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The only job title that matters to Nonye Brown-West is ‘comedian’

Nonye Brown-West
Nonye Brown-WestMark Shastany

Age: 31

Hometown: Brown-West was born in Montgomery, Ala., but she grew up mostly in Marshfield.

Think of: She can be both bold and self-deprecating, a trait she shares with comedians like Amy Schumer and Bonnie McFarlane.

What caught our eye: She had a standout set on a bill with headliner Rick Shapiro at Lilypad last November.

Light bulb moment: Brown-West had done sketch comedy in college but not stand-up, until a personal tragedy motivated her to try it. “I was a little scared to,” she says. “And then, after my father passed away suddenly, I decided I was just going to try it because it was a dream of mine.” She was convinced she had made the right decision when she was booked for shows soon after she started.


Biggest thrill: Brown-West has only been doing stand-up for five years, but she’s gotten to perform with headliners like Eugene Mirman at the Comedy Studio and Shapiro. In 2015, she missed her chance to open for Maria Bamford at the Wilbur after the comic issued an open call on Twitter. Brown-West replied late, but Bamford liked her video. “She reposted it and told everyone to look at my stand-up,” says Brown-West. “That was really exciting to me. Nothing like that had ever happened for me before.”

Biggest surprise: She’s just delighted

that people like her comedy. “That sounds really sad that that’s a surprise to me, but it makes me very happy that I’m able to have an impact with my comedy. People remember me.”

Inspired by: Her Nigerian immigrant parents, who came to America to get their PhDs, and their work ethic. But she also draws from less positive experiences from her youth. “It was hard growing up in a place like Marshfield where we were one of maybe two or three black families,” she says. “Some very difficult things happened to us, so a lot of my comedy is inspired by the social hardships and the racism that my family and I dealt with.”


Aspires to: She’s been everything from a truck driver to a social worker. “Comedian” is the one job title that would satisfy her and allow her to be a performer, writer, and producer. “I’m a paralegal by day, and I would like to one day just be able to say I’m a comedian,” she says. “I’d love to be a comedic writer or just a writer — I also write short stories and novels. I just want to make money fully from my art, versus having to have another source of income.”

For good luck: There is no good luck ritual, but she gets nervous if she doesn’t watch an audience before she goes on. “Observing what they laugh at . . . their comfort levels,” she says.

What people should know: “I think it’s a cultural thing, but my parents, they let us watch R-rated films and TV at a very young age. So I actually grew up watching Richard Pryor.”

Coming soon: Brown-West will host the Boston Comedy Chicks Saturday Showcase on April 8 at Doyle’s in Jamaica Plain. She also hosts the Women In Comedy Festival’s monthly show “Jelly”; the next one is April 20 at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge. She’ll also perform at MIT’s Empowerment Conference on April 13 and the What A Joke! benefit for the ACLU at the Rockwell in Somerville on April 19.


Links: www.nonyecomedy.com. Twitter @ThatNonye Nick A. Zaino III

Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at nick@nickzaino.com.