Sometimes our genetics and inheriting specific family traits can take us to another level in our own life.
For beloved New York comedian, Aminah Imani growing up with a large family that is full of energy and outgoing, has had its advantages.
For Aminah, being the youngest of seven children has helped prepare her for performing. As she jokes, her family is a full of an assortment of different characters, including her twin sister, Nzingha, who is just as silly as her.
As a young teenager growing up, Aminah was a little busy body, from being involved with cheerleading, a love of being in water and taking pride in swimming, participating on her school debate team, ran track and field, learned how to braid hair, and her creative side led her into the arts.
When Aminah began maturing, the different hobbies or teams she was once a part of, became a phase or more of a passing interest. While a university student, when she decided to try stand-up comedy it felt different, it was an outlet that Aminah wanted to pursue at a deeper level.
Passionate for Comedy
“I have loved doing stand-up comedy through the good times, of course some bad experiences and as I ran into an obstacle or two, I just kept going with it,” Aminah said. “Deep down there is a little comedian in all of us. You can’t compare it to anything. Laughter is something that can bond us and at the same time be therapeutic.”
Those good times, Aminah said, are the ones that are the most memorable and you just ride the wave for as long it’s there. The primary factor for Aminah is the whole spontaneity of performing comedy for an audience, which became a strong lure for her.
“I’m more than aware that even though it can be a show where I’m telling some of the same jokes, that ultimately it is going to be a different experience,” she said.
Getting on stage for the first time…
According to Aminah, all comedians cannot forget their first time on stage. For an entertainer, it is a significant moment and it just seals the deal for why someone would want to do stand-up comedy.
Aminah’s first experience came at a comedy club in Washington D.C. while a student at Howard University. She landed the opportunity through a friend, that hosted a regular comedy show. He agreed to let Aminah, have some stage time and she made the most of her opportunity.
For her, there were a lot of fears along with some doubts before taking the plunge. Aminah had begun a list of things that she planned to talk about when getting on stage. Ultimately, Aminah listened to the advice she received from her friends that had were encouraging her, to ‘just talk and be real.’
“Initially, you’re nervous, but once you get that first laugh, you get addicted to it and want more,” Aminah said.
‘Homecoming at The Real HU’
After her successful first time on stage, Aminah decided she wanted to pursue comedy further and began to brainstorm a plan. With her blueprint, she began to host small parties and tell jokes for her friends at her apartment. After her performances, she would get constructive criticism from her friends.
These practice runs also helped her, as Aminah was planning to audition for the prestigious Howard University homecoming in October, 2009.
Aminah had majored in Radio / TV / Film Production and graduated from Howard University earlier in April 2009. After graduating, there was still some unfinished business, as one of her goals was to become a performer at the annual homecoming celebration.
“In the end you can’t really imagine how you will feel inside Cramton Auditorium at Howard University that holds over 1500 people,” Aminah pointed out. “For me performing, at homecoming was very monumental, as I had only performed live on stage once.”
After being awarded a performance at homecoming, Aminah had to get over the mental block.
It was known at the time, that university crowds could be tough on the entertainers and Howard University had a reputation back then that it could be a raucous crowd awaiting the entertainers. For Aminah, she had to get over the self-doubt that can set in while performing. Everything that can enter your mind from, ‘Am I funny enough to do this? Do I believe in myself enough to actually do this?’
After some reflection, Aminah developed a strategy for her stage set and stuck to it.
“I gave it some thought and began my stand-up set with topics that were relatable on campus at the time,” Aminah said. “From there, after those first laughs it helped to build the momentum for the rest of my performance.”
The reaction from the audience was amazing and amplified with such a large audience. For Aminah, the feeling she had on stage from the energy inside the Cramton Auditorium, solidified her mission of pursuing a career in comedy.
After the homecoming she was able to get some other comedic opportunities, but was being encouraged by other friends and colleagues to make the move to the mecca of comedy in New York City.
Live at the Apollo
For Aminah, one of the other highlights of her comedy career was performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY. Over the years, the neo-classical theater has played a major role in the emergence of jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, and soul genres of music and their artists.
“Living in Harlem, and being able to pass by the theater and see your own name on the main marquee outside the Apollo Theater was just a magical feeling,” Aminah said.
The show included four comedians in total and each of them having 20 minutes to perform their stand-up comedy sets. Aminah described, the show as surreal with the stars aligning for her on this show.
“Everything seemed magical from the feeling on I had on stage, to the response from the audience. Also, I will never forget having the opportunity to see so many people in one place that came together to support me that I hadn’t seen a long time.”
The Aminah brand
Aminah has transitioned her jokes over the years a little bit and feels some fans might call her a ‘Mom-Com’ now.
Currently, her stand-up ranges from family dynamics, to being a mom and the trials and tribulations that go with having a young son. All of it gets blended together with some satire, dipped in with a little bit of self-deprecation.
“Overall, I guess you can say I’m just real and raw when speaking about my own personal experiences,” Aminah said.
Aminah’s creativity and networking with other comedians has helped her land a popular regular show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, NY. Every Sunday night, the comedy show is hosted by the trio of Sydnee Washington, Marie Faustin, along with Aminah.
The visibility from these shows has helped to fill her calendar with other shows and open other doors for acting auditions in California.
The impact of COVID-19
Prior to New York City shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aminah was having a very busy and productive 2020. Her calendar was filling up with different shows and diligently working on agreements to book future shows.
“For three weeks straight, I was really busy,” Aminah said. “I had some nights where I was doing two shows a night and I had just booked a tour for the summer. I also had some other projects that were just in the beginning stages of production.”
Aminah sighed, “things were looking very promising.” She had also recorded a 30 minute set from one of her shows in December to use with some of her marketing and promotional efforts.
For an entertainer that relies on being around crowds and engaging with audiences, it has been a transition period for Aminah.
“It has been devastating,” Aminah pointed out. “We (comedians) depend on crowds. The highlight of my day is when I get on stage and it is an outlet as it’s both therapeutic and a high, from our performances”
As the weeks have moved forward, Aminah explains that she misses being around people and performing in front of standing room only crowds at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn.
The next chapter
Aminah is striving to get her Patreon page completed and be able to utilize it to continue to build her brand. On a larger scale, one of her goals is to be really creative and handle the writing for a television show. Even with her lofty goals, she doesn’t plan to get away from making people laugh!
Want to learn more and interact with the multi-talented Aminah Imani, signup for her mailing list on https://www.aminahimani.com
Also, check out her off the wall podcast “Wine Before Nine.” Aminah with her guests will touch on hot topics, current events and some rather outrageous themes.