By Michael Nattoo
Before Jerry Opener took on the unpredictable path of a comedian, he was a singer who went by the name ‘Mikey Jerry’ – believe it or not. Most avid music lovers from the rocksteady days of dancehall to the lovers’ rock frenzy that overtook it, may remember the vibrant musical aspirant, who had high hopes of disrupting that scene and making a name for himself among the greats from that era. Even after some 12 years trying to make a breakthrough, with nothing coming up roses for him, he wasn’t ready to give up on his dreams – dreams which had long been in the making from his days of attending the Albion All Age School in St. James.
“I loved singing man, you know, but, it never really worked out. Mi still try though,” Opener explains to the Western Mirror, with the slight rhythmic rocks of his body as he talks and a barely audible hum coming from him suggesting that even now at 52, he still made regular trips to that place in his mind where he was still very much involved with music, and perhaps, back then, had conquered it. But that wasn’t the case.
According to the Opener, things got hard, and his love for music became impractical. Whatever persistent hopes he clung to had to be hastily released as almost suddenly, Opener had to prepare to become a father.
Of his ambitions for music, he explained: “You know, when you’re down on the Western side of the island, it’s really hard fi mek a breakthrough in music because most of the big names deh up so, yuh nuh?” He was, of course, referring to Kingston, where he felt his fortunes might have been a little different had he pursued music there. “I think that a really one of di tings dem weh mek mi did affi just… divert.”
Where did that diversion lead him? To his trade, that of a builder. Even so, Opener couldn’t ignore that there was something still tugging at his love for the stage and for seeing people react to his works. It was then that he realized his true calling, which had been shining all those years through his music and his personality. He realized then that even more than a singer, he was an entertainer – the kind that would bring people the gift of laughter, and that’s when the man, who had been around for more than half-a-century, decided to reinvent himself.
“I got a chance to go away to work on a ship to help my family and even when I was away, I still practiced comedy. Even though I wasn’t hired as an entertainer, I took every chance I got to entertain the people I worked with,” Opener says of his time on the vessels. When he realized he could easily cause people to crack up, it didn’t take father of five to figure out what he wanted to be doing for the rest of his life, even as he pursues his trade. “When I came back, I started practicing comedy fulltime,” he said, and it was not in vain. Shortly after, by what Opener believes to be some divine act, he was called to be the opening act for a show for some prominent comedians at the Wexford Hotel and he didn’t hesitate.
He recalls that after doing that show, and hearing people praising how gifted he was, that was all the fuel Opener needed to intensify an already raging flame.
Now, Opener considers himself a budding comedian, and intends to reach the heights of household names such as Glen Campbell and Oliver Samuels. And even when he achieves those, which he confidently believes he will, his sights are set to go higher.
From a community like Rose Heights, which is often rocked by violence and one which some people find to be void of reasons to laugh, Opener plans to change all that. “If you can really make people laugh, they will come to love comedy just as much as they love Reggae music,” Opener expressed. Ultimately, this is just the beginning for a man who remains young at heart. And if there is anything to be taken away from Opener’s story, who revealed that his real name is Kenneth Stewart, it’s that life makes a way for those bold enough to follow their dreams. Need Jerry for a show? Give him a call at 510-9172.