Just for Laughs Preview: Trinidad vs. Jamaica Comedy Clash, featuring Zabrina Douglas

Juno Award nominee Zabrina Douglas features on a stellar showcase

What: Trinidad vs. Jamaica Comedy Clash
Where: Elgin Theatre
When: Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, 9:30 PM
Why you should go: Watch a stellar lineup represent Caribbean-Canadian comedy with a night of music, games, and good times

THE TRINIDAD VS. JAMAICA COMEDY CLASH at this year’s Just For Laughs Toronto festival promises an evening of “music, games, and unlimited laughter” and has a stellar lineup, including co-hosts Jay Martin and Jean Paul, as well as rising star Brandon Ash-Mohammed on Team Trinidad, best known for his appearance on LOL: Last One Laughing Canada last year.

Representing Jamaica at this year’s clash is 2023 Juno Award nominee Zabrina Douglas. Douglas is a registered nurse who got her start in comedy doing occasional sets at Kenny Robinson’s Nubian Disciples nights for Black Canadian comedians in the 2000s. This year, her album Things Black Girls Say: The Album received a Juno Award nomination for Comedy Album of the Year.

When asked about what it’s like to be a comedian and a nurse during COVID-19 lockdowns, she says “I have to be careful what I say. I couldn’t say whatever to an audience” about the pandemic. “Every comedian had to stop doing [live] comedy. We all went to performing online. For me, there were a lot of benefits. A lot of comics hated it. I would do two sets at once – I’d have my phone and my tablet.”

As much as her nursing job has provided material for her comedy, her experience as a comedian was just as vital to her work as a nurse when lifting the spirits of worried patients during the pandemic. “A lot of people appreciated it. I had a patient who was in strict isolation. You have to gown up, with the face shield – it was so hot. At the beginning they’d be by themselves for 14 days. People still need human contact, that little bit of humour.”

As for what it’s like to be back performing live comedy, Douglas says “I feel like the audiences appreciate comedy more, and the comedians appreciate it more. You can tell people are happy to be back, and be out. Comedy has to be live.”

Douglas created Things Black Girls Say, a regular show at Comedy Bar in Toronto to showcase Black women in comedy who aren’t often, if ever, on the same bill. “I started comedy about 15 years ago. When I started comedy, there were not a lot of Black female comedians. When I did see them, I would be so excited. A lot of times when I did shows I would be the only female, only Black female. They thought ‘Oh, because you’re on the show now we can do this.’ No! You can have an all Black woman show, an all West Indian show. I wanted to encourage Black women to do comedy, and also have a safe space.”

When asked what festivalgoers should expect from the Caribbean comedy clash this year, Douglas says “It’s just going to be a good time. With a Caribbean-type show, with music and people, it’s just going to be a fun time. A lot of the crowd – they’ll totally relate to it. A lot of people have come up to me and told me they booked [festival] tickets just for that show – even at work!”

Talking about how her Jamaican parents have influenced her comedy, Douglas says “My dad is the biggest joker in the family, and then my grandpa. They’re so inappropriate. I have a crazy story about how my brother one time traveled to Mexico and was in prison. A lot of things I went through as a kid, I get to talk about on stage. That’s the best time to tell those crazy stories, because someone’s going to relate to it.”