Guest Post: Why identity matters in comedy

Editor's Note: This guest post written by Emily Schorr Lesnick is part of GLAAD's coverage of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Lesnick is one of the creators of The Soul Glo Project, a live variety show and podcast that showcases diversity in its acts and in the identities of the performers. Co-hosted by Keisha Zollar, Anna Suzuki and Emily Schorr Lesnick, Soul Glo features established comedic voices and up-and-comers in standup, sketch, improv, music and poetry. Previous guests include SNL writers and performers, Comedy Central performers and high school students. The show features the voices of women, people of color, LGBT people, differently abled people, and people of all ages and of all faiths. Tonight, The Soul Glo Project is putting on a live show in Harlem with a night of improv and comedy to celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. The show will feature stand-up comic Sheng Wang, spoken word artist Kelly Tsai, J-pop group Azn Pop and improv led by queer performers Nicole Lee and Catherine Wing.

Why Identity Matters in Comedy
By Emily Schorr Lesnick

Identity matters in comedy. Comedy thrives on diversity. In classrooms, researchers like Patricia Gurin at the University of Michigan found that diversity leads to academic success for all. In comedy, people's unique experiences, vocabularies and ideas lead to deeper, funnier and more specific laughs for all. It is in this spirit that The Soul Glo Project operates; when we open up the stage to everyone and not just cis, straight college-educated White men, we are funnier. Everyone is welcome at The Soul Glo Project...except haters!

As the show re-launches its live show component on April 20, Soul Glo will focus on a celebration of Asian and Asian-American identity for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.

Too often in comedy, performers of color are forced to fit into a small box or type.

“As an immigrant and a performer who identifies with her Japanese heritage,” reflects Soul Glo co-host Anna Suzuki, “I’m constantly asked to play stereotypes. Sometimes I decline without being able to explain why I can’t accept these ‘parts.’ I’m thrilled to be on stage with Soul Glo’s APA show as part of a line-up of extremely talented and entertaining performers who happen to be Asian and Asian-American.”

But showcasing racial and ethnic diversity is not enough, as the diversity of experience within diversity gets ignored. This is why Soul Glo is excited to feature improv led by two queer performers, Catherine Wing and Nicole Lee. This representation of Asian American people are not solely Asian American, and LGBT people are not only White. Yang and Lee's presences disrupt the mainstream image of Asian-ness and of queerness-- plus, they're hilarious!

Improviser Nicole Lee is excited to bring her whole self to the stage on April 20.

“As a Chinese-American, I grew up trying to distance myself from my Asian identity because it ostracized and prevented me from fitting in" Lee said. "Now, I’m much more comfortable with and proud of the things that make me unique: being Asian, queer and a woman. I’m proud of the Soul Glo show for celebrating the things that make myself and other diverse performers unique without touting us as evidence that comedy is diverse enough.”

If you're in NYC, don't forget to attend The Soul Glo Project's show tonight at Silvana in Harlem. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. For more information, check out their website at