I was recently watching the TV program The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, as I often do, and the special guest on that particular episode, chef and author Anthony Bourdain, was talking about how he loves to share with others the things he likes:
I am passionate to the point of being evangelical about things that I love, that give me pleasure and make me excited. – Anthony Bourdain
This made me realise that I too am passionate to the point of being evangelical about stand-up comedy, which is perhaps why I keep blogging the way I do. And being the stand-up comedy junkie that I am, over the Christmas and New Year period I indulged in a little stand-up comedy (watching, not performing). In many of the performances I noticed a strong comedic emphasis on immigration, race, and nationality, no doubt fuelled by Trump, Brexit, and certain right-wing media outlets.
These comedians were using their platform to change perceptions. Comedy may not cause you to agree with what or who you are listening to, but it may help you to understand a different point of view. So the comedians mentioned below will hopefully help us all understand some of the many different perspectives that are out there, not just the ones we currently hold.
The understanding of different perspectives is desperately needed when it comes to immigrants. Whether you call them migrants, illegal immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, or something more derogatory, currently there are over 65 million of them worldwide, more than the entire population of Britain. These people are desperate for a better life and the myriad issues surrounding them are some of the main driving forces affecting global politics today. A recent cover of the New Statesman magazine spoke of this “Great Migration,” this “mass movement of people,” as being “the 21st century’s most revolutionary force.”
In a recent article the Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei spoke from his personal lifelong experience of what it means to be a refugee:
I was a child refugee. I know how it feels to live in a camp, robbed of my humanity. Refugees must be seen to be an essential part of our shared humanity…From my youth, I experienced inhumane treatment from society. At the camp we had to live in an underground dugout and were subjected to unexplainable hatred, discrimination, unprovoked insults and assaults…I remember experiencing what felt like endless injustice. In such circumstances, there is no place to hide and there is no way to escape. You feel like your life is up against a wall, or that life itself is a dimming light, on the verge of being completely extinguished. Coping with the humiliation and suffering became the only way to survive…
The refugee crisis is not about refugees, rather, it is about us. Our prioritisation of financial gain over people’s struggle for the necessities of life is the primary cause of much of this crisis. The west has all but abandoned its belief in humanity and support for the precious ideals contained in declarations on universal human rights. It has sacrificed these ideals for short-sighted cowardice and greed.
Establishing the understanding that we all belong to one humanity is the most essential step for how we might continue to coexist on this sphere we call Earth. I know what it feels like to be a refugee and to experience the dehumanisation that comes with displacement from home and country. There are many borders to dismantle, but the most important are the ones within our own hearts and minds – these are the borders that are dividing humanity from itself.
– Ai Weiwei, 02 Feb 2018, theguardian.com
Powerful words indeed and below are hopefully more powerful words related to this topic, taken from stand-up comedians from around the world. As always, each quote is well worth reading in full. Enjoy!
