1. Ali Wong
Topics: Gender, Sex, Relationships
Known For: Baby Cobra, Fresh Off the Boat
Ali Wong pulls no punches. She is sharp, venomous, and hilarious in her breakout show Baby Cobra, which she famously performed seven-and-a-half months pregnant for a Netflix recording. She defies the schema of “ladylike” with her personality while also deconstructing a woman’s role in society. She also talks about the Asian-American experience, which is connected to but separate from the immigrant experience, that is not often talked about in any form of media. If you’re looking for jokes that no one dares to tell, then Ali Wong is for you. Just don’t expect her to apologize for it.
2. Aparna Nancherla
Topics: New York, Depression, Online Dating
Known For: Writing for Inside Amy Schumer and Totally Biased
Aparna Nancherla has been around for years and though she is fairly well known in the comedy circuit, she hasn’t quite broken through the mainstream, even though she has appeared on Conan and Comedy Central. Aparna Nancherla does observational comedy, in other words she makes jokes about what she sees in her everyday life. Nothing about politics or crises, just about jokes about how expensive New York apartments can get and the weird messages she has gotten on OKCupid. Aparna Nancherla is great if you are looking for someone more lighthearted but still funny.
3. Hari Kondabolu
Topics: Race, Politics, Pop Culture
Known For: Waiting For 2042, Mainstream American Comic
Hari Kondabolu has described himself as a killjoy who does comedy. He started out working for an organization that helped immigrants, and at night would do comedy shows based on his experiences at the workplace. Eventually he started doing stand-up comedy full-time, but he never stopped talking about race and politics. He is blunt about his feelings but loves making elaborate jokes to convey them. He is hilarious and he uses his humor to make social comments.
4. Eddie Izzard
Topics: Colonialism, History, World Politics
Known For: Emmy-winning show Dress to Kill
Eddie Izzard is a comedy legend. At this point in time, he has been doing stand-up for almost 40 years. Yet he is still as sharp and as relevant and funny as he has ever been. He is a globe-trotter and makes jokes about the different cultural attitudes he has witnessed first-hand. He also focuses on history and colonialism. There can be some darker moments, as it is based on history, but he doesn’t give you more than a second before he moves on to his next joke. More recently he has talked about technology and how our lives have changed. But if you want to see Eddie Izzard, you must start with his Emmy-winning show, Dress To Kill.
I wrote this article so that I could introduce students to the world of stand-up comedy. I think that stand-up, when well-crafted, can be a rewarding and eye-opening experience. It combines stage performance, speeches, timing and acting. It’s a personal favorite of mine and I hope you enjoy it.
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