Oliver Adolphus Samuels, still reigns as the undisputed king of Jamaican comedy

This past Mother’s Day weekend, the play “Who A Di Don” played to 4 sold-out audiences in Toronto, Canada. The star was non-other than Oliver Samuels with fellow cast members, Audrey Reid, Kadeem Wilson and Ruth Ho Shing. This was the 12th annual Mother’s Day Weekend event in Toronto presented by and Ebony Nile Ventures.

Affectionately referred to as "Jamaica's king of Laughter”, Oliver Adolphus Samuels hardly needs an introduction. Oliver is today one of Jamaica’s most accomplished actors/comedians. Appearing on stage with the late Honourable Louise Bennett Coverly, as well as playing a part in most theatre performances on the island, Oliver continues to masterfully blend the beauty of the Jamaican patois with side splitting clean humour. It is no accident that he ranks among the select few in Jamaican theatre to have been decorated with accolades such as the national honour of Order of Distinction and The Actor Boy Award.

Early Career

Oliver’s involvement in drama began at an early age. At seven years old, he and the other children on the plantation where his father worked would sing and recite poetry on Friday nights. He went to the Dinthill Technical High School, but sadly, his school career at Dinthill offered no scope for the development of his innate dramatic creativity.

After high school, Oliver worked for a short period, until he decided to venture into the performing arts, his true calling. After failing in his attempt to contact well-known theatre personalities, he enrolled in the Jamaica Theatre School from 1971 to1973.

Jamaica Theatre School

During his three years at the Jamaica Theatre School, Oliver participated in various productions. His first play was "A Raisin in the Sun", in which he was a voice off stage. Subsequently, he played a role as "The Coolie" in the play "Servant of Two Masters". The role prompted Gleaner critic, the late Henry Milner to comment that Oliver was "labouring under a misconception". This statement made Samuels even more determined to prove the critics wrong and it also formed the basis of his inspiration to strive for perfection.

Oliver ‘Bus’! (began to have success)

His popularity however increased when he appeared in his first pantomime "Music Boy". His character “Moon Drops” had no critiques, not even from the critical Mr. Milner. In fact, Oliver went on to become one of his favourite actors, getting constant good reviews. With top role after role, Oliver Samuels would quickly become a household name in Jamaica.

Productions

To date, he has appeared in no fewer than 13 pantomimes playing major roles. Some of his pantomime appearances include "Queenie's Daughter", "Dickance for Fippance", "Hail Columbus", "The Witch", "Johnny Reggae", "Ginneral B", "The Pirate Princess" and “Trash”. He has also appeared in over 30 other productions.

Furthermore, he has also appeared in numerous overseas productions. He first took his talent to the big screen in 1982 when he appeared as “Pillion” in the Jamaican film “Countryman”. Other works include "The Fight Against Slavery", the British Broadcasting Corporation's television series aired in 1974. Other BBC productions were "My Father Sun-Sun Johnson", "Chef" and "Brothers and Sisters".

Oliver at Large

If anyone in Jamaica and indeed the Caribbean had not known the name and face of Oliver Samuels before, they surely knew him with the release of the television series "Oliver", "Oliver at Large" and "Large and in Charge". This series established him as one of Jamaica's premier actors of comedy and proved to be the zenith of his career. An album with the well-known single "Oliver Yu Large" was also produced and has done well on the local and overseas market.

Oliver's Journey Continues

More recently, Oliver has appeared as “Son Son” in the Jamaican soap opera "Royal Palm Estate", produced by Lennie Little-White. He has also appeared in one Italian and two German films.

In 2011, Oliver continued his string of successful plays with the release of “Midnight at Puss Creek” in the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA. Also, in theatres, the Jamaican based film "Out The Gate", in which Oliver joined fellow stars: Paul Campbell, Shelli Boone and Everton  (E-Dee) Dennis. This production was hailed as the most significant Jamaican inspired movie since Shottas in 2002. 

Arguably Jamaica’s most compelling theatre voice with a colourful mastery for the Jamaican style, Oliver Samuels has written an incredible chapter in the history of Jamaica and by extension, the Caribbean at large. Truly, he is one of our last living legends, who is truly qualified to walk with us down memory lane.​

As his citation from the City of Hartford declared “If laughter is the best medicine, then Oliver is the Doctor of comedy.”  Navito . (TCC)

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