Omaha native Kelechi Jaavaid, aka K Jay the Comedian, is back in town over the next few weeks to do stand-up for a good cause.
Jaavaid, born Stanley Pierce, will headline a comedy show June 22 and 23 at Love’s Jazz and Art Center. The event is a fundraiser for Project DIVA, a coaching and mentoring organization for young black women and girls in grades 1 to 12.
Mentoring young adults is a longtime passion of Jaavaid’s, who currently lives in Minneapolis.
“I always run into young people who look a bit lost,” he said.
Jaavaid, who was previously a secondary school teacher and a counselor at a homeless shelter, said he likes to mentor young men who just need a little help focusing their grades and staying out of trouble.
Jaavaid wears a lot of hats: mentor, actor, writer, public speaker and, of course, comedian. But before all that, he was a basketball player.
He played for Omaha’s Technical High School in 1982 and, at 6-foot-6, he was pretty darn good. He went on to play in an NBA summer league in the 1980s.
Jaavaid eventually left the court for the runway, giving modeling a try. He’s done stints for Big & Tall Casual Male, Best Buy and the Science Museum of Minnesota. He’s still got his looks. He’s 55, but looks at least a decade younger.
Somewhere along the way, Jaavaid got into acting as well, which gave way to comedy.
It started 14 years ago. He was doing a monologue about his dad teaching him how to drink and realized he had a knack for making people laugh.
“I didn’t know the difference between a sketch and a joke,” he said. “So I bought a bunch of joke-writing books.”
It took him about four years to find his comedic voice. He was on the verge of quitting at one point, he said, but some kind words from comedian Lewis Black encouraged him to stay in the game.
“My comedy now is a mixture of three or four different writing styles,” Jaavaid said. “Traditional one-liners, observation, storytelling. I found that I can combine different writing styles to express my voice the best.”
His greatest comic influence, however, was his father.
Jaavaid said he sees his Omaha show as a tribute to his dad, who died a few years ago from liver cancer.
“In our family,” Jaavaid said of his father, “he was the best living room comedian we ever knew.”