Britain is a first world country. Trust me, it doesn’t get any better than this. People are nice here. Racists are nicer to minorities here then Romanians are to each other. – Radu Isac
I live in Iran. I have a friend in Canada. He always call me at 3AM and asks, “What’s the time difference between Canada and Iran, anyway?” I tell him it’s about 50 to 100 years. – Siavash Safavi
I live in the UK now. I moved to the UK from Romania two years ago. I basically moved here because I want to spend the next part of my life trying to get a couple of more citizenships. That’s what the young smart consumer like me should do. I really feel like having only one government for all my governing needs, that sounds like communism. I need to let the free market decide what nationality I am. So for now I’m British. But don’t worry, the free market is going to point me in a new direction soon. – Radu Isac
I really love living in this country because people are more laid back and relaxed than people back home in Japan. It is nice when things are so organised but that’s just because Japanese people are living busy lifestyles. They don’t have time to mess about! That’s why everything is needed to be operated efficiently, but I don’t want to live like a robot. And there is one word, one beautiful English word I love, and we don’t have this word in Japanese. It is “ish.” It is very pure. So I decided to bring this “ish” concept back home, so the last time I went to Japan I said to my mum “Let’s meet up at one-ish.” But because we don’t have this word I said to her “Let’s meet up between 1.05 and 1.25.” I saw her eyes, they were filled with confusion…and rage. It didn’t work! I believe this “ish” culture began a long time ago and it is in people’s blood. That’s why people are called British. – Yuriko Kotani
I’m a liberal myself, but in Romania. Out here I’m a conservative. That makes sense. The Romanian liberal is basically a UK conservative. It changes depending on where you go in the world. Again, it’s the same as if you guys went to Sweden, you’d be like Nazis there. It keeps changing, it’s not the same. – Radu Isac
It’s been a big year for Malawi, where I am from, because Madonna adopted another two babies. She’s on four! I feel like a failure because I am Malawian and I have zero Malawian babies, she has four. I need to get my act together. But also, when I do that joke, whenever I make fun of Madonna’s adoptions, people think I am criticising it. I actually think it’s an amazing thing, adoption is a wonderful thing and more people should do it. And I also don’t understand why we hide adoptions. People don’t tell children they’re adopted. It’s not a secret, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s the opposite, it’s something to be proud of. Because if you are adopted you are one of the only children on the planet who knows 100% that your parents actually wanted you. They filled out forms. I’ve never heard that Sunday morning hangover story, “Me and the wife got so drunk last night…we ended up in an orphanage…we got two.” – Daliso Chaponda
My name is Sindhu. In the early versions of Microsoft Word the autocorrect used to call me “sand hog.” So I had to come up with a way to deal with this problem, so I started to introduce myself to people here. I would say “Hello, my name is Sindhu, rhymes with Hindu, which I am so it’s convenient.” And most English people used to think “Did she just bring up religion? Why? This has gotten so scary so quickly.” And they would just make an excuse and leave. But those that remembered really got on board. They’d say “Mate! Sindhu the Hindu!” Yeah, a little bit extreme but I’ll take it because they’ll always remember my name. – Sindhu Vee
One of the things I like about where we live is it’s very multicultural. I think that’s one of the brilliant things about London. I think multiculturalism is something we really have to fight for. The school my kids go to, it’s a really nice school and it’s very diverse. We have a mums’ night out once a month and all the mums from the school go. And there are women there from every economic background, every race, every religion. And we have a fantastic time and the Muslim mums drive us home. – Lucy Porter
There was a thing I didn’t like about the Brexit vote that you guys just had. I hated how the whole country sort of assumed that immigrants like it here. We don’t. If you guys want to know how Romanians feel when they come to the UK, it’s basically exactly how you guys feel when you go to Sweden or Norway. You go there and you look around and the whole country is better than your country. They have better stuff than you do. They’re better looking than you are. Somehow in the back of your head you go “Ach, I’d rather have Manchester. Those happy Swedish people creep me out.” That’s how we feel about you guys. You’re friendly and creepy. – Radu Isac
We’re always accusing the United States of not knowing but I don’t think that’s fair, because it’s not their fault. Look at their origin story. The place only exists because the guy did not know where he was going. – Sindhu Vee
