Stand-up comedy makes a person incredibly vulnerable. Just you on a stage, with all eyes on you, trying to make people laugh. In other words, asking them to “please like me.”
As L.A. comic Hasan Minhaj’s own story became central to his comedy, something changed. No longer was he only making jokes about what people did on Facebook or the guy at the counter. As a first-generation American, he saw the power in his own deeper narrative. Adversity, it turns out, is a well of comic relief.
So he wondered, if comedy is truly born out of struggle, shouldn’t up-and-coming comics in poor countries have lots at which to poke fun?
This is how Stand Up Planet is born.
In this film, Minhaj travels to India and South Africa to determine if comedy is truly universal. In India, Minhaj learns that over 50 percent of Indians defecate outside, resulting in 1600 kids dying each day in India of sanitation-related illnesses. In South Africa, he delves into the nation’s income inequality and AIDS crisis, visiting two very different neighborhoods and a male circumcision clinic.
Despite the big problems in front of them, the comics he meets in Mumbai and Johannesburg are killing it. Minhaj meets brave and forthright comics like Aditi Mittal and Mpho Popps on his journey. They don’t just make people laugh. In Mumbai, Mittal is talking about gender, sex and equality in India. It’s her mission to push the boundaries. Popps, a “born free” who lost his uncle to HIV, counsels young people to protect themselves in Johannesburg.
“I just want to tell truths.” ~Aditi Mittal
With their comedy, the people featured in Stand Up Planet tackle deep-rooted social problems like colonialism, racism, economic exploitation, homophobia, and cultural hegemony. In demonstrating exactly how they are turning “problems to punch lines,” the comics Minhaj meets represent the tremendous human potential that lies within every place in the world.
“It’s a comic spring,” he says. “Young, gifted and funny are good natural resources to have.”
Stand Up Planet reminds us that people have to be at the center of any solutions. It moves viewers from despair to hope in a genuine and elegant way, creating a balanced and constructive story about some of the world’s biggest and most deeply-entrenched social issues – a new narrative so needed in our sector.
Perhaps most important of all, Stand Up Planet reminds us of the strength and promise that comes when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
And that’s no joke.
Watch Stand Up Planet online here. Don’t miss this moving and hilarious show.