Minorities used to be relegated to the background - in entertainment, they play smaller roles, and never the hero or heroine of the story. Asians, African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities never got their share of the spotlight, until recently. Today, many of the most talented and funniest comedians are from minority groups - the ability to laugh - at situations, themselves and others is a universal trait after all. No matter what color, religion, race or upbringing, not fitting neatly into a checkmark box is what all these comedians have in common - jokes about their childhood, strange foods, strange customs run across the gamut, and audiences are lining up to see comedians with names like Asif Mandvi, Bobby Lee, Carlos Mencia and Mo’nique, to name a few. Just for a moment, the crowd gets a glimpse into their lives and the challenges of being a minority in America. One thing’s for sure, these comedians make the learning more fun:
Black, yellow, brown, muslim, hindu, buddhist - the minority of America today comes in all shapes, sizes and colors - which is really what makes this country great. Black comedians, asian comedians, muslim comedians, hispanic comedians, all these minorities represent the rainbow of colors of America today. Audiences are clamoring for more types of comedy from all peoples.
Perhaps it was the African-American comedians who first paved the way for other minorities to take the stage. Flip Wilson was one of the first black comedians to have his own TV show, The Flip WIlson Show and won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe - a true achievement for any black comedian, bringing black comedy right into America’s living rooms. He featured many funny black comedians, entertainers, and celebrities in his show and was a surprising hit among white audiences. A host of other African-American comedians made it big on TV AND the movies in the next few decades, particularly in the 80s and 90s, like Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Whoopi Goldberg, The Wayans, Sinbad, who entertained audiences of all races. These and other funny black comedians made their mark on entertainment and ensured minorities had a place on the stage and screens.
Hispanic comedians have also contributed much to the minority comedian movement. Who can forget Cuban-born Desi Arnaz, who, back in the days of black and white TV was probably the first entertainer to star in his own comedy series, “I Love Lucy” (Arnaz being the “I” in the title) with comedienne and then-wife Lucille Ball. While on screen, Arnaz played an exasperated husband and foil to his wife’s schemes, in real life Arnaz was a masterful businessman and director - his company, Desilu Productions, was the first production outfit to use multiple camera, pre-recorded shows, that many sitcoms use today. Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong) is probably one of the more famous early Mexican comedians to hit the stage and screen. They collaborate on several comedy albums and feature films (focusing on “high” comedies), before parting ways, after which Marin made himself a name starring in TVs and films. Other Mexican comedians that followed in his footsteps include Paul Rodriguez, Gabriel Iglesias and Geogre Lopez, who found his own fame and fortune starring in his eponymous TV series. Another bright, yet tragic name in the history of hispanic comedians is Freddie Prinze, who was of Puerto Rican descent, played Mexican-American Chico Rodriguez in Chico and the Man in 1974. It was groundbreaking because it was the first ever network sitcom that was set in a Latino neighborhood. Many of today’s hispanic entertainers cite Freddie Prinze as their inspiration for getting into showbusiness.
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