New episodes of FOC IT UP are released every Tuesday
BY NIC CROSARA, IMAGE BY MATT CROCKETT
American comedian and TV personality, Kemah Bob, who has featured in The Guilty Feminist podcast, Jonathan Ross’ Comedy Club, Stand Up For Live Comedy and more has created a brand new podcast, FOC IT UP.
FOC stands for femmes of colour, however the podcast celebrates and centres the perspectives of women, non-binary and trans masculine comedians of colour. Kemah sits down to talk to DIVA about what listeners have to look forward to, nurturing community and her journey to embracing her pansexuality.
DIVA: Let’s start with some quick fire ice breaker questions! Can you summarise why you love Megan Thee Stallion in just three words?
Kemah: Energy. Empowerment. Houston.
Who’s the funniest woman you know?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I think probably my Nana, like, she’s really funny without trying. As she gets older, her patience gets shorter. And so she’s really bitchy sometimes now. And it’s actually hilarious when you take a step back, because this woman has done so many kind and lovely things in her life. And now she’s had enough and I kind of love it.
What emoji would you use to describe your relationship status or dating life?
I think it would be. I think it would be like, if there’s one where the person is like “AAAA”. [🥵]
I’ve gone from dating no one to now seeing two people. I’ve been interested in ethical non-monogamy for a long time. I feel like I’m learning a lot about myself. And at the same time, I’m just kind of exhausted. Mostly from the fucking.
I’m having a lovely time. But it’s interesting trying to launch two relationships and a podcast at the same time.
Yeah, she’s spread too thin. She’s spread.
Talking about launching the podcast at the same time. I loved listening to the first episode of FOC IT UP. In your own words, how would you describe it to anyone who hasn’t tuned in yet?
Well, firstly, it’s an unapologetic, celebration of comedians of colour who are not cis men. And secondly, it’s a bit unhinged. It’s welcoming these comedians to the table with whatever they bring. So we’re not censoring people. We’re not telling people that they need to be, so it’s collecting different comedic styles, from people from different backgrounds and having a bit of silly wild chat with them as well.
You talked about censorship there, one of your first guests is the amazing Sophie Duker. And you both quit the panel show Yesterday, Today And The Day Before over censorship. So how great does it feel to be able to give people a place to speak without being silenced?
It’s really important to facilitate an environment for joy and empowerment. And so to be able to invite people in their fullness is so important to me. Because our live audience is so eclectic, I think it also pushes comics to be more dynamic. So if you perform for white audiences all the time, then your material might come to appease them. I think that’s the word. It might not be challenging. And maybe that’s not what you want to do. But in our audience, I think you look out and you see Black and brown faces, queer faces, as well as white faces. I think it can pull a more dynamic performance out of people as well. So it’s inviting people as they are to say what they’d like to say. And also encouraging them to be themselves, and not necessarily what a mainstream comedy audience would demand. And I think in some of the episodes we’ve recorded, you can hear some of the comics stretching.
You’ve been a huge part of The Guilty Feminist. What was the biggest lesson you’ll take away from that?
One beautiful thing that I learned was that when you create a space to show people who have been overlooked and ignored, then the joy and beauty that comes from that is incredible.
But The Guilty Feminist audience, they’re not me. They’re lovely, but I’m so grateful to be able to show an audience that is more diverse and that is joyfully queer – which The Guilty Feminist audience is as well – but to be able to bring joy to Black and brown people makes me so happy.
And DIVA readers love a coming out story. I admire how out and proud you are on social media about being a “horny pansexual”. Would you be comfortable telling us about what your journey was like to embracing your sexuality?
I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church. And I remember when I was 14 or 15, doing a purity course and ceremony, where I got a silver ring put on my ring finger that said “True love waits”. And I made a vow in front of my church not to have sex until I was married. And it was hilarious. And did that last long? No.
I chose to go to a private Christian university, which is probably one of the hugest mistakes in my life. It was a very hostile environment to come to terms with one’s queerness, and I remember actually, Brittney Griner – who is currently being like, detained in Russia, which is really fucked up – she went to my school and I remember just finding her to be the most gorgeous being and being so moved by her. And I think that was toward the beginning of the awakening of my queerness.
It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles, and I was at a New Year’s Eve party, this beautiful woman walked up to me and said, “Hey, I think you’re gorgeous. And I just want to know, are you interested in women?” And I was like “OH! Thank you to the universe. Thank you, God. This is what we’ve been waiting for, baby!”
And so that was my first girlfriend, and was she a nice person? … No. But she was a catalyst. And I was so happy to see her and I came out to my mum and my nana and haven’t looked back since.
Want to see FOC IT UP live in Soho?
31 July: Maria Shehata, Twayna Mayne, Saima Ferdows, Sharlin Jahan, Suchandrika Chakrabarti, Kate Cheka
7 August: Priya Hall, Alex Bertulis-Fernandes, Kirshna Istha, Leila Navabi, Su Mi and Fathiya Saleh
6-9pm at 21 Soho 3-5 Sutton Row London – W1D 4NR
Get your tickets here.
DIVA magazine celebrates 28 years in print in 2022. If you like what we do, then get behind
LGBTQI media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable.