Adora Nwofor's hilarious voice won’t be silenced
The Calgary comedian talks representation and culture shock
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Adora Nwofor has been told a lot of things over her stand up comedy career.
She’s been told not to talk about men in her act; what she should look like when she goes on stage. She’s been told what jokes to tell – and not tell.
She’s been told she makes people uncomfortable.
“But that’s part of my job, to make you feel uncomfortable,” she’s determined. “Because it’s uncomfortable for me to have to go through that.”
It’s now that Nwofor seems to be cemented in her voice on stage – but it was quite the journey to get there. There was a time where she felt like she was the only black, female comedian in the city.
“It was very isolating, because people don’t understand why I say the things I say,” she recalled. “When you only have five minutes to explain, everybody’s not going to get it.”
Now, she’s joined the Femme Wave music festival board, she’s headlining shows and she’s taken her act internationally.
Nwofor makes it a point to use her stage time wisely – she talks about race, gender and weight with a heightened awareness. She wants diverse points of view out in the world, and she’s making sure hers is heard.
But let’s back up a second – Nwofor herself admits she grew up as a pretty quiet kid.
“The first time I hosted a cultural event, someone came up to me that has known me since childhood and said, ‘I didn’t know you could talk. Because, I was always on the sidelines – a wallflower.”
It was actually a trip to a predominantly black country that opened her perceptions to race and culture.
The first time Nwofor went to Jamaica, as an adult, was after turning 21.
“I went into a store called Mega Mart, it’s exactly like Costco, but I had a culture shock because everyone in there was black. Everyone,” she said. “The cashier was black, the janitor, the owner, the people were black – and I was uncomfortable. And I had to think about that experience really hard, because I was ashamed of that.
“But then, it’s because I’m exposed to seeing only white folks. Like, when I go to Costco, everybody’s white.”
The experience showed her people accept the norm without realizing it – which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Nwofor was still a student when a friend signed her up for a comedy show. Since then she’s used it as a platform, not to purposefully be controversial, but to share her point of view, and encourage others to do the same.
“I feel like, in comedy, if you only ever talk about being a single white guy and dating – there’s so much else to hear,” she said. “Old people date too. They have great stories about it. Fat people have sags. It’s not a bad thing.”