The Love Story that made ‘Nothing to Laugh About’

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Some of the cast members for this year’s ‘Nothing to Laugh About’

By Telesha Ramnarine

HE came to the relationship with about ten solid years of theatrical experience. She, on the other hand, had zero, but was well equipped with organisational and other skills. Together, they were able to create the unstoppable ‘Nothing to Laugh About,’ which has become one of Guyana’s sold-out and most-loved comedy shows!

What started out as an ‘unlikely’ pair has turned into a beautiful love story between the charming and lovable Maria Benschop and ‘Jumbie’, the humble and very talented Lyndon Jones, who managed to capture Maria’s heart with his endearing personality and great work ethics!

When the show started 12 years ago, ‘Jumbie’ was not really in the picture. It was Maria who wrote all of the scripts, and decided that she wanted to put on a show, although having no experience whatsoever.

Veteran actor and performer, Henry Rodney assisted her in assembling a cast and everything else that was required to do a show. It turned out to be so impressive that it was sold out for the first three nights at the Theatre Guild. And when it was put on at the National Cultural Centre (NCC) for two more nights, it was again sold out.

Maria soon came to realise that she was on to something good here, even in view of the challenges that she no doubt experienced as a result of her limited experience. So, despite spending more than she needed to, and falling into some heavy debt, she decided to block out all of the naysayers and press on with the show.

‘Jumbie’, with all his years of experience and talent, felt that he was too good for the show, and didn’t really want to involve himself in something that was new and, in his estimation, quite mediocre. So he kept far, but not too far! While he did not perform in the show, he did its filming and editing.

Gradually, as the two started spending a lot of time together, they came to see things that they greatly appreciated in each other. Maria, for one, did not think that she’d want to be in a romantic relationship at that point in her life, owing to the fact that she had a young son, and wasn’t sure she wanted to expose him to a step-parent relationship.

“From speaking to him and getting to know him, I fell for him, because he had a lot of the qualities that I wanted in someone,” she told The Buzz recently when she and some of the show’s cast members met for rehearsals at the North Ruimveldt Multilateral School here in Georgetown.

“She fell in love with my work and my discipline, and the fact that I wasn’t someone trying to milk the situation to make a lot of money… And how I would be flexible with the timing she had available to work,” Lyndon fondly recalled.

When it was time for Part Three of the show, he decided to join Maria in putting it together. “We pooled our resources,” he recalled, adding: “We were different, but when we came together as a team, success drove us.”
“What he put in to it, apart from his money, was his take on comedy; the fusion…

“I don’t think I could have done it without him. The show became a phenomenal success; it was successful financially, and that’s when we started our out-of-town shows,” Maria said.

Lyndon and Maria allow each other to excel in the areas that they’re better at, and in this way, serve as a great complement to each other. “Maria has a lot of energy, and she knows what she wants. For example, she is better at making quick, on-the-spot decisions,” Lyndon said.

Maria, being quite particular, likes things to be done a certain way, and would therefore go out of her way to ensure that she gets what she wants. To this day, Lyndon still doesn’t know how much she paid for those authentic ‘Game of Thrones’ costumes that she purchased overseas for a previous show. “In the end, I am always agreeing…And am usually happy about the outcome,” Lyndon said.

The couple has been together for roughly ten years now, and their union has produced one child, Joshua. “Our relationship now is more comfortable, and our roles are more defined now. I deal with marketing and promotion, and, surprisingly, I am doing the editing, because I was trained well,” Maria joked.
“It’s like the satisfaction of being a teacher. You can throw back and look at your student work,” Lyndon shot back.

THE 2019 SHOW

This year, the show will be held at the NCC for four nights, beginning Friday, May 31, and Lyndon has been emphasising that in an effort to show respect for those who turn up on time, the three-hour-long show will start at exactly 20h00.

The tickets cost $1,000 for balcony, $1,500 for auditorium rear, and $2,500 for auditorium front, and are available at the NCC, Sterling Products Igloo Outlet, Elegance Jewellery and Pawn Shop, Payless Variety store, Gizmos and Gadgets, the New Nigel’s Supermarket, and Giftland Mall’s Department Store and Supermarket.

Lyndon said it is no exaggeration to say that this year’s show will surpass the previous shows by far. If only the taxes being charged on the show could have been reduced, Maria pointed out.

“I don’t mind paying the NCC rental fees and the usher fees, but the 20 per cent on ticket sales and 14 per cent VAT! If they take off one of those taxes from the producer, I think a lot more persons will become involved in the arts,” Maria said.

Lyndon said the authorities can also do little things to help producers promote such a cultural show. For one, they can air their advertisements on the government-owned station for free, and even allow them to use the electronic billboard outside of the NCC.

This year’s show will feature some of the best personalities in the field of comedy and acting, such as ‘Jumbie’; Michael ‘Credit’ Ignatius; Leza ‘Radica’ Singh; Mark ‘Chiney Man’ Kazim; Chris Gopaul, and Mark Luke Edwards.