Comedian Wil Sylvince Talks Immigrant-Family Experience and Kickstarting His Own Film
As a standup comic, Wil Sylvince has opened for Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and other comedy big shots. He has performed on Comedy Central, Showtime, and HBO, and now he is bringing his comedy to Beijing, where he will no doubt elicit roaring laughter?at his double shows at?Great Outdoors this Sunday, Jan 19.
But Sylvince is more than a talented comic. Having found?success as a television writer, contributing to shows like Chappelle's Show and The Underground, he began to dabble in film writing before eventually deciding?to throw his full weight behind creating?I am Maurice,?a film he co-wrote and will star in?as a man who migrates to the US from?Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and tries to make it as a boxer. As attendees of his comedy show will quickly learn, the plot mirrors?Sylvince's own life more?than they might first realize. Below, he tells?the Beijinger?about how coming from an immigrant family?has impacted his art as well as?the challenges of trying to Kickstart his own film.
This is not your first time in China. What were your impressions, and have they changed now that you’re back again?
Yeah, I first came to China in 2014 and I’ve been back three times since. I would say my impressions have been pretty much the same. There are a lot of people, and even though there’s law, it can feel like it’s lawless. That’s not necessarily a bad thing;?I’m just assuming that’s how they live out here.
Let’s get into your comedy. A lot of your jokes play with language, especially to do with your Haitian background. Have you found that has resonated in different ways with people as you travel around the world?
快3开奖结果查询I guess the language thing is because I had difficulty with the English language as a kid, because even though I was born in America, my family is from Haiti. So I had a bit of a lazy tongue?or a Haitian accent. So that made me start noticing other people and other cultures who have trouble with the English language.
I never really had a “language home,” if that makes sense. I never really spoke Patois or Creole that well, which is what they speak in Haiti, and I didn’t speak English that well either. So, I guess that’s why I became more of a physical comic, talking more with my hands or my body. Then finally I started to take the time to practice and really enunciate my words clearly.
You’re a bit of a triple threat, having done standup comedy, acting, and writing.
That’s right, a friend and I wrote a film called I am Maurice快3开奖结果查询 and some others. In total, we wrote about nine films, but only two or three of them are comedies. The reason why is that that for most comedians, our jokes start out as drama, and then we make funny. So the stuff that I write is usually drama, though if I wanted to make them comical, I could easily do that.
I am Maurice is actually based on a few people in my life, for example, Maurice is my dad’s name, and he came to America with nothing and became an engineer, just like the character in the film, except he becomes a boxer. Then his best friend's called?Patrice, which is the name of my best friend, a comedian, who passed away. Some other characters are based on people in my life as well.
So is most of your writing drawn from your own experience or background?
Yeah, most of the time. I think most comics write about what they can relate to.
Do you find that standup comedy has helped you with your film writing? Or maybe, has film writing helped you with your comedy?
I think they feed into each other. When I started writing more, I transferred some of that to my stage performance, and then I transferred some of my stage performance to my writing.
快3开奖结果查询It’s two different things though. Standup is very in-the-moment, but you are limited to what you can do, whereas screenwriting, you don’t have those limitations. But at the same time, it’s all the same! The base of it all comes down to writing. It’s how you execute it that’s different.
It’s been a long journey for you trying to get I am Maurice made, and your Kickstarter was able to raise over USD 100,000. Can you tell me about your experience of trying to kickstart a movie?
快3开奖结果查询Yeah, actually our goal was to make USD 101,000, and the reason for that is because it is an immigrant story. In the early days, a lot of people came to America, and the first thing they saw was the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France, but at first, New York didn’t have a podium for it to stand on, so they held the first-ever crowdfunding, and the amount they raised was USD 101,000.
快3开奖结果查询But the Kickstarter was just to get us started, we actually have to raise even more to get it made, and that’s why we have the . It’s hard to sell films on Kickstarter, but it has helped a lot, because we made a trailer for it and that went viral on YouTube, getting about 3 million views. When we actually start making the film, we will start from scratch, so there is still a long way to go.
See Wil Sylvince perform at the Great Outdoors this Sunday, 7pm and 9pm.?Tickets are RMB 150.?Click here for more information.
Images courtesy of Wil Sylvince