Incarcerate This at the Ice House: Social Justice Can Be Hilarious
D. Verdin Comics telling the truth, Ruth: (l. to r.) Kenji, Martin Rizo, Flaco Martinez, Reggie Brown and Jimmy Ouyang
As the wholesome racial equality message emanated from the new movie The Help over the weekend, a group of stand-ups acutely debunked such propaganda Saturday at Pasadena's Ice House for the charity show Incarcerate This: Young Men of Comedy.
Comedians Reggie Brown, Kenji, Jimmy Ouyang, Flaco Martinez and Martin Rizo took hysterical jabs at those elephants in the room that continue to pervade society: De facto segregation, misrepresentation, infringement of speech and economic inequality.
The evening was, appropriately, hosted by Brown, one of the reigning President Obama impersonators who, though heavily booked for GOP soirees, was ejected two months ago from the Republican Leadership Conference for his jokes about the Pachyderm party's presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. (In the aftermath, Brown landed the opportunity to finish his set on Real Time With Bill Maher, which can be seen here.)
From the clip below at Saturday's show, it's apparent that Brown is on his mark, not only with Obama's cadence, but material as well -- a pure rival to Fred Armisen's Saturday Night Live schtick.
Nothing is funnier than having a run-in with "The Man." For Rizo this entails taking the wiper blades off his cars, making it difficult for parking enforcement to leave tickets. Martinez's beef with white folk: "Their fucking neighborhood watch! Why are they getting excited? It's not even their car! At least with the Mexican neighborhood watch, we warn the criminals: 'Hey someone is comin'!'"
Meanwhile, Ouyang's bane (see below for video) is that he's always mistaken for a hot Asian chick with his long black hair, not to mention he easily offends his black friends with his passionate rap indulgences seen above.
There was a great tempo to the night with each comedian's set easily building into the next. But ex-con turned stand-up Kenji stole the show with his insight on the judicial system's bias toward whites over blacks (Read: Casey Anthony and Robert Blake getting away with murder). Kenji's hysterical clip is below.
Reminiscent of Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby in his storytelling alacrity, Kenji, who was a victim of a drug ring sting, expressed after his gig that there wasn't an opportunity during his brief jail sentence to keep the inmates laughing. Rather it was about "staying alive." His passion for comedy has kept him from the wrong crowd, and his hard times are fodder for funny: check out his video about how Ramen noodle soup might be the currency in jail, but it's a useless monetary system once you're outside trying to pay your cable bill.
The night's proceeds went to Young Angels of America, a non-profit which supports and funds after-school enrichment programs at lower-income schools. Many of the comedians who appeared Saturday lend their time to Young Angels as role models and teacher assistants at Watts, South Los Angeles and Pacific Palisades schools. Kenji, for example, instructs students how to produce their own weekly variety shows. Saturday's stand-up show was the first of several which Young Angels is taking to cities around the country.
"Please come out and see more shows," said Kenji in his closing, "You'll have less kids breaking into your house."