Why would a young man with a great day job spend many of his free evenings doing something most people dread? Fredsen Otchere-Jan, better known by his stage name – Freddy-Jan – says, “I’m passionate about stand-up comedy. I’m committed to refining the skills necessary to stand on stage and entertain.”
He adds, “It takes preparation, courage, and resilience to repeatedly get on stage whether your last appearance was great or not.”
Asked how his path led him to stand-up, Fredsen commented, “I’ve always been a fan of stand-up with Seinfeld being among my favourite comedians. After graduating and securing a relevant job, I realized that unlike school where you work hard and get a good grade, I was missing the joy felt when a task’s done, which is rare in workplaces. In my free evenings, I saw eager comedians get on stage, perform, and complete their set. This appealed to me.”
So Fredsen stepped up to stand up. “It was a slow start,” he admits. “I asked Yuk Yuks Toronto, now a national comedy club, if I could do a set at their amateur open mic night. I waited months until I finally got the ok. You’re on tomorrow night, they said. Luckily, I had chicken-scratched some material. I rehearsed and signed up. Naively, I was unaware that the sooner you sign up the sooner you go on. It was a long night.”
He professes to being a tenacious optimist who enjoys a challenge yet, “after dozens of sessions, I was disappointed and exhausted from late nights, lack of sleep and not meeting my own expectations. I felt a gap between where I wanted to be and what I was delivering, so I quit! Five months later, I asked myself, like my mom used to, am I quitting because I don’t like it anymore or because it is too difficult? The next day, I signed up for an open mic and haven’t looked back.”
Stand-up is a highly competitive field with lots of talent vying for open mic spots and looking to move onto coveted booked spots in known venues that draw a crowd and usually pay. But “many bars with open mics are not set up for stand-up and things can get chaotic especially late on weekends. Luckily, I now get bookings at the Comedy Bar East, Comedy Bar West, and Yuk Yuks,” Fredsen says.
When asked about his personal style he told me, “My comedic style is dark and playful. I’m always smiling on stage yet speak confidently with authority. Showing any weakness or hesitation and you’ll lose the crowd. I touch on a broad range of topics pertaining to dating, race, politics, and class. However, I portray them from the unique perspective of being the son of immigrants, as my mom’s from Jamaica and my dad’s from Ghana.”
What does it take to become a good standup? “Being an English grad I’m confident I am a good writer, which is essential,” Fredsen says. “Embrace failure as the best teacher. My early shows are the most memorable. I learned so much from my mistakes and failures. Measure yourself against how you did yesterday versus how others are doing. Plan and prepare. Comedians prepare and rehearse. They’re rarely spontaneous. Get public speaking experience so you can hold a crowd. On student council at school, I had many opportunities to speak to a crowd and I enjoyed it. Finally, family and friends always say I’m funny. Here’s hoping they’re not just being polite as I’m throwing a lot of eggs in this basket.”