Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?
Hey there! I’m Steven Zakari — I’m a NY-born and raised comedian, host, and creatór residing in Downtown Los Angeles. I’m here to make the world a frootier place, every chance I get! Every third Sunday of the month, I produce and host a monthly inclusive queer comedy experience called FROOT BASKET at LA’s newest queer venue, 10DTLA (@10DTLA).
In our society’s current state of mind, both queer representation and comedy are needed more than ever. You get both with FROOT BASKET. A portion of the proceeds made in ticket sales and drinks go to ReachLA, an incredible organization helping to engage and empower young LGBTQ people of color and their communities.
You know that feeling when you finally get to the center of your Cinnabon cinnamon bun and you pop the whole thing in your mouth and experience ultimate pleasure? That isn’t what FROOT BASKET is, nothing can compare to that, but it’s up there!! You’ll have to experience it for yourself!
And the other thing I’d like people to know about me is that I’m pee shy and it’s so hindering, especially at gay bars. Hear more on that alongside an incredible showcase of queer comics at the next FROOT BASKET on April 17th!
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
When people come to a Steven Zakari event, you’re gonna be swept into my visual world; we’re not just talking about the stories you’ll hear from me on stage — from the bold lighting to the vibrant stage design, and even all the way down to the seating music, the room vibrates with such joyful energy.
You’re not just getting a show with me, you’re stepping into another dimension. A bright and colorful one at that!
My number one priority is bringing my audiences together through laughter and having them leave hyped up and feeling good about themselves. I know what it feels like to be at a low point — life is tough. If I can use my talents to help raise people’s spirits, that’s better than any paycheck.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.
Picture it: New York. 2014. An overweight 24-year-old Steven is sitting in his room very depressed because he’s fighting with the fact that he’s gay. He’s been overeating, he’s been hindering his feelings, and he’s been watching way too much Glee.
One day he was talking to one of his LA friends over the now ancient-sounding app, Skype. His friend mentioned to him, “Just come stay with me for a week! Plus I could use your help with this event I’m helping my PR company throw.”
Steven barely had any money, but he did in fact have enough to get him a roundtrip ticket to Los Angeles plus a medium-sized ice coffee AND a donut from Dunkin’ Donuts.
In LA, Steven didn’t need to be in the closet. He could be his true authentic self. Nothing was hindered anymore.
After enjoying the city of angels for a few days, Steven’s friend told him it turns out the event not only was the first (and only) annual Feline Film Festival, but it needed a funny host. When his friend mentioned the budget was $50 and a year’s supply of cat litter, Steven asked where to sign.
As Steven took his final bow to a standing ovation of both people and cats respectively, he knew he was born to entertain. He also knew he needed to find a place to store his year’s supply of cat litter.
The day after the show, Steven walked from his friend’s apartment to the corner of Sunset and Gower, right next to his health club, Denny’s. He stared at the Hollywood sign and called his mother and said, “Ma. I’m not coming home. And I’m gay.”
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face was being homeless a couple of years ago. I remember rolling whatever I had to my name in three suitcases down Western avenue in Hollywood at 1:30 am. I took my phone and recorded a video to myself saying to remember this moment and to never let it happen again. I was living in a storage unit in Hollywood — I knew the lock code because the unit belonged to a show I worked on as a production assistant. I didn’t want a single person to know I was homeless. That was huge for me.
I was living in this unit for a least 2 months. I remember one night I was getting ready to go meet some friends. I went to close the storage unit when the lock shattered. And it wasn’t a regular lock, it was a CODED lock. My heart was pounding. It was after hours, no employees could help me. Not to mention, from living there, I knew other people would break-in at night and try to look for open units; not only was my entire life in there but the show’s stuff was in there!
I tried to make it look like the lock was secured and ran across the street to an Autozone. I had about 11 dollars to my name. I busted in there and said, “DO YOU HAVE ANY LOCKS?!” and a very nice employee responded,” Oh what kind?” and I responded loudly, “ANY KIND!”
I was able to buy a basic lock to at least make sure the unit was okay till the morning. When morning finally did come, I took a huge breath and went to a Starbalinas, that’s what I call Starbucks, so I could connect my phone to Wifi so I could call my old showrunner to let her know what happened with the lock.
This showrunner was like the real-life version of Miranda Priestly. I was terrified. But luckily, she found the whole thing funny. And she forgave me. After getting off the phone, I cried at that Starbalinas until I made the barista uncomfortable enough to ask me to leave.
After that moment, I couch surfed for about 8 months all over this city. Two things kept me motivated to get back on my feet — one was the incredible book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl; everyone should read that book. And the other was the constant replay of me taking my final bow back on my first real stage.
Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business? Why these specific individuals?
I sincerely wish I could’ve met Joan Rivers before she passed away. That woman is such a hero to me. In the living realm though, I would LOVE to meet Amy Schumer, Judy Gold, and Sarah Silverman. I think we’d have such a fun time enjoying an edible and talking comedy.