His parents fled to the United States from Nigeria to escape the Nigerian Civil War. Not exactly a funny background for a little kid, but Godfrey C. Danchimah Jr. — professionally known as Godfrey — managed to always see the funny side in life as he was growing up in Chicago.
“I was always the class clown, although many teachers view the class clown as a trouble maker. But I always had good grades, so the only thing my parents were told was that while I was intelligent, I talked too much,” says Godfrey, who is soon to take the stage Aug. 24–27 at the Helium Comedy Club, in Center City Philadelphia.
“I think it’s sad that teachers don’t really reward funny kids when actually what they’re doing is a great form of creativity, a great form of intelligence. Funny kids are put down all the time. Of course, now if my teachers see me, they tell me how funny I am — which is strange because they are the same ones who used to yell at me all the time.”
But as time went by, Godfrey’s intelligence won out. He attended Lane Technical College Preparatory High School and received an academic scholarship to the University of Illinois where he majored in psychology. He also made the varsity football team, and one day stole the spotlight at a talent show by performing impressions of his football coaches and teammates.
After truly discovering his comedic talent at that performance, he began honing his skills in Chicago in the early ‘90s. In l995 he headed for New York and made his debut at Caroline’s Comedy Club and The Comic Strip Live. He was soon signed by the famed William Morris talent agency and began working regularly in television. One of his first jobs was as a warm-up comedian for “The Cosby Show.”
“During the warm-up I would sometimes do impressions of Cosby so I got to be around him a lot,” Godfrey says. “I did him once in front of an audience and he heard me and said he didn’t sound like that at all. But believe me, he does.”
Now often in front of the camera, he once repeated the Cosby impression on the TV show “30 Rock.” However, Godfrey insists he’s not an impressionist. “I’m not a Rich Little kind of a guy. I just do them as sort of a bonus. I do try to intertwine an impression at times with my jokes but that’s about it.”
And those jokes, he explains, come from “observing everyday life. I observe everything around me and when something hits me and it’s funny, that’s what I talk about. I’m a more observational kind of comic. I don’t do one-liners like Rodney Dangerfield. My jokes come from real life.”
Humor, he continues, is something you’re blessed with and you can’t really explain it. “I wish people would understand that comedy is an art form, and that the same thing that makes a Picasso painting is the same thing that gives Bill Cosby the ability to do an hour of comedy on his kids.”
Having done lots of TV and feature film work, Godfrey is about to have his first one-hour special, “Black by Accident,” on Comedy Central Aug.27. Filmed at Gramercy Theatre in New York, Godfrey shows the world just how comical everyday activities can be when joking about surviving the summer heat, struggling with an umbrella in the rain and reacting to someone begging for money. A DVD of the special will be released on Aug. 30.
For times and ticket information, call (215) 496-9001.