In 1996 Mike Yard swapped the luscious Island life of St. Croix Virgin Islands for soaring city skyscrapers and skylines when he moved to New York with his family. Having given up on his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player he soon learnt to adjust to the New York winters and public school systems. His real calling was yet to come. After becoming a regular attendee on the comedy clubs and open mic night scene, he finally plucked up the courage to take control of the mic and successfully managed not to get booed off stage. Mike was no longer just a regular attendee; he was now a regular comedian making a name for himself on the Big Apple’s comedy scene.
Now over a decade later and Mike Yard is one of the hottest names in comedy. Not only is he a comedy favourite on the college and university scene, he’s been named as one of comedy’s most thought provoking comedians by The Black Comedy Awards. When he’s not gracing the stage of some of America’s hottest venues Mike loves nothing more than to write. Yes that’s right, not only is he a comedian but he’s also been a writer on a number of projects for television, internet and radio. As if that wasn’t enough, Mike’s also writing screenplays in the hope of one day directing and starring in one of his own works. His television appearances to date include The Apollo Comedy Hour, Russell Simmons Def Comedy Jam, BET’s Comic View and Video Vixens on MTV. Now Mike is set to take the UK by storm as one of the headline acts on the Real Deal Comedy Jam Tour. I caught up with Mike to talk about his forthcoming tour.
How old were you when you moved to New York and what was it like growing up there?
I was 14 years old when my family moved to New York. I enjoyed the Island life. It was not as fast as New York but I liked it.
How did you adjust to the change in contrast between St Croix and New York?
It was hard at first because I didn’t know anybody in New York but when you have a sense of humour you make friends quickly.
How did you get into comedy?
I always loved comedy but I never thought about doing Stand Up until I started working with this guy who was a Stand Up comedian. I started helping him with his jokes, and then one day I said to myself, why am I giving this guy all of my jokes? Why not try them myself? So I went to the Uptown Comedy Club in Harlem did their open mic and the rest is history.
How did you know comedy was definitely for you?
I did not always want to be a comedian, but after the first time I went on stage I was hooked for life. Plus I have no job skills.
When did things really start to take off for you?
I think after I hit ten years in the game I started to feel like a real Comedian.
Where do you get your inspiration from for your comedy?
Life I am a people watcher so I just watch people and I’ve noticed that no matter how different we think we are, we are all basically the same.
You’ve won a few awards for your comedy. How does it feel when you’re recognised for your talents?
Great, I just wish it would come with a check.
You’ve performed on some pretty well known stages to some big audiences. Do you still get nervous before you’re about to go on?
I always get nervous, I think the day I’m not nervous is the day I quit.
Which comedians inspire you?
Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Dave Chapelle
I understand you’re also a writer. What projects are you working on at the moment?
Right now I have a couple of screenplays I’m working on.
What’s the difference in satisfaction you get from writing to performing your comedy on stage?
Writing pays me real money but stand up completes me.
Do you prefer one of these more than the other?
I love doing both, but if you had to take one away from me I prefer you take writing.
Are you looking forward to performing in the UK?
I love the UK, Fish and Chips Holla!
What can we expect from your stand up?
Fun! Just prepare to think and to have a lot of Fun.
Catch Mike on the Real Deal Comedy Jam Tour. For more information visit www.realdealcomedyjam.com
Colston Hall Theatre, Bristol – Friday 24th April
Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Sunday 26th April
Words by Daina Anderson