Comedians from various ethnic groups have contributed heavily to America’s mosaic of mirth for more than a century. Starting in the early 1900s, Jewish jesters like the Marx Brothers, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Shecky Greene, Buddy Hackett and Don Rickles kibitzed on U.S. stages and screens. The 1960s saw the rise of African-American comics—Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Keenen Ivory, Damon, Dwayne, Shawn, Marlon and Kim Wayans. In the early 2000s the Axis of Evil’s Middle Eastern wags, including Maz Jobrani, Ahmed Ahmed, Dean Obeidallah and Aron Kader, tickled our funny bone.
Today a new wave of comics are adding diverse viewpoints to America’s stand-up. They include more female voices, alternative sexual preferences, and Indian, Afghan, Pakistani and Iranian backgrounds. Since 2016 Mona Shaikh, who hails from Karachi, Pakistan, has spearheaded Minority Reportz. This monthly show gives funny multi-culti talents a platform to perform at top clubs in the Los Angeles region.
HUSTLER caught Minority Reportz at the Irvine Improv and, after their stand-up acts, conducted a roundtable Q&A. All eight merrymakers on the bill that evening belong to minority groups, and seven are either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants. Their candid conversation veered from the lighthearted to the serious, as these comedians reminded us of what has made—and continues to make—America great: diverse viewpoints and the right to speak them freely.
HUSTLER: How was Minority Reportz created?
MONA SHAIKH: When I got to L.A. eight years ago, I noticed at bigger clubs—like The Comedy Store, Laugh Factory, Hollywood Improv—there was no room for me, for ethnic females. No matter how well I did in front of bookers, it was just like, “Meh, move to the side.” I’m not going to beg people for spots. You don’t want to include me? I’ll create my own world. That’s exactly what I did with Minority Reportz. My objective is to bring people like these comics together. That’s my entire passion. I don’t just want to create a platform for us, but for all of us.
TEHRAN: These are stories that need to be told. That’s the concept of comedy—everyone has a voice and a story to tell; we all get to go up there, tell our tragedy with a twist to make it funny. Especially on mainstream lineups, there wasn’t a place for lots of women, people of color or with foreign backgrounds. That’s why Minority Reportz is so strong and relevant right now.