There is more to what meets the eye. Comedian Joe White sits with POCreative and boy did he have a story for us!
Who are you, and where did you originally come from? Is Joe White your real name?
I am Ethiopian, born in Khartoum, Sudan to Ethiopian parents. I am a twin and one of six siblings.
My birth name is Tilahun Hailu, and I still get called that by mum when I am about to get an ass whooping.
I came to Australia as a “legitimate” refugee when I was eleven years old with my mother and siblings.
Joe White, is my stage name, Joe Hailu was my nickname all through my schooling days and when I become a stand up comic I changed it to Joe White cause I believed, it was funnier than Tilahun Hailu.
I love my birth name, I am not ashamed of it but I am in the funny business.
I love it when I get introduced and the crowd starts laughing before I even say anything cause there is a black comic on stage with a last name White.
You have been in Australia for about 20 years now, tell us how different life is here compared to Sudan
I love Australia and everything it has given me and my family. I even have a southern cross tattoo on my chest with the words “land of freedom” printed in the middle. I want it to go on record that I got the tattoo long before it was officially declared a bogan symbol haha! All jokes aside, Australia gave me and all my siblings hope and a better life, it was either we migrate here or we die on the streets of Sudan.
We had nothing in Sudan prior to migrating here, we lived on the streets, we slept by the side of the busy roads, begged for food and money and most days we ate out of bins. We did this for over two years.
It wasn’t always like that though, in the beginning we had a nice house and a father that worked hard and loved us. The stress and poverty got the best of our father and he resorted to alcohol for comfort. Before we knew it, he was an alcoholic and physically abused our mum most nights. I saw my father for the last time when I was about 5 years oId, he came in drunk in the early mornings roughly 1am and we all woke up to the sound of my mother screaming as he was chasing her with a sword.
This was pretty scary to watch, especially because my mother was pregnant with my youngest brother. My older brother who would have been roughy 7 years old, snuck out and notified the neighbours, they called the police and the police were there in minutes.
I remember they kicked the door down, it wasn’t much of a door it was a house built out of straw, they drew their guns and put it to our father head and held him down with one knee on his head so he can’t talk or move. They looked at all of us and we were all scared and hiding behind our mother who was six months pregnant.
I remember this moment very clearly as there were two questions asked that have stuck with me. The officer in charge got my father’s wallet out and asked my mother “Who is he?” and my mother responded with “he is my husband and their father”, and the officer followed with the second question “do you want him?” and my mother responded with “No” he is hurting us” and I never I saw my father again.
I am currently 30 years old turning 31 on February 14th. Am going to be honest here, as a teen I always hated my father, as an adult I have come to understand that alcohol is a disease, it’s an addictive drug and mixed with depression and poverty it can change a person. I forgive my father and love him very much.
How did comedy happen and did you always know you wanted to be a comedian?
I never wanted to be a stand up comic on stage but I always loved making my family and friends laugh. I always enjoyed all the attention on me when I told stories of what happened and exaggerated it to make the family and friends laugh.
I used to do it so well that my friends and family will always look to me to tell the story. All through my twenties I did all kinds of jobs, door to door salesman, courier driver, telemarketer, taxi driver and banker. It was in my late twenties I ventured into stand up comedy and made a decision to make it my career path.
I have since went on to write my own solo show called “Ethiopian & Still Not Hungry” and perform it in front of thousands Australia wide, and win many amateur competitions.
In early 2016, I was picked to be a support act for international comedian Maz Jobrani on his live in Australia Tour. Maz is a brilliant stand up comic who has featured alongside Ice Cube and Mike Epps in the movie Friday After next.
My Show “Ethiopian & Still Not Hungry” is registered in the Perth Fringe Comedy Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival since 2017. I am very honoured to say that I was the first Ethiopian ever to have a solo live comedy show in the two festivals, it’s definitely a sign that I am on the right path.
Is there a special lady in Joe’s life, if not, what is your type?
Haha! that’s a good question, what is my type. First of all there is no special lady, except for my lovely mother who has always shown me unconditional love.
Know this about me though, I believe in love, I am not a player, I am too nice to be a player. I am the type of guy that’s looking for Mrs Right, not Mrs Right Now.
I was in love before, so I know the feeling, it can’t be explained only experienced. I was in a 10 year relationship, engaged to be married, and just like that it ended.
Everything I had come to know and love was ripped away from me, and I had to adjust to this new way of life.
It was hard, I was lost, depressed and even thought about suicide on many occasions. This went on for a few months until one day I decided I was not going to be a victim anymore and decided to be a victor and explore all my options.
People do a lot of crazy things when they are dealing with psychological trauma and comedy was one of those things I tried and that is how I found it and it saved my life.
The love I have for comedy is that I have never experienced before and life makes so much more sense now. In order for me to find the comedy stage I had to get lost, and through studying the principal of success and strengthening my faith in God, I was able to be reborn into this new way of life.
I want a partner that complements my life and purpose and I want to complement theirs. I want a lady, who is driven, always enjoys exploring new ways of doing things, open minded, generous and always has time to give back.
If you find this lady please send her my way haha!
What else do you do in your spare time when you are not performing?
When I am not doing comedy, I use that time to give back by volunteering and doing charity work. I enjoy it because if there is one thing I have learned from my experience is that you can’t do something nice for others and feel bad, so it’s in our best interest to get out there and change the world for the better by helping our fellow human beings.
I love my charity experiences, I find them very interesting and they always teach me something about life, for example, one of my best friends who gives me some amazing life advice is an 87 year old named Ron.
I met Ron through a community scheme visit I volunteered for, they introduce you to an elderly resident who needs a friend and you pretty much just hang out with them during your free time and be their friend. It’s been over 6 months and we have been going strong, the only thing that really tests our friendship is when Ron forgets that he has told me a story and he repeats it again and it’s never the 5 minute stories it’s always the one hour plus ones haha! But he loves the story, so I have to pretend like I haven’t heard it before because I appreciate and value his friendship.
He did something that touched my heart not long ago when he found out I was going to Canada, he got me a present and it was a guide to Canada as he didn’t want me to get lost and so I have named the guide Ron and told him he will always have a place in my life, he is an amazing man I can talk about him for hours haha!
As I grow my platform and I reach more people I would like to be doing a lot more charity work and giving back at a greater scale. I am currently in talks with The Katina Woodruff Children’s Foundation and White Ribbon in regards to being an ambassador for them.
Both these charities hold a close meaning to my heart and I am excited and look forward to partnering up with them to play my part.
IF PEOPLE WANT TO FOLLOW YOUR WORK ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR BUY TICKETS TO YOUR UPCOMING SHOWS WHERE CAN THEY FIND THE DETAILS?
There is nothing I love more than sharing my work with others to make them laugh and entertain them. Follow me on the below social media and I will keep you updated.