“How are you going to stay here?”
“Maybe I’ll marry you…”
That line from Critically Ashamed’s season 2 premiere episode got a laugh from the audience, but it hit me a little closer to home. It’s the exact half-serious joke I’ve been making for two years.
Critically Ashamed follows an immigrant comedian, Delia, as she tries to navigate the New York City comedy scene, making jokes and taking side jobs to try to make ends meet. The German expat’s stand-up routine relies, to some extent, on the differences between her culture and the American life into which she tries to assimilate.
Again, I get it. I’m Canadian, sure, and New York isn’t really THAT different from Toronto. I often describe my native land as Canada’s New York City, after a flurry of questions about the life I once knew. Health care, legal marijuana, hockey—what’s it like in a country with all of that?
I’ve spent the better part of two years being paraded around as the token immigrant, never truly able to shed the image of a non-native. Even at Critically Ashamed’s premiere party, located in the back room of Old Man Hustle on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, I was aI was taken to meet the stars of the show, Franca Paschen and Giuditta Lattanzi (who play Delia and Giulia, respectively), and introduced as a fellow expat.
It’s an interesting concept, two expats making a comedy show about comedians who struggle to find their way. It feels, at least to me, relatable and honest. There are no solo penthouses, there are no ridiculously overpriced dinners, there are no frills about their situations. There are casual hookups, failed auditions, visa troubles—real things people face in New York today. They’ve framed it like a ’90s sitcom, bouncing back and forth between two characters connected by the comedy club, flashing their logo in between to show switching storylines. It’s scattered and kind of jarring, but what part of living in New York isn’t?
Paschen and Lattanzi call Critically Ashamed their baby, and have received several accolades, including from the Women’s Comedy Film Festival, the Los Angeles Comedy Film Festival, and The Short Film Awards. As Giulia and Delia struggle to make it, without really knowing each other, they tap into a little part of all of us, wondering if our best years are behind us, working other jobs and crazy hours to chase our dreams and, in my case, facing the potential that it will all end in a few short months.
Brooklyn, the place where we all found ourselves gathered to watch the season 2 premiere, is filled with characters like Giulia and Delia. Some of them are vital parts of my life, and I can see a little bit of each of them in Critically Ashamed’s leading ladies. I can see a bit of myself in them, too — and maybe that’s why my laugh came from my heart, not my stomach.
As Paschen and Lattanzi walked around the room, chatting with each of their guests — their roommates, fellow cast members, comedians, and members of the press, I watched as they celebrated the proverbial birth of their child. They seemed confident and relaxed, a far cry from their characters in the show. Paschen has been in New York for 10 years now, acting and dancing in several productions, and Lattanzi was born here but raised in Turin, Italy—in fact, she had just come back from Italy a few days before the premiere. It seemed that they, unlike their characters, had figured it out. Watching the contradiction of the actresses and their characters, in a way, became part of the show to me — it seemed like maybe, just maybe, Giulia and Delia would be okay.