By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For the Birmingham Times
Comedienne Japera “JP Laffsum” Wood goes where the material takes her.
“My comedy routine is just my day-to-day living. I am a nurse, a baby mama, an ex-wife. I’m a girlfriend—when I ain’t married. I’m Jezebel. I can’t make this stuff up,” she laughed. “I draw from my life.”
She even riffs on her two children during bits on co-parenting, motherhood, and child-support payments. Stand-up is new for JP Laffsum, 36, a nurse by day who has been doing comedy for almost five years.
“I love people,” she said. “I love serving people in both of my professions, but I serve more people through comedy. I see people hurting, and I love to see them happy after I tell a few stories and crack a few jokes.”
“How I Navigate Life”
The Center Point native and Huffman High School grad said comedy has served as a coping mechanism throughout her life, well before she began doing stand-up. JP Laffsum said she’s always had “a funny disposition on life,” and that optimism and a good sense of humor provide the silver lining in any situation.
“It’s how I navigate life,” she said.
From the time she was 11 years old and mourning the loss of her mother, JP Laffsum has used comedy to manage grief, material loss, rejection, marriage, and divorce, saying she has been doing stand-up her entire life. Comedy helps others cope, too, she said.
“The biggest gift of comedy is getting a whole crowd to laugh through their pain, to see the humor in a situation that could have broken them,” she said. “That’s a big deal: being able to have a positive impact on people’s emotions.”
JP Laffsum, who will observe her fifth year in stand-up in October, said she got into comedy on a whim.
“It wasn’t ever a dream as a young child, but dreams don’t have to initiate when you’re young,” she said. “It wasn’t until a friend’s husband planted and nurtured the seed that I decided to go for it.”
Every time she and her friend were together, her friend’s husband made sure to encourage JP Laffsum to give the stage a try. It took two years to convince her, though.
“I was afraid of rejection. Nobody wants to be rejected,” she said, adding that the seed was nurtured because people around her kept laughing at her stories.
JP Laffsum’s first open mic was at The StarDome comedy club in 2013. It’s important, however, to find other establishments, special occasions and events small and large to hone your craft and make “your stage,” she said. It’s a matter of marketing and putting yourself in a position to get more opportunities.
“I’ve done Club Saturn in Avondale and the Perfect Note in Hoover,” she said. “I’ve done Bennie Mac’s on 1st, which is always a big deal because [“The Barbershop Comedy Show” takes place] every month. … I’ve been part of church programs, [including some at The Worship Center Christian Church]. I’ve done parties, events, clubs. I’ve done a lot in the city.”
JP Laffsum has built a nice out-of-town portfolio, as well, having performed at Chuckles in Memphis, Tenn.; the Atlanta Comedy Theater and Uptown Comedy Club in Atlanta, Ga.; a U.S. Air Force base in Mississippi; and venues in Nashville, Tenn., Huntsville, Ala., and other locales.
Describing her stand-up style, JP Laffsum said she’s “quick-witted,” comparing the speed of her comedic timing to a bullet.
“I keep it coming,” she said. “My style is relatable, everyday situations are exposed. … I consider myself a storyteller; … that’s why I can do churches and nightclubs. My comedy goes everywhere.”
Performing in Birmingham can present some challenges, JP Laffsum said. There are not a lot of open mic opportunities in the city, and there often are time limits and word restrictions.
“Five minutes is not enough if you’re still trying to find your voice. Sometimes you can’t get a bit set up that fast,” she said. “Then some shows have word restrictions, so you can’t curse or use derogatory language. … Five minutes of clean material is hard to do if that’s not how you speak. If that’s not how you speak, then you’re going to have a hard time communicating with the crowd.”
JP Laffsum aspires to break into film and television and has done some acting.
“I’ve done a stage play, Marc Raby’s ‘Love on the Edge’—and I loved it, too,” she said. “I love to take advantage of any opportunity in entertainment.”
She’s also found her way onto the airwaves, doing comedy on “Ladies First with Eyrika Parker” on The Plug Network Digital Network. Show listeners can listen and watch live by downloading The Plug’s app or check out the live broadcast on The Plug Radio Network’s Facebook page (@ThePlugDigitalRadioNetwork) every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.
Follow JP Laffsum on Facebook @JPLaffsum and @LaffsumTV, and on Instagram @Jplaffsum.