It’s true that comedy, especially lately, has deviated somewhat from the norm of white men standing onstage telling jokes about themselves and usually at the expense of others. But there aren’t always places one can go to be away from all this, to safely cultivate one’s humor without fear of condescension or competition. A new pop-up comedy group called the Absurd Comedy Collective seeks to change that, offering free workshops, open mics, and shows that “create space for women-identifying people of color, and all genderqueer, nonbinary, and trans people.”
Comedian and civil rights activist Elsa Waithe hosts this monthly showcase of underrepresented comics (i.e. anyone who doesn’t identify as a straight, white male/ the scourge of the earth). For this iteration, the Experiment Comedy Gallery, Williamsburg’s newish DIY comedy club founded by Mo Fathelbab, where a commitment to diversity has become one of the venue’s defining features (that and cheap shows!). This month, Waithe welcomes a lineup of Asian-American standup comics including Andrew Lee, Kate Moran, Jocelyn Chia, Masafumi Abe, and more TBA.
There are maybe more comedians in New York City than anywhere else. And while material can vary a lot, stand-ups tend to have similar backstories, or at least in what they feel like dishing. But Elsa Waithe is a comedian like not many others. Sure, she’s a transplant from Virginia who said she “dropped everything” and moved here to “follow my dream.” She’s also of the opinion that “comedy quite literally saved my life”– another common story. But instead of squeezing her way into the big clubs, Elsa is carving out a place for under-represented comics, something she considers part of her work as a civil rights activist.