Live At The Apollo…How ethnic do you have to be to tell ethnic jokes?

3 Apr

I am a big fan of comedy shows especially live stand up and love comedy in all its guises, with the odd exception. Yesterday I caught an episode of Live at The Apollo. It was fronted by Simon Brodkin better kno’wn as Lee Nelson who gave a pretty good performance as host and link man. He is quite funny but you do wonder how many jokes you can milk out of the “chavvy lad about town” persona.

Anyway it was not Lee I wanted to talk about. It was an aspect of  Paul Chowdhry‘s performance. Now despite Paul being an incredible Doppelganger of pop rocker Prince I think it would safe to say Paul is of a heritage that has roots in the Indian sub continent. If the name was not a give away the jokes were. Last night we got a lot of Indian jokes all quite funny and entertaining.



Now having done the Indian jokes his humour sat nav moved further to the east as he regaled us with jokes about a perpetually exasperated Chinese takeaway Restuaranter - “Wha you wan? One rye’ or 2 rye’?  Make up your mine!”.

Now I have often thought there is an unspoken, but widely accepted rule  in comedy, if you are of a given ethnic origin or racial background you can do jokes about your background, but if you are not then you are threading on dangerous ground. So we have black comedians engaging us with jokes about the Black British, African or Caribbean experiences. Same with Iranian comedians with Iraninan jokes, Jewish comedians, Irish Comedians and so on.

I don’t know if this really the case or just my perception, but if it is true how wide is the “remit” of a comedian with extra-heritages as it were. Paul reached out into the Chinese community, but if he told jokes about Somalian  could that be deemed offensive?  Anglo-Iranian comedian Omid Djalili for instance does Nigerian jokes, albeit fairly poorly, and don’t recall him getting any grief for that.

Or is this rule something I have just dreamt up and comedy is really universal with no boundaries.

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