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June Jokester

Andre Covington
Going Postal: San Jose comedian Andre Covington used to deliver letters instead of punch lines.

San Jose gagster Andre Covington headlines Juneteenth Celebration

By Nicky Baxter

INTERVIEWING comedian Andre Covington is a big laugh--literally. Every other utterance is a wisecrack that puts you at a 45-degree angle. The former postal worker turned model turned comedian is returning to his hometown of San Jose to emcee Evergreen Community College's Juneteenth Celebration (the annual commemoration of American slavery's final defeat). Covington will appear along with a surprisingly strong lineup of other acts, including reggae group Majestic, rapper Master Steele and R&B outfit Kynship.

Robert Townsend once spoofed the obstacle course actors of African descent must endure with the line "there's always work at the post office." In the case of the San Jose­raised Covington, that scenario was inverted. After graduating from Independence High School, he attended San Jose City College for all of two weeks before he was offered a position at the post office.

"I thought, 'Why spend years going to college so I could look for a job making $28,000 a year?' Besides, I got my education reading other people's magazines," he says. "I think I must have read every Jet and Ebony magazine that came through. But people began to complain when they saw food crumbs between the pages."

After five years, however, Covington had had enough and retired at the ripe old age of 25. "I even had a retirement party," he laughs. "Someone gave me a rocking chair as a gift--which I used often."

As is the case with more than a few comics, Covington's initiation into the profession was accidental. While at a fashion show, the attractive, baby-faced performer was asked to replace an absentee entertainer. Reluctantly, he agreed; soon, he couldn't get enough of the limelight.

Covington cites Richard Pryor as a major influence. "He was so ahead of his time. Everybody has been influenced by him. Pryor was like the Hank Aaron of comedy." Still, Covington's clowning is far from the iconoclastic style perfected by Pryor. "I talk about family life a lot," Covington says, "though lately I've been getting into more topical stuff."

Such as hip-hop and violence. Covington bemoans the violence surrounding gangster rap, pointing to the recent deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls as examples of senseless violence. "You know, back in the day, you never heard about Al Green [scalded by a pot of hot grits some years ago] and Teddy Pendergras [a quadraplegic as a result of an accident] fighting; they're too busy sending one another get-well cards."

In addition to his headlining duties, Covington has also landed a role as an alcoholic lawyer in a night-time soap called Bay and hosts a show called "Faces of Comedy" at Cafe Echelon in Alameda each Wednesday night.

Evergreen's Juneteenth affair provides more than laughs. The most notable musical act is Majestic, which has earned a name for itself as a disciple of rootsy reggae spliced with dance-hall DJ stylings. Fronted by Jamaican vocalist/songwriter and arranger "Mr. Majestic," and backed by an instrumental aggregate dubbed Redemption, the group has shared the stage with such prominent acts as Sugar Minott and Culture.

The Juneteenth Festival, sponsored by the African-American Community Service Agency, takes place June 14­15, noon­7pm, at Evergreen Valley Community College, 3095 Yerba Buena Road, San Jose. Andre Covington performs Saturday; Majestic performs Sunday. Free. (408/292-3157.

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From the June 12-18, 1997 issue of Metro.

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