Comedian Agunda Okeyo Talks Laughter, Tears, Money, and Broadway

Comedian Agunda Okeyo Talks Laughter, Fear, Money, and Broadway

(Image: Agunda Okeyo)


In addition to the challenges of being black women in comedy, did you run into challenges on the business side that you think are unique to the fact that you are black women?

I often registered doubt from people about whether a show with five or six black women comedians really could be diverse. To many people’s mind in America, diversity only speaks to racial difference. So one of the best things about Sisters of Comedy is that as an all-black women showcase, I can celebrate the diversity within the black community. And in doing so I put people face to face with their biases. Many people, even some black people, do not bank on the popularity of such a show because they rarely afford women, let alone black women, the credit we deserve as interesting, smart, surprising, and complex people.

In addition to Sisters of Comedy, you write for publications including The Daily Beast, and you are writing a book. What do you feel are the most important things you can share about balancing your time?

It’s really, really hard to balance your time! For me, conquering the fear associated with all that I have to do on a given day or week or month is the greatest time saver–getting past the urge to retreat rather than push forward. But more practically, one has to learn to compartmentalize your day. Writing is best in the morning or late at night, while the meat of the day goes to producing. So far, that formula works for me.

How did you sustain yourself financially as you built your career?

I worked multiple jobs (usually two or three at a time) and interned whenever I could to build my skills and career prospects (I’ve had six or seven internships since I was 18 years old); sometimes I crashed on a couch to save money but maintain my creative ambition. The main thing I did was to never stop working; every day I’d figure out how to get up and on with life, so I could be where I am today: creative, independent, and laughing.

What advice would you give about creating financial security while pursuing your passions?

You don’t have to love money, but you must respect money. Many people, in my opinion, make the mistake of either dismissing financial planning altogether, hoarding their money, or obsessing over the yacht they’ll one day own without any assets to speak of. None of those perspectives require presence of mind. In order to pursue your passions, one must both do and dream; live in the present and plan/allow for the possibilities of your future. So I would say, learn how to invest in your day-to-day and also learn how to save so you can support the dreams you haven’t had yet.