One of the most important ways a group of diverse and different people can come together in harmony is through the sharing of stories. In the shared experience of storytelling, laughter is one of the most powerful forces to unite anybody.
Stand-up comedy has evolved from just silly jokes and funny faces on a stage, to a platform for sharing ideas and exchanging views. Modern stand-up comedians now recognize the importance of the stage, the value of a well-placed joke, and the strength of teaching a large group of people to laugh at themselves.
In this list, we tackled several stand-up comedians from diverse backgrounds, and how their brands of comedy have transcended and broken barriers through the unavoidable power of laughter.
An American comedian of Palestinian descent, Mo Amer’s unique experiences as a refugee of the Gulf War growing up in Texas offer unique humorous insights. In his famed special “Mo Amer: The Vagabond,” he recounts his memories traveling as an asylee without citizenship to any nation, and the things a refugee has to resort to in order to survive—which is, apparently, a talent for impressions and impersonating any accent, to hilarious degrees.
Oscar™-nominated John Leguizamo is a legendary with movie credits such as Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet, Chef, and many more. He is a master of impressions, and a virtual chameleon of a character actor. In his comedy special, “John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons,” he explores the history behind colonization in Central and South America, and what it’s like to struggle with one’s identity as the product of two wholly different worlds.
Ali Wong, a American comedian, actress, and screenwriter of Chinese and Vietnamese descent, infamously did two comedy specials while pregnant. Nearly overnight, she became a household name when her first Netflix special, “Baby Cobra.” While many of the comedians on this list are edgy and, at times, offensive, Ali Wong takes this to an intense degree and forces us to reconsider our biases—and perhaps that our experiences are more similar than we think.
Gad Elmaleh is an eminent French comedian of Jewish Moroccan descent born in Casablanca, raised speaking four languages—Arabic, Hebrew, English, and French—who recently released his first comedy special in English in 2018. He is an ace at observational humor, with an incredible ability to universalize different experiences and transcend language barriers.
In a few short years, South African comedian Trevor Noah skyrocketed to fame, recognizable everywhere as the host of “The Daily Show.” As a child of Xhosa, Swiss, and German descent in an illegal marriage under apartheid, this comedian never fails to bring a bit of heart with the laughs. He makes light of the systemic racism he experienced in South Africa, reminding us that even in the darkest of circumstances can come something beautiful and meaningful.