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Crime Reporter Turned Comedian Onicia Muller On Being a Black Woman in Comedy

Comedian and Screenwriter Onicia Muller photo

Photo/Elizabeth McQueen

Growing up, St. Maartin native Onicia Muller had a passion for journalism. An internship at The Daily Herald led to a job as a crime reporter. However, after an incident at the beach, Onicia quickly realized crime reporting was not her calling.

It was a hot summer’s day. Onicia had just been called in to cover the death of a tourist at the beach. She recounts the scene vividly. Onicia noticed a middle-aged woman in a black swimsuit with bright red acrylic nails. The woman’s blond hair was in a French roll with a swoop bang. The woman stood sobbing on the shore looking at her husband who had just drowned. Onicia’s first thought was “wow this is a beautiful opening for a crime scene in CSI Miami.” Her reaction to the events of that day made her seriously question her career choice.

After college, Onicia was excited to have landed a job at The Daily Herald. As a crime reporter, she worked six days a week, sometimes as late as midnight, since most crimes occur after nightfall. She told Unstoppable Yes You, “I would sit at the office every day with knots in my stomach thinking, I hope there is no crime today.” Deep down, Onicia knew that this was not her dream job.

Goodbye Crime Reporting, Hello Comedy

After Onicia’s first comedy set at an open mic at The Laugh Factory, she felt this was the path for her. It was the month of her birthday and she decided that she wanted to make people laugh for her birthday. Onicia was no stranger to public speaking. However, this time, she wanted to challenge herself to be entertaining. She never dreamt of a career in entertainment nor as a stand-up comedian but when she got off stage, she thought to herself, ‘that’s it, I got to do more of that.

The witty comedian draws inspiration from her personal life. Her comedic style was greatly influenced by her teenage years in St Maarten. In high school, Onicia and a close friend were bullied. Her friend, one of the top students at school, was teased for being dark-skinned and overweight, while Onicia was taunted because her peers felt she did not fit their definition of beautiful.

She sees comedy as a lighthearted way to discuss heavy and controversial topics that people tend to shy away from in the Caribbean. Consequently, Onicia leads with a message of compassion, empathy, and understanding. She remarks, “when it comes to comedy, I would like us to see life from other people’s perspectives and I think when we do that, we will have better healthcare, labor laws, education systems, and less racism and xenophobia.”

Being a Black Woman in Comedy

It’s no secret that Black female comedians have not always gotten the respect due. Furthermore, they must work twice as hard as their male counterparts to get acknowledged. When asked what it's like being a black woman in comedy, Onicia told Unstoppable Yes You, “First of all, the general public thinks that women are not funny.” She also noted that men in comedy can be very misogynistic, although some pretend to be part of the “woke” culture.

Going from her previous job to being a stand-up comedian was tough. As a female comic, she dealt with inherent societal and male biases. At the beginning of her career, Onicia shared that she often wore her wedding ring on stage but not while at the bar waiting for her set. The male comics would flirt and laugh at her jokes, while at the bar; however, after seeing her with her ring on stage, they would give her the cold shoulder. She learned quickly that they had ulterior motives. Despite the challenges, Onicia stayed the course and continued to hone her skills.

Today, Onicia Muller is a decorated comedian and writer. Her work span different formats, from funny greeting cards for American Greeting to culture and entertainment commentary to critically acclaimed comedic screenplays. In 2018, Women in Comedy named Onicia an ‘awesome Chicago female comics to follow.’ In the same year, she made Ignite Caribbean’s 30 under 30 list for her achievements as a cultural influencer.

The Chicago-based Caribbean comedian is also the author of a longstanding weekly column for The Daily Herald titled, ‘Just Being Funny.’ Her 2018 Caribbean audio drama, Suckers Garden, was featured in various Caribbean news outlets including, The Caribbean Times, Island Vibez, and SXM Talks. Similarly, her new podcast ‘Scams, Swindles and Schemes’ is attracting a significant amount of attention from fans and critics alike.

Even with her successes as a comedian, Onicia notes that the highlight of her career was finding a community. She notes how significant having a community of like-minded persons in her field was, to developing her career and maintaining great mental health. She encourages anyone opting to tread her path to find a community and stay connected.


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