Please, take my Ethnic!

By Special Correspondent Thea Lim


I was minding my own beeswax riding the subway when I stumbled across an ad in the free subway paper for “The Ethnic Comedy Show,” an July extravaganza of touring comics who, um, are all “ethnic”?

This Hour Has 22 Minutes star Shaun Majumder hosts an evening featuring an eclectic group of hot ethnic comics, filmed to air on the CBC. Check out special guest Frank Spadone (the Italian), Steve Byrne (the Asian), Godfrey (the Nigerian), Akmal Saleh (the Arab), Rachel Feinstein (the Jew) and more! Whatever your cultural background, The Ethnic Comedy Show will make you feel right at home.

So this is one of those minor gripes – we all have them – but the word “ethnic” really gets my goat. (I mean you can tell I’m not really that mad about it, since I have now advertised this stupid show on our website. You’re welcome Shaun Majumder!)

Or to be clear, it’s not the word ethnic, but the way it’s used, that drives me up the wall.

According to my good friend, ethnic means:

1. pertaining to or characteristic of a people, esp. a group (ethnic group) sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion,
language, or the like.
2. referring to the origin, classification, characteristics, etc., of such groups.
3. being a member of an ethnic group, esp. of a group that is a minority within a larger society: ethnic Chinese in San
4. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of members of such a group.
5. belonging to or deriving from the cultural, racial, religious, or linguistic traditions of a people or country: ethnic dances.
6. Obsolete. pagan; heathen.
7. a member of an ethnic group.

You’ll notice though, that more often than not when the word “ethnic” is dropped in conversation, it means “not white.” You know, he’s that nice ethnic fellow!

Considering that two of the comics in this show are white, we can assume that the name The Ethnic Comedy Show! means to indicate that it’s going to be a rollicking night of ethnic comedy, not necessarily comics who are “ethnic” in the, ahem, non-white sense. Which is good. AND ALSO MAKES SENSE. BECAUSE ALL FREAKING COMICS ARE ETHNIC. ALL HUMANS ARE ETHNIC.

Still, even calling it “A Night of Ethnic Comedy” rather than “A Night of Ethnic Comics” is a little off, because all subject matter that involves social mores and generalised behaviour is commenting on some kind of ethnic group – even that of white folks!

Imagine that.

For some real ethnic comedy, check out Louis C.K.’s clip on Being White, as deconstructed by the Stuff White People Do blog.

PS Incidentally that photo is just something that turned up when I Google Image searched “ethnic comedy” – it’s not the photo for The Ethnic Comedy Show this posts refers to. I guess there are lots.

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at

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