Podcast: "That's Funny. You Didn't Sound Black On The Phone!" A Q&A with Jacquetta Szathmari

JacquettaSzathmari

Christabel Nsiah-Buadi's radio series Home, from Home celebrates the African Diaspora through interviews with artists and cultural pioneers. Past guests have included Roy Ayers, Melvin Van Peebles, Afro fusion singer and designer Wunmi and Jazz singer Somi. This summer and beyond, Christabel and Home, From Home will be on KCET.org sharing weekly interviews with artists and performers visiting the Greater Los Angeles area. For more information, visit www.hfhshow.com.

Have you ever been told that you don't sound the way you look? I have. Growing up in London, I was told that I didn't sound "black", or that I sounded "rich" because of how I enunciated my words. Black kids used the observation as a put-down, while white adults used it as a compliment. Now that I'm all grown up and living in America, I don't hear the line as much... HOWEVER, the combination of my brown skin and London accent has left a trail of confusion and (occasional) destruction in offices from New York to Los Angeles. It's funny, and I could write a (pretty funny) book about it.

If I did write such a book, my first choice of title would be: That's Funny. You Didn't Sound Black On The Phone. Unfortunately, I can't use that as New York-based writer and comedian Jacquetta Szathmari is already using it for her one-woman show. "That's Funny. You Didn't Sound Black On The Phone" was a 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival Best Comedy Nominee and tells the tale of a "non-conformist black girl in extreme rural Maryland who almost 'gives up on black people', takes the Official Preppy Handbook as her co-pilot, and flees to a Delaware boarding school with dreams of being nouveau riche and living Jesus-free in Connecticut. Dark, dark, comedy from a dark, dark comedian."

Jacquetta and her show are back in Los Angeles for the 2011 Hollywood Fringe Festival, so I had a chance to talk to the non-conformist Black girl from rural Maryland about her play and her travels. Listen to our laugh (and wince!) filled conversation below:

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Jacquetta was kind enough to set aside two tickets to upcoming performances of her play at the Hollywood Fringe Festival this weekend for us to give away - Saturday, June 25 @ 2.30pm at Theatre Asylum OR Sunday, June 26 @ 12 at Fringe Central - but there's a catch: In order to qualify you'll need to tell us a (Rated PG!) tale of cultural confusion in Los Angeles in the comments below. The best story as chosen by the HFH gets the tickets. (Even if you don't have a story, chime in below and tell your favorite tale, and we'll take that into consideration.) We need to pick a winner by 5PM, Friday June 24th, so tell us your story!

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I love it. KCET representing nuance instead of stereotypes. Keep it up.

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About 30 years ago, one day I was visiting a friend. My friend left to run an errand but asked me to answer the phone if it rang. The caller asked me directly, if I was a white girl. I told him NO but, I could still take his message.
Another time was approx. 15 years ago, when I was a new hire a corporate office, a woman asked me where I was from (that always gets my goat), I knew where she was going with that question, even if she didn't voice it. I told her I was born in the South and moved here when I was a young child. She then said, "well, where do you live?" I answered, South Los Angeles. She proceeded to ask where I went to school. I graceously answered that question then she said, "you are so articulate!". I politely thanked her but I really wanted to finish her statement with "you mean for a black person from South Central", but I didn't. When we ennunciate our words, black folk say we talk white and white folk say we're articulate. I say we speak english.