Ike Ufomadu on Amusements

Photo: Zach DeZon

Following his debut Edinburgh Fringe run in 2023, Emmy-nominated comedian Ikechukwu Ufomadu brings his solo hour Amusements to Soho Theatre, beginning this evening.

The genre-defying show, operating somewhere in the space between solo theatre, stand-up, sketch and character-comedy, examines universal themes like “Numbers”, “The Alphabet”, and “Humankind’s Unyielding Search for Meaning in a World That Denies Us Easy Answers.”

Ufomadu co-wrote and stars in the short-form series Words with Ike for which he was recognised with an Emmy nomination for Best Actor in a Short Form Series. He has also been seen in the Oscar-nominated film, Judas and the Black Messiah, as well as Three Busy Debras, Joe Pera Talks With You and HBO’s Los Espookys.

We caught up with Ufomadu, who Vulture described as ‘the gentleman-scholar of alt-comedy,’ to find out more bringing his show to London.

Q&A with Ike Ufomadu

What can you tell us about your show Amusements?

I would describe Amusements as a rigorously nonsensical piece of comic entertainment. It is not dissimilar to an amusement park ride, as the show comes complete with many unexpected twists and turns. I would categorize it as absurd and surreal. There are jokes, musical numbers and a PowerPoint presentation – everything the modern audience member looks for in a quality night out on the town. In returning to the amusement park ride metaphor, I would advise potential audience members to “buckle up”, as there’s no telling where this roller coaster of a show is going to take you next.

What was it that inspired the show?

Initially, I more or less just had a general urge to make a show. I had amassed quite a bit of material doing gigs around New York, and wondered if there might be some kind of evening-length entertainment to be made from all of it. And so off to work I went.

Once the show started coming together though, I realized there was a lot of material that had sprouted from a handful of common themes and personal obsessions that I wasn’t even aware I had. I don’t think the show has any one unifying idea, but there is a lot of exploration of the boundaries between seriousness and play, sense and nonsense, and stagecraft and statecraft.

What is it like to be taking the show to Soho Theatre?

Very exciting. Every now and again, someone will come up to me after a show to share (without explaining why) that they think my material would play well in London. I’ve always been intrigued by this comment and am curious to find out whether or not they were right. There’s also a joke I have about the difference between the way Americans and Britons spell the word “programme” which I have really missed being able to do.

Have you resisted the urge to tweak the content following your Edinburgh run?

I’ve done nothing but tweak. I started the Edinburgh run with the main pillars of the show in place, while leaving myself enough room to play around, improvise and make discoveries in the room with the audience. That yielded quite a bit of not only new material, but new ways of playing the old material.

I then used the relative downtime post-Fringe to compile, reflect on, edit and incorporate all those little discoveries more formally into the show’s structure. But even in doing that, I always try to bake in enough time and space to discover something new or follow an impulse in the moment.

How does performing live compare to your work for the screen?

I’m more at home performing live, mostly because I’ve been doing that for longer. I’m starting to feel more at home performing for TV and film, but there was definitely a learning curve with my first few projects.

Maybe the biggest difference from a comedy standpoint is that you get feedback from the audience pretty quickly in a live setting as to whether what you’re doing is working or not. On set, I feel like my performance is being sent out into a void where the audience response will only begin to echo back months or years later once the project is completed and released. After doing a series of takes, there’s little more for me to do than say, “I hope that worked”.

Amusements by Ike Ufomadu is at Soho Theatre from 26 February to 2 March