Lisa Geduldig is probably most famous for her Kung Pao Kosher Comedy show, a Jewish comedy event that she holds every Christmas at New Asia Restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown. Geduldig and friends decorate the restaurant as if it were the site of a Bar Mitzvah, hanging dreidel piñatas and blown-up matzoh balls from the ceiling, slipping Yiddish proverbs in the fortune cookies, and adorning the walls with kitsch from Judaica stores. Kung Pao turned out to be such a success that Geduldig decided to expand her empire. In 2000 she started Funny Girlz, featuring different female comics every year. When Bush got re-elected she began holding an annual "Bush Going Away Party," featuring left-wing political material ("I thought there was humor in the fact that he wouldn't go away," said Geduldig, admitting that she'll have to reconceptualize the event in light of the regime change). Her most recent enterprise is "The Color of Funny," a "multi-culty" show featuring comics who represent a variety of ethnic backgrounds, sexualities, and subcultures. All have loosely coalesced around the idea of confronting stereotypes and bringing people together.
The Color of Funny embarks on a three-city tour this week, with a rather unorthodox lineup that features Geduldig, veteran comedian Diane Amos (best known as "the Pine Sol lady"), gay Muslim Iranian comic Ali Mafi (San Francisco show only), Jewish Vietnamese comic Joe Nguyen, Indian comedian (and MIT grad) Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, Latina humorist Mimi Gonzalez, and UC Santa Cruz freshman Nathan Habib (Santa Cruz show only). While distinct in style, content, and delivery, all of them have a knack for slipping identity-affirming politics into their bits. Yet they do it in a way that doesn't seem assaultive or preachy. According to Amos, there's no real way to get around the race factor in comedy, since so much of it is about playing on stereotypes anyway. "In the Bay Area we're crazy hip," she said. "But when I'm in other places and I come onstage, I'm the big black woman with braids. I don't know if they're expecting me to talk about 'what my man did to me,'" she said, adopting a fake 'I-told-you-so' accent.
While the multi-cultural theme may seem fairly diffuse — especially on a show where just about every culture is represented in some form — it definitely has a lot of cachet, said Nguyen, whose web domain is VietJew.com. Nguyen admits he's never done a specifically multicultural show. Granted, any show he does is inherently multicultural, by virtue of having a Jewish Vietnamese person on the bill. "I guess that's one of the things I bring to the show," he said. "Or any show."
"The Color of Funny: A Multi-Culty Comedy Show" plays at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts (2640 College Ave., Berkeley) on May 30. 8 p.m., $20-$23. KosherComedy.com
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