For Josh Otusanya, setbacks have challenged every step forward. Yet, this first-generation Nigerian American comedian is proof that an unpredictable path can pay off with determination and perseverance.
With aspirations of being a pro soccer player, Otusanya studied accounting and played D1 soccer at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. When knee surgery put the breaks on his pro soccer dreams, Otusanya was underwhelmed by his back-up plan, studying accounting. To relieve the monotony of college without playing sports, he decided to try comedy. And this decision has paved the way for an exciting career.
But the life of a comedian is filled with twists and turns and lots of rejection. This unpredictability could have deterred Otusanya, but it fueled his determination even more. While studying his craft in New York City, he worked in sales to pay the bills. He pursued some of the most prestigious schools for learning his trade and has an impressive list of accomplishments regarding this education.
Learning his craft
Otusanya is a graduate of Second City’s Improv comedy institution in Chicago. This institution is the same one where many familiar faces trained — Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler, just to name a few. Otusanya is also a graduate of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv comedy program in New York. The same institution where Donald Glover, Amy Poehler, and Aubrey Plaza learned their craft.
And Otusanya is the real deal. He co-produced a highly successful monthly stand up comedy show in Chicago at the Laugh Factory called “The Young Hustle Show.” This venture averaged over 200 audience members per show. Finding success at the Laugh Factory, Otusanya launched a similar experience — “Black Magic Comedy Show” — at New York’s West Side Comedy Club. Otusanya took the stage and opened for Bill Burr on that same show after Burr requested to headline.
And the performances just kept coming. Otusanya has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and has had other big-time gigs such as performing with The Daily Show cast members at West Side Comedy Club. He has also taken the stage at the Hollywood Laugh Factory in California. Otusanya was even invited back to his high school to deliver a motivational speech and perform some comedy. It was his message to these students that Otusanya finds most important concerning his career path.
Not everything he touches turns to gold
As a motivational speaker, Otusanya stresses that sometimes life does not go as planned, but just because one plan doesn’t happen doesn’t mean there isn’t something even better out there waiting for you. Otusanya says his path right after high school was to go to college, play soccer, and go pro. He even had a back-up plan — be an accountant.
Today, Otusanya’s life doesn’t fit the mold he first carved, and he couldn’t be happier. He has developed a raw talent and made an excellent living doing something he loves. But his success did not happen overnight. Hustling for comedy gigs is backbreaking work, and those with frail egos need not apply.
Otusanya says he spent years “cutting his teeth” in the stand-up and improv comedy circuits. Deciding to branch out, he auditioned for numerous television commercials, only to receive several rejections. He wrote hundreds of articles online with a mediocre response initially. Likewise, he spent over four years creating YouTude videos, only reaching 4,000 subscribers. Otusanuya would tell you not everything he touches turns to gold. But it was an unbreakable drive and a determined spirit that kept him going.
The power of TikTok
After an average social media start, Otusanya then discovered the power of TikTok. He kicked his creativity into overdrive and posted 500 videos, and things finally started to open up. Otusanya says, “It’s really a situation of persistence, continuously working at your craft, and trusting the process! Anything is possible, and I’m just super grateful for everything.”
Otusanya’s online success was not limited to social media. After a so-so start with writing articles online, he has 14K followers on Quora, where he was awarded Top Writer in both 2017 and 2018 before they discontinued the award. He has 9.5 million+ article views, with some of his work republished in Inc Magazine, HuffPost, PopSugar, Apple News, and more.
Sharing his journey
Now that he has achieved his goals, Otusanya feels he has a lot to share. “I feel like my path from athlete/accountant to comedian and social media influencer is an interesting one.” And Otusanya says all of his experiences on his journey make him relatable to people from all backgrounds in life.
Otusanya states, “I’m a comedian who not only loves to entertain and make people laugh but also likes to use those talents to make a deeper impact in peoples’ lives whether it’s public speaking, a blog post, or a video with useful life hacks.” Although his path was definitely not a smooth one, Otusanya knows these highs and lows accompanied by his experiences make him a resource to help others on their career journey.
With 2.5 million TikTok followers and 155K following him on Instagram, Josh Otusanya has come a long way from his humble beginnings. Although he is not a pro soccer player, he has reached great heights in a multi-dimensional career that suits him perfectly. The world has not seen all Josh Otusanya has to offer. His creative spirit and over-achieving nature leave his opportunities wide open.
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