June 18, a few weeks after George Floyd died, and I didn’t want to be one of those irresponsible people by making an event. , Teklai said. “And then everyone thought our comedy show was a manifestation of Black Lives Matter. One comedian even called it “the official BLM afterparty,” he laughs. “As soon as the first actor came on, I knew it was great. The response was like, ‘Oh my God, thank you so much. I haven’t seen my friends for so long. I can’t remember the last time I laughed like that. I don’t remember the last time I was so present.

From left to right : Photo: Matthew Yoscary @youngeggzPhoto: Scott Johnson @moreguinness

From above: Photo: Matthew Yoscary @youngeggzPhoto: Scott Johnson @moreguinness

That’s the thing with Fools Circle – it’s not just stand-up or music from the DJ set up in the tent. It’s about transforming the park into a place where friends and strangers, mostly blacks and POCs, come together in an intimate, safe and open-air space for just to be, together. While the shows are free, if you listen closely you’ll hear Teklai prank on the mic about how audiences can donate through Venmo and Cash App between sets. “I like to explain how to support in person, because when people laugh, they feel more generous,” Teklai says.

For his 2021 summer tour, entitled ” NOT[– – – – –] in nature,” Fools Circle has extended the comedy, music, and vibe beyond Brooklyn’s green spaces, taking its unconventional scene in cities like Oakland, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. “I call it a” comedy show for n[- – – – -]’sometimes when I’m on stage, but I like to mix it up. It’s not for all blacks, ”Teklai explains. “Very intentionally not. I try to have three women, three men, and usually I will have a non-black slot. I open it to people who I am friends with and who I think have jokes that the public There is a sharpness in the humor that appeals to Teklai the most, he says. “It’s right in the middle of Def Comedy Jam and Key & Peel. “

Photo: Samson Debela, @lost_angles

I first heard about Fools Circle last summer, when two friends left our beach day early to attend a ‘comedy show party’ in the park that brought together comedians like Courtney bee, Clark jones, and Jocelyne Chia and DJs like KittyDisWord and Stone blue. Finally, I followed. (By the way, while Teklai’s summer final in Brooklyn took place on September 26, he already has plans for upcoming shows in LA on October 10 and Washington, DC on October 17.) the refreshing and uplifting feeling that hit me, as a black woman, looking around this green outdoor space covered in picnic blankets, surrounded by over 100 black bodies, the beauty of their smiling faces and the sounds of their belly laughs. Think of it as group therapy, but funnier.

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