During Ahamefule J. Oluo's performance of Now I'm Fine, his experimental comedy/pop opera (popera, if you will) at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on Friday night, it was hard to tell who was having more fun: the audience or Oluo.
For the crowd, part of the fun came from watching Oluo laugh at his own jokes and dance to the beat every time he went to conduct the orchestra.
Now I'm Fine puts the comedian/composer in a position few people ever find themselves in: on stage in front of a large audience with one thing to talk about — himself.
Oluo excels at talking about himself, and at making it funny when he does. At one point in the show, Oluo made the entire audience burst out laughing with a knock-knock joke, a difficult feat to accomplish.
While the show is funny, its comedy is rooted in the hardships Oluo faced in 2006.
"The inspiration behind it comes from a period of time about a decade ago where I had a really unfortunate series of events," Oluo said. "A six-month period of time that involved death, illness and other stuff that culminated into the expression, 'When it rains, it pours.'"
Now I'm Fine isn't just a stand-up comedy show though; it also functions as an opera, with songs permeating the flow of the stand-up routine. One may think having a 17-piece orchestra perform songs intermittently throughout a stand-up comedy wouldn't work, but it does.
The musical numbers appear at exactly the right places, providing contrast to the fast-paced comedy. The two elements of the show fit together organically, flowing back and forth as soon as Oluo turned around on the stage to conduct.
The comedy Now I'm Fine is unlike any show before it. Because of the combination of music and comedy, it connects to a wider audience on a deeper level.
"In a decade, no one has told me that it reminds them of something else," Oluo said.
Because it is so unique, Now I'm Fine has the ability to affect its audience in a way a normal production — one lacking in popera music — cannot.
"Almost everyone I find has had some series of experiences that allows them to connect to and receive the healing that I'm talking about in the show," Oluo said. "It makes people think about things in their lives differently, and the ability to do that is truly inspiring."
The show is more than just Oluo recounting events that have happened to him. It is a message that no matter how bad things get, they do get better.
"It's about finding a way to feel okay when you know things are very much not okay," Oluo said during the show.
Oluo continued, talking about how he eventually found a way to continue expressing himself despite his pain.
"In those moments, I knew I was alive because I could still create something. I knew in those moments, like I know in this moment that now, I'm fine."