By Hooi Khaw
Ethnic City is a new month long run of standup comedy gigs in Melbourne that brings to the stage a lineup exclusively made up of performers of colour. After going on a marketing rampage, with shout outs in The Age, The Herald Sun, and Triple R radio, Ethnic City sold out the 53 seat theatre at The Improv Conspiracy on opening night. The hype lives up to the expectation, boasting formidable lineups since the start of the run. The buzz of the audience is palpable, as they mill about the licensed bar, waiting for the show to start.
In an industry that is often decried for lack of representation, diversity has become a hot topic, and shows like Ethnic City create a space where performers can be appreciated for their talent and not seen as a token (with that added pressure to “represent”).
Room runner, local comedian Brendan Wan speaks to us in more detail about Ethnic City:
H: What is the intent behind Ethnic City?
B: The intent behind Ethnic City was to create a show where not only Performers of Colour can showcase their talents but also give audiences from diverse backgrounds a chance to see members of their own community do their thing on stage. Sometimes, it’s as simple as seeing someone that looks like you on stage that gives others the confidence to pursue their own certain projects. It’s no secret Melbourne’s creative arts industry lacks diversity. I know far too many incredibly talented ethnic actors, writers and comedians who need to create projects in order to pursue their artistic goals as their ethnicity isn’t regarded as marketable. When I started comedy, especially improv, I could count the number of people of colour on one hand. Gradually more people of diverse backgrounds have been welcomed on stage but we still have a long way to go until ethnicity isn’t regarded as unique.
H: What is your approach to balancing new comers and experienced comedians of colour?
B: I guess this is the same case with any comedy show, you have a big name headliner who initially attracts the general audiences and then the up-and-coming talent to support. I’ve been luckily enough to have the bigger name acts of Lawrence Leung and Sami Shah involved to perform at Ethnic City and they’ve been incredibly supporting of the whole show.
H: Have you been actively recruiting the acts, or are people asking for slots?
B: I’ve been actively recruiting acts but as the show has gone on for a few weeks, there have been a few people approaching me for spots. In the stand-up comedy side of things, I’m in a fortunate position to have more performers than I actually have spots for. But the nature of the show is that it’s a variety show, since comedy comes in all different genres, so finding ethnically diverse acts in other areas of comedy ie improv, clowning, cabaret, sketch – that’s been a bit of a challenge.
H: You’re currently booked for a four week run, what are your plans for Ethnic City moving forward?
B: There are definitely plans for Ethnic City to come back! However there will be a bit of a hiatus for the next few months since I’ll be involved with a few projects. There’s a lot of effort and behind the scenes work required to do this kind of show so juggling full-time work, with several projects can be stretching me real thin. So when it does come back, I’ll be giving it 100% commitment.
Ethnic City is on Friday’s 7pm at The Improv Conspiracy from the 24th of May 2019 until the 14th of June 2019. See website for Details –