Guyanese stage actress ‘Auntie Comesee’ celebrates 100th birthday

Auntie Comesee, Guyanese radio star.
© Ruth Lor Malloy 2011

At the ripe old age of 100, Pauline Thomas’ melodious voice is still recognized by Guyanese as the lady who portrayed the loving character “Auntie Comesee,” a thrice-weekly comedy sketch that thrilled audiences whose ears were peeled to the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), more than 50 years ago.

During an interview with the Ron Bobb-Semple International Podcast recently, Thomas said her longevity was attributed to lots of exercise. She also told another publication that she works out at the gym and eats healthy. “I live by the philosophy: Enjoy when you can; endure when you must,” she said.

Thomas recalled that she was encouraged by her mother to recite poetry repeatedly from age three, a discipline that helped master her artistic talents of singing and acting, so much so, that her comedy skits, have legacy has left a lasting impression on Guyanese.

The award-winning thespian who left her homeland in 1980 for Toronto, Canada, remembers those glorious days when she greeted her audience with, “howdy family, howdy everybody, howdy, howdy, howdy, and chuckled, as she spoke of the hilarious part she played that required her to walk onto the stage wrapped in a piece of cloth, to portray a pregnant character.

She took on the Auntie Comesee role after years of listening to a village woman name Mimi, whose mannerisms and creolese she mimicked.

She noted that after spending money to become a classical singer, her audiences rebuffed her singer for the Auntie Comesee comedy skit that filled seats at Theatre Guild Playhouse in Georgetown.

Thomas, a brilliant educator, who at the age of 79 was encouraged by her daughter Dawne to enroll in Toronto University, earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in World Religion and Fine Arts Studios.

She told the Guyana Chronicle that, “sometimes when I looked outside and saw the snow, I was reluctant to go outside, but it never deterred me and for five years I had to plough through that type of weather. I did it not only for myself but for other women, especially Guyanese women.”

The cheerful storyteller, a mother and grandmother, who was also a member of the University of Toronto choir while completing her studies, received a congratulatory certificate from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that reads, “It is a great pleasure to send you best wishes and warmest congratulations on the occasion of your 100th birthday.”  According to the Chronicle, Thomas is the eldest of eight children, three of whom are still alive.

Born in the small village of Friendship, Mahicony, on the East Coast, Thomas, who was a prominent fixture at Guyana Independence festivals in Toronto, said she favored the 70s because she enjoyed the height of her career that included her radio show. She was also a regular participant on the well liked, “Link Show.”

She assured that creolese was a very important aspect of Guyana’s folklore, and shared that it should be communicated in the right way.

The hysterically funny, Thomas, whose mental sharpness is still evident, was honored with a Zoom celebration on her birthday, Feb. 8, put on by the Canadian and Ontario Provincial authorities, and attended by Member of Parliament, Julie Dabrusin of Toronto Danforth, along with friends and family members.

Her former students of Bishop’s High School Old Girls Choir, of which she conducted for many years, presented her with gifts. The group also honored her with an album of memorable moments.

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