No laughing matter


No laughing matter

Another national award for actor Oliver Samuels

Observer senior reporter

Sunday, August 09, 2020

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A hearty, infectious round of laughter echoed over the telephone when the Jamaica Observer congratulated “King of comedy” Oliver Samuels on being upgraded to the Order of Distinction in the rank of commander (CD), as announced on Independence Day in the list of recipients for the National Honours and Awards.

He was previously awarded the Order of Distinction in the rank of officer.

Once he calmed himself, the 71-year-old, St Mary-born actor noted how appreciative he was of the gesture, which is in recognition of his contribution to the growth and development of the local theatre space over half a century.

“I am so pleased with this award at this time. It says to me that there is much more work to do and further to go. As a result, words like retirement and taking a back seat are nowhere in my book,” he shared with the Observer.

For Samuels there are so many Jamaican stories out there still untold, and therefore he still has tasks left undone. He noted that having chosen the route of the theatre it is up to him to ensure that audiences here in Jamaica and abroad are introduced to these complex and engaging stories via the stage and screen.

“My job as I see it is to continue to bring wholesome family entertainment to audiences here in Jamaican and the Diaspora. My market is large and wide and I still have more stories in me to tell. I have been longing to write a book. The plan was to write a children's book… a Jamaican story, but all now that cyaa come so mi nah confuse myself with pie in the sky ideals. So, mi jus a go gwaan do mi ting on stage,” he said, effortlessly switching from standard English to the Jamaican dialect.

Like the rest of the entertainment industry, Samuels has been hit by the onset of the current global health crisis due to the spread of the coronavirus. His production 56 East Avenue, which featured fellow comedian Volier “Maffie” Johnson, was shut down in March of this year during the global lockdown.

Samuels noted that these past few months have been a learning process as he has been forced to adopt, and adapt to the new normal.

“This whole thing has made me think more about the power of social media. I must tell you that I am an absolute novice at it but I have had to learn this language as this is the way forward. I have been introduced to formats which now make me realise that I do not have to be in a physical space in order to entertain my audience, so these options and avenues are critical because our business will never be the same again.”

Trained at the Jamaica School of Drama from 1971 to 1973, Samuels has since gone on to grace the stage in 13 national pantomimes, scores of other productions, as well as to work in television and film. With over 50 years of experience to his credit Samuels is pleased with how far the industry has come. He pointed to the consistency of the producers from Jambiz International in not only maintaining a number of productions on stage throughout the year, but also their drive to introduce new, young talent to audiences.

He may still be the reigning king of comedy, but does Samuels see any potentials who could join him in that court?

“Of course…there is Christopher “Johnny” Daley who is just an amazing youngster. We also have people like Glen “Titus” Campbell, Owen “Blakka” Ellis and Courtney Wilson. All a dem good,” said Samuels.

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