Nobody wants to hear that dreaded reflexive cry, the withering accusation of our era: "That's racist!"
In stand-up comedy as in life, there's a fine line between observational racial humor and racist jokes. (Hint: If the joke starts, "How many Polacks does it take ..." then you're on the wrong track.) But if you go to see the racially diverse stand-up revue Most RACES Show On Earth!, which makes a return to the comedy fest this year, it's safe to say you'll hear more of the good kind of racial humor than the bad kind.
The show, hosted and curated by Filipino-Canadian-American Neil Bansil, this year features comedians Cory Fernandez, Dave Merheje, and Clayton English (who you might have seen on Tyler Perry's House of Payne). Also featured is Trixx, a well-known Canadian comedian who is the son of Ghanaian immigrants.
Trixx, whose birth name is Frankie Agyemang, says his childhood in Toronto provides ample material for his stand-up show. "The clashes of cultures in my house were jokes that write themselves today," Trixx says. "But to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way. Both my parents, who are divorced now, make appearances in my stand-up. The stories are endless."
Raised on a comedy diet of Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, and Bill Cosby, he makes jokes that can be gentle or barbed. In one bit, he dispels the myth that black people would die first in real-life horror movie situations: "Here's the secret, people: Black people are pussies."
Trixx started his career as a club DJ and emcee, working his way up to regular appearances on MuchMusic, Canada's version of MTV. "I do pull material from my life as a DJ, but at times that material can be hacky because quite a few comedians talk about clubs and stuff like that," Trixx says. "So lately if I do talk about clubs, it's more personal stories instead of observations."
When he talks race in his routine, Trixx says he tries to reach for the absurd in his own life. "I think if you are gonna talk racial stuff, you need to, A, have gone through it yourself and, B, have the ability to laugh at your experiences," he says. "If it's too personal and too much an uncomfortable situation, then maybe that's how the audience may feel about it too, and I'd leave it alone." —Paul Bowers