British people have become so emotional post-Brexit. Oh my God! Everybody’s freaking out, everybody’s scared of immigrants, everybody’s like “Oh my God! All these immigrants are coming here to change the British way of life.” No! It’s not our priority. You can just imagine a man coming from Gabon, walking across the Sahara desert, crossing the Pyrenees, camping in Calais, jumping a lorry to get here just to say “Right you lot, no more fish with your chips.” He’ll be ringing his pregnant wife in Gabon, “Mushy peas is next.” It’s incredible! And your leaders are telling you that immigrants are coming here to change the British way of life. Who do you think we are? Colonialists? It is truly incredible. People are freaking out, people are saying things like “We want Britain to go back to what it used to be before.” And I’m like how far back do you want to go? Like BC? Before curry? – Njambi McGrath
I am from Kenya, I was born in Kenya. Do you British people remember Kenya? Of course Kenya was a British colony and actually Kenya and Britain went to war. But you don’t know about this war because we won. That’s why you don’t celebrate it. – Njambi McGrath
I grew up in Kenya and when you grow up in Africa you don’t actually know how we are portrayed by the Western media. It is shambolic! It is so awful. What’s up with the flies? Every picture you see of an African they’ve got flies all over their face. Do you know how hard it is to maintain that fly look? You literally have to be wearing marmalade all day. I grew up on a farm in Kenya. I never had flies all over my face. I ate them. – Njambi McGrath
Now that I’ve travelled a little bit I have realized that attitudes to education vary, especially when it comes to university education. In America parents tend to start saving for their kids, tuition fees, the moment the kid is born. In Britain the attitude is pretty much: we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. But African parents are like: there might not be a bridge. – Njambi McGrath
When I was in New York I got to see the sights. It was pretty awesome. I got to see the Statue of Liberty. If you never seen the Statue of Liberty, it’s a female figure with headgear and long flowing robes, which is probably why the French got rid of it as they thought she was a Muslim. And that’s most likely why they kept it on an island. Because France is leading the way. Backwards. Because France has banned the full face covering and we know that America would never follow suit because the KKK would never put up with it. – Njambi McGrath
You have all these TV commercials that are truly awful. And there’s always a kid and he’s always drinking dirty water. And they’re always saying something like “This is Inkrumba. He’s 2 years old and he’s drinking dirty water that’s going to kill him.” And I’m like “So stop him! Don’t just stand there filming him.” And there are commercials that don’t even make sense, like those long-running commercials that say something like this, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for life.” You guys need to stop teaching Africans how to fish. Most of Africa is desert. Now there are a lot of very frustrated African fishermen in the Sahara. – Njambi McGrath
I absolutely love the flag of St George because it’s a first-class burglar deterrent. “I’m not going anywhere near that one, it’s some nutter’s house.” – Henning When
If you want to have success as a stand-up here in Britain, all you need to do is loads of swearing. In Germany we don’t swear at all. Reason being, things work. That isn’t even a joke. – Henning Wehn
I’m not an immigrant. There is absolutely no hardship in my story. I always thought, “Nah, I’m not an immigrant because there are absolutely no expectations back home.” It wasn’t that people back home were going, “Ooh, let’s hope Henning succeeds in Britain so we can afford a second goat.” There was nothing riding on it one way or the other. I cannot possibly be an immigrant, I have never used Western Union! Now that is surely conclusive proof! Now, this might be a technicality, but I always thought to qualify as an immigrant you had to move somewhere better. Moving somewhere worse is what I associate with becoming an expat. Or in more extreme cases a relief worker. – Henning Wehn
The citizenship test. That’s essentially a high-stakes pub quiz. A high-stakes pub quiz where the winner gets a passport, rather than some low-quality meats. – Henning When
The vast majority of foreigners in this country are economic migrants. And it’s become a little bit of a dirty word, and I understand why because let’s be honest, these economic migrants, they do ruin it for the British workforce. You don’t have to agree with me openly on this one, but everybody knows I’m spot-on. Economic migrants, they do ruin it for the British workforce. Turning up in the morning on time, sober, wanting to work. What’s wrong with you? Call in sick! Assimilate, you bastard! What do you mean “trying to better yourself”? You make me sick! – Henning Wehn
I like coming to England, this is a cool country. I do enjoy coming here, mainly because the cops here have no guns. I feel like I’m on vacation. I’m serious. I get to do things here I would never do at home. I get to do things like move. – Orlando Baxter
My name is Orlando and if you can’t tell by my accent, I’m black. I know that’s obvious to a lot of people in here but in America Orlando is a very Hispanic name, so I get confused for being Hispanic all the time. It’s uncomfortable. I’ll be like “Hi, my name is Orlando.” They’ll be like “Orlandooooo! Que paso?” Then I gotta hit them with the truth. “Sorry, I’m basketball black, not baseball black.” – Orlando Baxter