Oliver Samuels recently earned a doctor of letters degree from The University of the West Indies, but, with more than five decades in film and theatre, he’s also earned a special place in the hearts of many Jamaicans as the local king of comedy.
Samuels, 73, has appeared in 13 pantomimes and more than 30 other productions, including Music Boy, Queenie’s Daughter, Dickance for Fippance, Hail Columbus, The Witch, Johnny Reggae, The Pirate Princess, Trash, and The Dancing Princess. He has also appeared in productions for the British Broadcasting Corporation, including The Fight Against Slavery, My Father Son Son Johnson, Chef and Brothers and Sisters. The television series Oliver, Oliver at Large and Large and in Charge cemented his role as Jamaica’s king of comedy. Here are seven things you should know about him.
- Oliver Adolphus Samuels grew up on a banana plantation in St Mary, where his father was a casual labourer and his mother was a vendor on the estate.
- His dramatic ventures began on the plantation, where he would recite poetry and sing on Friday nights with other children.
- His mother became ill when he was a child and he would use comedy and literature as a way to bring her joy until she died in 1970. She foresaw Samuels’ success, often telling him that he was going to be great.
- Before working in the theatre industry, Samuels had a clerical job at the Water Commission and then worked as a proofreader at The Gleaner, where he stayed for only one day.
- It was while enrolled at the Jamaica Theatre School from 1971 to 1973 that Samuels got his first opportunity to act professionally. His first play was A Raisin in the Sun, where he played a voice offstage.
- His resume extends beyond theatre, with Samuels serving as the marketing and public relations manager at Mack D’s Auto Sales and Rentals.
- As for his personal life, Samuels has three boys and twin daughters, and later adopted another daughter.