Five Comedians Fighting for Social Justice

These sharp-witted stars are blending comedy and activism to cut through with their vital message.

Maz Jobrani

Iranian-born comic Maz Jobrani uses his considerable platform — including more than 500,000 followers on Instagram — to spread the word about the anti-regime protests in his birthland. In an interview with Mr Feelgood, the veteran standup said, “There are people who were critical that I continued to do my stand-up at a time that so many Iranians were suffering, but I have an opportunity to go on stage in front of a bunch of Americans and get them interested.”

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Aamer Rahman

Aamer Rahman, an Australian comic of Bangladeshi descent, is a devoted anti-racism activist, and half of the hit comedy duo Fear of a Brown Planet. He believes in the power of comedy, but says it can backfire when the tone undermines the seriousness of the issue. “Bad satire can actually make things worse,” he said in an interview, discussing some of the mainstream US TV comics’ handling of Donald Trump. “They had Trump on their shows, touched his hair and played stupid games with him. I wonder how those people feel now.”

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Bassem Youssef

Bassem Youssef spent 13 years working as a doctor before launching the satirical news program ‘El Bernameg’ at the height of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. He was forced to flee the country in 2014 by authorities offended by his content — but has refused to be scared off sharing his surgically-sharp insights, and his career has continued to soar in his new home of Los Angeles, with 3.5 million people now following him on Instagram.

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W Kamau Bell

W Kamau Bell is one of the leading voices using humor to tackle racial inequality in America. As well as hosting and executive producing CNN series ‘United Shades of America’, he sits on the advisory boards of Race Forward, a racial justice think tank, and Hollaback!, an anti-harassment organization. “One thing you learn from being Black in America is that a good preacher is also funny,” he said. “You have to have a sense of humor to the message.”

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Julia Scotti

Julia Scotti had enjoyed success touring with comics including Jerry Seinfeld in the 1980s, before taking a break from the stage as she explored her gender identity. Now the trailblazing comedian — who transitioned in 2000, age 47 — has returned to comedy and is using her platform to share her story and stand up for others in her community. “I decided this time I had two criteria,” she said. “One was to be totally honest. The other was to be totally fearless.”

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