Godfrey Danchimah had one distinct advantage over other candidates for the starring role on the mid season premier episode on January 14, 1999, in "Lateline", Al Franken's recently reactivated sitcom. The character description called for an authentic African accent, this was critical because the role, Mifune Umbewbwe, is the spoiled son of an African Dictator. For the first time in his career it proved to be of good fortune that his parents were Nigerian immigrants.
"I just pictured by father's accent and my relatives accents, and there it was". Godfrey says. "This was the best thing to happen to me since my family moved from Nebraska to Chicago."
1999 may prove to be a pivotal year in Mr. Danchimah's career. In addition to his debut guest starring appearance on a primetime national network, Godfrey will be seen this year on HBO's debuting Family Channel as the series host of 30X30 Kid Flicks.
"I was raised on Chicago's North Side," Godfrey says. "No matter where I go to pursue my career and where I may end up in my life, in my heart Chicago will always be home."
Upon finishing high school Godfrey received an academic scholarship to the University of Illinois in Champagne where he majored in psychology. Almost as a lark he tried out for football and made the varsity squad.
"It's funny how things work out, but I had to be a walk on for a running back position on a Big Ten team before I would get the opportunity to finally discover what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life." He said.
It is a tradition that all new members of the varsity squad must perform in a talent show for an audience consisting of the team and the staff. For his performance Godfrey did impressions of his coaches and fellow teammates and ended up stealing the show and at the same time discovering his true vocation, comedy.
After graduating, Godfrey returned home to Chicago where he formed the comedy team of Godfrey and Alexander. As the only African American comedy duo working in the area they soon gained local recognition from working out in the Funny Firm in downtown Chicago. After a scant six months their reputation was good enough to allow them to work the better clubs (All Jokes Aside, Zanies and the Clique) and College campuses.
"I discovered after a while that I was far more ambitious than my partner." Godfrey said.
After one year Mr. Danchimah decided to go out on his own. Whenever the opportunity presented itself he did open mic. nights and guest appearances, thereby gaining prominence as a solo act.
He also expanded into new areas as a way of supplementing his income. He began doing commercials and print advertising in the Chicago, achieving almost immediate success when he booked three major national spots (World Cup Soccer, Nintendo and McDonalds).
Although well know and respected in Chicago for his stand-up, his only national television exposure came in the area of two sketch comedy performances. First in a gangster sketch for the Comedy Channel's "Comic Justice". (An opportunity he earned for his work as one of the regular hosts at the "All Jokes Aside Comedy Club " where the show is taped). And then he was recently seen when his friend, Bernie Mac put him to work in a sketch playing a television executive for a bit on "Midnight Mac" (HBO).
"My career had been going great considering I had never performed outside of the Midwest." Godfrey said as a way of an explanation for his anonymity beyond the confines of Chicago.
"Friends and fellow comedians said I needed to perform in New York or LA if I really wanted to have a career in show business, so I took their advice."
It was in the fall of this year that Mr. Danchimah made his New York debuts at Caroline's Comedy Club and The Comic Strip where he was immediately discovered and signed by the prestigious talent agency, William Morris.
"I believe Godfrey to be one of the most exciting personalities to emerge out of the urban comedy scene since Sinbad." says Mike August of the William Morris Agency.
In addition to his work in nightclubs and commercials he also has a blossoming film Career. His recent appearance in "Original Gangsters", an Orion Pictures release, gave him his first opportunity to show off his acting ability to a nationwide audience. The film is a Fred Williamson Production and starred Jim Brown, Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree and Paul Winfield.
In January of 1996 Godfrey started shooting "Chain Reaction" with Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman directed by Andy Davis (Fugitive and Under Siege) for 20th Century Fox. In it he played a lab technician.
"Even though I am barely in it, I still got the opportunity to say I did a movie with Morgan Freeman and Keanu Reeves." Godfrey said excitedly.
Since April of 1996, Godfrey has called New York his home. In just a short five months he appeared on "Friday Night Videos" twice and assumed the demanding duties of warmup comedian for CBS's "Cosby Show" and Dan Akroyd's "Soulman".
In addition to his film and television work, Godfrey has now become one of the most dominant comedic presences on the New York comedy scene where he is often in demand as both a host and standup guest star.
Godfrey can regularly be seen performing in New York's hottest Comedy Clubs The Comedy Cellar, Comic Strip, Caroline's Comedy and the Boston Comedy Club.