Published on October 23rd, 2012 | by Jessica Mickey0
All Are Welcome to the Most RACES Show on Earth!
Hey, you know the one that goes, “How does every racist joke start?” and the visual punchline with the teller cautiously looking over their shoulders? Yeah, that’s a good one. But perhaps the comedians of The Most RACES Show On Earth! (MRSOE!) would beg to differ. Not because it could be considered offensive, but that they’d rather you not be so hush-hush about it and get to the actual joke already. Just make sure it’s funny.
This Friday night, Theatre 99 welcomes back local favorite stand-up comedy show MRSOE!, which examines ethnic stereotypes, different cultures, and racial clichés through the means of comedy. But if you think you’re walking into a politically correct, “Kumbaya” drum circle–style preach-fest, you are sorely mistaken. Neil Bansil (Filipino-Canadian-American) founded MRSOE! in 2005. The group, which includes Noah Gardenswartz (Jewish-American); Viet Huynh (Vietnamese-American); and Trixx (Ghanaian-Canadian), aren’t exactly fans of the political correctness that the comedy world has occasionally had forced down its throat. They just want to make you laugh.
“We openly joke about our ethnicity, and bring stereotypes out in the open,” Bansil says. “But the show isn’t about capitalizing on racial misconceptions; it’s about tearing them down. No one is attacking another race. It’s never malicious. That would just defeat the purpose of the show. We’re trying to bring everyone together.”
In the still-controversial world of the South regarding racial differences, Gardenswartz finds clever writing to be his best defense, and in turn, his offense. “I feel very strongly about using comedy to tear down racial stereotypes,” he says. “The two main groups of people I talk about in my material are Jews and black people, both of whom have a lot of negative stereotypes associated with them that I don’t agree with. Not only do I make a conscious effort not to play into clichéd negative stereotypes, I actively write jokes that turn those stereotypes around and address things from the opposite viewpoint.”
When presented with the analogy as race being the “big white elephant in the room” that no one talks about, Huynh jokes, “Why does it have to be a white elephant?” then adds, “Race shouldn’t be ignored at all because it’s part of who you are.”
Bansil feels that this is when diminishing that big whit … er, I mean, Caucasian elephant with comedy comes into play, “There’s an art to bringing differences out in the open that allows for meaningful discussion, because if it’s not funny, it’s just racist. MRSOE! is a show that brings people together.
Dusty Slay will be opening the show, as local comics Sarah Porter and Andy Rider have in the past, all of which could be considered just plain old white (I can say it, because I am, too), so I jokingly ask if this is because Bansil is an equal opportunity employer. He doesn’t see it that way at all. “I chose those comedians solely on the fact that they were funny,” he claims. “When I go to open mics, I watch for something unique, and if it makes me laugh, then I know it will make other people laugh. I never really look at color when I choose comedians for the show; I look only at how funny they are. It just so happens that in Charleston, there seems to be a lack of diverse comedians. Maybe that will change!”
If MRSOE! keeps on pointing out that dumb elephant and laughing at it, there’s a good chance it will.
The Most RACES Show on Earth! takes place on Fri. Oct. 26, at 10 p.m. at Theatre 99. Tickets are $12.50 and are available at the door or by phone at (843) 853-6687. A portion of the proceeds from each show will benefit the YWCA Stand Against Racism initiative. Visit mrsoe.com and theatre99.com for more.
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