Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published December 12, 2013 at 8:29 PM | Page modified December 13, 2013 at 8:58 AM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments (12)
  • Print

Young comics from immigrant families serve up worldly humor

A growing number of Seattle’s young comics come from immigrant families and push the boundaries of our famous political correctness.


Special to The Seattle Times

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
Joe Nash's Knee, I suggest you make an attempt to actually put forth some sort of... MORE
the young disaffected comics were not the only ones present that evening. I was in the... MORE
Used to be we reveled in our differences until we presumed someone would take offence. ... MORE

advertising

“We poop in water cleaner than the water that some people drink. I had that thought at 12,” says local comedian Yogi Paliwal. “But it took me a while to figure out how to tell that to an audience.”

The brutal truths of global inequality might not seem like obvious fodder for jokes. But for Paliwal, who grew up in Bellevue with Indian parents, comedy was one of the best ways to reconcile life in an American suburb with the village in Rajasthan where he spent his summers.

“When I was growing up and I saw poverty ... I told myself, ‘I don’t care what I do when I grow up, I just want to be funny,’ ” explains Paliwal, 24, who says he thinks of comedy as something that anyone can relate to “ ... whether they’re rich or poor.”

Seattle’s comedy scene is on the upswing. Open mikes are cropping up all over the city and comedians with Seattle ties have started gaining national recognition. And a number of these young comedians have international roots — their comedy drawing on global themes that reflect the increasing diversity of their city and their generation.

“I’m Chamorro (an indigenous people from the Mariana Islands in the northern Pacific Ocean) and I know I’m the only female Chamorro comedian on the planet,” jokes Mona Concepcion , 30, who grew up on the tiny island of Saipan. She says a culture of storytelling (and being the youngest of five kids) turned her into a “joke teller.”

The first-generation immigrant experience is a theme for many of these comedians. Concepcion peppers her routines with imitations of her mother’s creative English and reflections on bridging multiple cultures.

“You see two different worlds, the old one where your parents are from and the new one where you’re ... pushing yourself into places where your parents haven’t been before,” she says, framed by a high maroon velvet booth at The Rendezvous in Belltown, where she’s waiting for her turn at a female-centered open mike called (no joke) the Comedy Womb .

Aisha Farhoud , another regular at the Comedy Womb, also draws material from her family (her father is from Palestine and her mother from Mexico.) She says the harder “more negative ... meaner in a way” humor of her mother’s culture guides a lot of her comedy.

You can sense that sharper edge as Farhoud, 28, takes the small stage in the basement of The Rendezvous, where she performs a bit that urges immigrants learning English to “stick to [their] native tongue” when angry — or suffer the hilariously profane results.

The audience is into it tonight, but both Farhoud and Concepcion say that Seattle can be shy about humor that pushes the boundaries of our famous political correctness.

But all three comedians feel these topics are crucial to their work, helping them stand out and perhaps even articulate the spirit of a new generation of comedians.

“It feels good that I’m not saying the same stuff as other comedians, dudes who get on stage and do ‘online dating jokes,’ or ‘I’m broke jokes,’ ” says Concepcion. “Because I come from a different background I have a different presentation that I can always tap into.”

Paliwal agrees that his international orientation helps him stand out as a comedian, whether he’s making audiences both cringe and laugh about poverty in the developing world or complaining about how “pompous” the American flag is (it has too many stars).

For Farhoud, the very point of comedy is to push people up against what makes them uncomfortable.

“Television and a lot of performing arts are censored, but comedy is raw,” she says. “As long as it’s funny, it will get people thinking about things they wouldn’t otherwise think about.”

If you like thinking and laughing, check out Concepcion and Farhoud at “Just Laugh It Off” at the Feedback Lounge on Dec. 18 and Paliwal at “The Early Late Show with Yogi Paliwal” at The Rendezvous on Jan. 17.

Sarah Stuteville is a multimedia journalist and co-founder of The Seattle Globalist, www.seattleglobalist.com, a blog covering Seattle's international connections. Sarah Stuteville: sarah@seattleglobalist.com. Twitter: @SeaStute



News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

The Seattle Times wins top award for multimedia storytelling

The Seattle Times wins top award for multimedia storytelling

Our Sea Change series received a prestigious 2015 DuPont-Columbia award for showcasing the power of storytelling on the Web. Experience the report here.

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising

Career Center Blog

Career Center Blog

Looking for joy on the job


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►