Onika McLean’s stories matter
Onika McLean is the life of every party. When she enters the room you’re encapsulated by her beauty and charm. Onika was drawn to the performing arts, envisioning herself on stage, on television, and ultimately on the big screen. She started out interviewing herself in the mirror, creating scenarios that required witty and spontaneous responses. As the jokester of her family, Onika combined life experiences and humor to discover the levity in every situation.
What were you like as a teen?
I was funny as a teenager but I had no comedy ambitions then. It seem like everyone in my neighborhood had impeccable comedic timing. I was one of the children that were teased so I developed my comedy bones to make the other kids laugh so that they would not torture me.
Did you have an un-sexy starter job?
My first job was the most unsexiest job ever. I worked at Pizza Hut after school.
It was a smack dab in the middle of Times Square. And this is Times Square in the 80s, so it was not pretty at all. I was in charge of making the veggie mix for the pizza toppings. I had to make this mix in the basement of the building it was the most horrific experience ever. I would come home smelling like veggie mix. And my then-boyfriend was a bike messenger. I thought my life was doomed.
It’s funny when you’re a kid you really can’t see the future. Well, at least I couldn’t.
When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?
Comedy was the first time I felt that I have a voice. My stories matter, my life gave people joy, and I was able to find humor in what were sometimes the most horrific moments of my life.
Have you ever dealt with hecklers?
I try to ignore hecklers for the most part because I want the comedy club experience to be one that’s meaningful. Often times with hecklers, I find they either wanted to become a Comedian, or they think they can perform.
On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young comedian?
Talk your mess! Tell your story. There are so many people living life without the microphone.
You have it and it’s your duty to make use of it.
There are too many young women and non-binary individuals that die without having their stories told.
Best comedy advice you ever got?
Have fun. Do the work. Remain open. Stay as humble and nice as you can, to as many people as you can, because you will need them later
What is your go-to show or movie to watch when you have had a bad day?
I love Carol Burnett so I will watch old videos of the Carol Burnett show
What specific things can a young comic or comedy writer do to shape their voice?
I think that every comic should read The Artist’s Way. It is the best book for an artist. It shows you so many tips and tricks to use to remain inspired
Was there one person who inspired you to go into comedy?
My daughters. I’ve always told my daughter that they can be whatever they wanted to be. So, I finally took my own advice and embarked on the unknown world of comedy. It has been the best decision I’ve made.
Do you have a writing routine?
I free write every morning at least three pages.
What single word always cracks you up?