An Indian, an Asian and a lesbian walk into a comedy bar... and totally kill.
This isn’t a joke, but 15 years ago it might have been. These days, niche comedy is in.
“I think comics like Margaret Cho are proving that it’s all about grabbing and holding onto that small per cent of the population,” says Trevor Boris, one of the first gay comics to grace the Yuk Yuk’s stage. “It’s hard to reach everyone unless you’re Larry the Cable Guy – and c’mon, do you really want to be him?”
Ethnic-slanted (ahem) comedy is hot. In the past couple of years, shows like the Axis Of Evil Comedy Tour, the Most RACES Show On Earth and the A-List Comedy Tour have all played to capacity crowds.
“So much of this is because of Russell,” says Ron Josol, who headlined the A-List Comedy Tour for Asian comics at the Metro Convention Centre. He’s referring to Russell Peters, godfather of the ethnic comedy boom and the first comic ever to sell out the Air Canada Centre.
“Russell was probably the first brown guy to do comedy, and now I can name about nine brown guys doing it,” says Dana Alexander.
Note the gender. There still aren’t as many women getting up there. Alexander and Sabrina Jalees are two of the few non-white female comics on the scene.
“I think comics need examples,” says Alexander, whose act is fierce and in-your-face. “With no one there before you, you feel like it’s not the place for you.”
One place to see others like you is Kenny Robinson’s monthly Nubian night at Yuk Yuk’s. Peters, Alexander, Josol and rising star Arthur Simeon have all played it.
Increasingly, the diversity of the comics is beginning to reflect the diversity in the audiences. Nowhere is this more evident than with gay and lesbian talent.
Sure, Elvira Kurt and Scott Thompson paved the way long before certain talk show hosts came out, and festivals like We’re Funny That Way continue to draw big crowds. But queer comics are finding new ways to break into the market.
Boris, Andrew Johnston and Jalees have reached huge crowds because of their appearances on MuchMusic’s Video On Trial. Johnston hosts the monthly Bitch Salad of comedy by women for gay men. Fast-rising comic Mae Martin hosts a monthly all-women night at Kensington Market’s Bread & Circus.
“These are comics who have been left out of the comedy equation for so long,” says Boris. “Move over, Seinfeld – you and your sport jacket comedy. It’s our time now.”
Lest you feel pity for straight white guy stand-?ups, lots of talented jokesters like Jon Dore and Pat Thornton are still burning up the scene. But pretty soon they could be in the minority.