Last Friday evening, the hilarious Maysoon Zayid performed in front of a huge crowd in Peirce Pub. While she is first and foremost a talented comedian, she also uses her act to bring light to three major issues we have in society: sexism, racism, and ableism. In her well-known Ted Talk, Zayid reminds us all that while she has faced prejudice for her Palestinian ethnicity, her cerebral palsy, and her gender in a male-dominated field, she is still an unstoppable force that won’t let anything or anyone tell her she cannot achieve her dreams. Through her provocative jokes and her charity, Maysoon’s Kids, she advocates for equality and inspires everyone to persevere no matter what deck they were handed in life.
Maysoon Zaiyid is not the only comedian, however, who devotes his/her time and talent to a greater cause. Check out this list of comedians who also have a humanitarian side:
Amy PoehlerMany of you probably know Amy Poehler from her “cool mom” role in Mean Girls, her sassy anchor job on SNL: Weekend Update, or her ridiculously lovable lead role on Parks and Recreation. But did you know that she is also an inspiring role model for teens? She runs a YouTube page called “Ask Amy” through her organization “Smart Girls at the Party” where she answers young women’s questions about anything from love, math, to courage. Each one of her videos seeks to promote self-esteem and confidence in women at an early age so that they can go on to run the world.
Seth RogenSeth Rogen is extremely famous for his roles in many Judd Apatow films but is usually not seen by his fans as much more than a goofy pothead. Last month he surprised everyone by speaking at a Senate hearing on Alzheimer’s Research. Rogen’s father-in-law has Alzheimer’s, so Rogen feels a personal connection to the disease, and he urged the American government to further research and raise Alzheimer’s awareness. Through his wit and celebrity, the video of his presentation went viral and his message was able to spread to people who normally would choose to watch something like Knocked Up over C-Span.
Ellen DeGeneresEllen is widely known as an advocate for LGBTQ rights, although many think this is just because she is one of the only famous women who have come out in Hollywood. Yet, she does much more than just relish in this added fame by speaking out on injustices against the LGBTQ community and her own sexuality. After she became a spokeswoman for JC Penney, the conservative organization “One Million Moms” was furious at the company for promoting non traditional family lifestyles and un-Christian values. Ellen then went on her show with an inspiring message to all those people that were furious with her and to those who also felt prejudice themselves after the organization’s hate-speech. Oh, and Ellen also gives out thousands of dollars on her show each week to help Americans pursue their dreams. So that’s pretty amazing too.
(Note: it gets really good at 4:05)
Jon StewartUnfortunately most people wait until they are adults to begin watching the news, and even then it is often on just as background noise. Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” taps into a younger audience and keeps its viewers so entertained that their eyes are glued to the screen for the entire 30-minute episode. Jon Stewart presents real news and then mocks our nation’s politicians, diplomacy and failures in an intelligent way that highlights major issues most Americans might not have thought about. While his point of view may be biased and his show is not always considered a reliable news source, Jon Stewart still spreads information to millions of homes through his sarcastic and hilarious monologues. The show brings on a guest for every episode, mostly authors and politicians, and last fall Nobel Peace prize nominee Malala Yousafzai came on the show and left Jon Stewart speechless.
While many use their comedic talents to merely promote their own fame, these five comedians use their celebrity and gift to spread selfless messages. They are able to address serious issues with a light-hearted, humorous attitude that puts their audiences at ease. They understand that with fame comes power and they access theirs for good causes.