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Agitation, maturation, saturation
My name is John Agitation and everybody thinks I’m Trinidad’s first standup comic.
There was a fella before me in standup comedy by the name of Landy de Montbrum, a white Trinidadian. But his diction didn’t establish the fact that he was a Trinidadian. He talked with an escalation of the white folks’ in Trinidad. I talk all kinda language. My trademark expression, “Tonne!” is patois.
Agitation is my stage name. I got it from my original script, where I’m writing the girl’ father, asking for her hands in marriage. “Dear Sir/ after long consideration/ and deep meditation/ of the great reputation/ you possess in the nation/ I have a strong inclination/ to become your relation/ On acceptation/ of my declaration/ I will make preparation/ without hesitation/ to move my location/ to a more convenient situation/ then for the solemnisation/ of my matrimonisation/ will be aggrandisation/ of yours truly/ John Agitation”.
I’m born and come out of Caratal. The whole of Caratal is a community family. Everybody is compere, macomere, nen-nen, tan-tan. Mousey, mousa, pai, bhowgie. It’s a family. I know everybody. Well, think about it, I born and grew up there and will be 86 in July. So I know everybody.
When I performed at Expo 69, when Grenada celebrated Independence, I brought down the house. Fifty thousand people. The first joke I gave the crowd: They had a Governor-General Designate, Dr Hilda Bynoe. She was a hospital doctor in Trinidad. I told the crowd, “When I got off the plane at Arnos Vale to see if they send a car for me, who I see but Dr Bynoe!” (I play it very illiterate, you know.) I say, “Is in Grenada you is and all you patient in Trinidad ask me when you coming back!” She say, “No, Agi, I ent coming back Trinidad you know. They treating me like a governor over here!” Boy, Grenadian coulda kiss me!
Let we say a fella got ten acres of land. He can’t work that estate all by himself. He might have two children, but they have to go to school. But you are the neighbour, you have ten acres, too! So we share! Two days a week, we work your land, two days on mine. So the land keep working all the time.
I went to Cumuto Presbyterian School. That time didn’t have colleges, so I went to a secondary school called Progressive. Then I went to Cambridge University to study law but I had to leave. They couldn’t teach me mother-in-law and that was the only law I was interested in.
I’ve kept fit because I do a lot of hard work on my own in agriculture.
It’s worthwhile living, in the countryside. You sit down and you don’t see a bird for two days and you enquire: “You know, I ent see that yellowtail who pass here every day; maybe somebody shot him.” But he eventually turn up. Must have been looking for a new place to nest.
My first marriage dissolve after about 12 years. People blamed race but it wasn’t race. My original wife was Chinese. I have three daughters with her, all gainfully employed. They’re wealthy people. I’m the poorest one in the family.
I love music in any form. “Put your sweet lips/ Little closer/ To the phone”. Jim Reeves! I like the crooners.
My first appearance, I had to beg to get on the stage because they didn’t know about comedy in Trinidad. It was the Scout Jamboree, 1966. The producer said, “You have three minutes”. I stayed there on stage for 20 minutes! The crowd didn’t let me get off the stage at all.
The best part of doing standup comedy is, when you give a joke, the impact remains on the minds of the people for a long time. The bad part is I don’t work for plenty money again. I’m the only comedian to retire in Trinidad.
A Trini is a fella who could understand basically any language of the Caribbean. And Trinidadians like to cook.
Trinidad & Tobago is my birthplace.
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