PATERSON, NJ - Life hasn’t been easy for Monique Latise. Raised by a single mother, not gifted academically, becoming a single mother, and watching her son get incarcerated, she has dealt with her share of struggle.
Her story though, Latise told TAPinto Paterson, is not an uncommon one, especially in the community she grew up in.
“Everything you see in Paterson,” Latise said with a more than a hint of emotion, “I’m her.”
On the surface, Latise’s story is one of negativity, one that would be near impossible to derive any humor from. But, that’s just what she’s done since 2010 when she set herself a challenge to become the top female comedian in the world.
“I gave myself a goal, something to believe in,” Latise said, adding that she likes to challenge herself, and one of her greatest fears in to become “comfortable.”
From an industry perspective her experiences sound similar to many others: traveling the country to perform, standing in long lines for a chance to get in front of a microphone, rejection, and more rejection.
While Latise has won competitions in Los Angeles and Atlanta, she was also once booed off the stage at the iconic Apollo Theatre. Even that experience didn’t slow her down.
“It’s part of my story.”
Just weeks later, she now recalls, her phone rang and it was Bob Sumner, co-creator of Def Comedy Jam, inviting her back to the Apollo for a performance. “My name was on the marquee,” she said smiling.
For her, comedy has been an outlet of sorts, a chance to speak to other mothers and women that have faced similar hurdles in life as she has. “I’m a comedian for women,” Latise declares.
“Devastated” and “embarrassed” by her son’s arrest, and left questioning what she did wrong as a mother, Latise said that she continued to do comedy, but found herself “angry” at the expectation of her performances on stage. “Why would you ask me to make people laugh,” Latise recalled thinking to herself.
It was however, getting on stage at Mt. Olive Baptist Church on one of her most difficult days, that she realized just how powerful speaking to others could be. “I cried all the way to the show,” she said, adding that at the end of the act she thanked the women in the room, revealing that her son had just been sentenced to prison just hours earlier.
“It felt good to let it go.”
On Saturday, all of Latise’s experiences, as a mother and a comedian, will officially come together, when she adds entrepreneur and comedy club owner to her biography.
Latise is looking forward to welcoming family, friends, fans, local dignitaries and more to her new space, to Center City Mall to cut the ribbon on the Monique Latise Comedy Club.
The space, Latise hopes, will welcome both up and coming comics as well as major headliners to Paterson. It will also, perhaps more importantly, serve as room to continue her outreach efforts to local youth who, like her, might be struggling in the classroom.
“I always had a desire to do more than what I could show people on paper,” she said of her education. Offering her mentorship, experience, and passion to help them along, Latise is committed to creating “a platform where kids in Paterson can express themselves artistically.”
While “not everyone can be Fetty Wap,” she said admiringly of the Paterson raised superstar, she wants any young people in Paterson to “go after their dreams,” whether its as a singer, comedian, dancer, or actor. The program she has established will help teach them how to audition and how to compete.
With food and drink available from Hamilton & Ward Steakhouse that sits just downstairs, Latise expects to also welcome community events in a “selective” way. “This is not a hall,” Latise said.
Her business acumen showing, Latise added her hope that she’ll host corporate events, and provide training and team building activities for a wide range of organizations.
No matter what it becomes, she hopes, Monique Latise Comedy Club will be a place where “people can come to laugh, let their hair down, and be around good in Paterson.”
“There’s still hope in Paterson,” Latise said. “I believe in the city that gave me my creativity, my artistry.”
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