Comedy Meets Intersectionality
by Noah Neal
Photos by Michael Losen
Sporting a t-shirt that read “IOWA - What happens in cornfields, stays in cornfields,” tucked into a pair of dark-wash Levis, 24-year-old comedian from the southside of Chicago confidently jumped onto the stage and introduced himself as Jaboukie Young-White. Based solely on applause, it became quickly evident that the room packed full of millennials and Generation-Z affiliates was already familiar with the comedian, likely either through his heavy social media presence on Instagram and Twitter or from his work as a writer for the critically acclaimed Netflix Specials Big Mouth and American Vandal.
“It truly means something to me when I see a queer, biracial man from the midwest living his dream.”
Jaboukie kicked off his show on the evening of September 28th at the Iowa Memorial Union by cracking a few jokes about the midwest, immediately forming a beautiful and personal bond between himself and the University of Iowa audience. He went on to satirize the exaggerated politeness of midwesterners and revelled over the oddly specific ‘emo’ feeling that the frigid midwest climate brings out in all of us. The ways in which the diverse people of the audience connected with the jokes was the most admirable aspect of Jaboukie Young White’s performance. He was not afraid to go into his personal life in order to relate to us—he opened up to us and described the reactions his family had to him coming out on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, mentioning how his mother texted him right after the show to say, “I love my gay son.” Apparently, his brother already knew he was gay since Jaboukie admitted to having a poor habit of not closing out of the porn on his computer. Young-White also performed two bits that featured a powerpoint presentation; this was different, but in doing so, he the entire audience in a state of non-stop laughter. With his first presentation, he took on the personality of a “woke” frat-bro and gave a presentation to the audience on what it means to be a feminist. Towards the end of Jaboukie’s set, he spent nearly five minutes flipping through different pictures of insects and explaining to us why they were either gay or straight, once again weaving humor and absurdity into a more serious social discourse.
Jaboukie Young-White’s ability to prompt genuine laughter through acknowledging his many identities that the audience was able to relate to made him not only an incredibly amusing comedian, but also an important comedian. It is also vital to note that while Jaboukie’s bits are influenced by his multiple identities and the intersectionality of them—he is not just funny because of these identities. He is an astonishingly accomplished writer and legitimate comedian who is capable of creating an immediate relationship between himself and other people through his comedic genius. As a biracial kid that does not label himself with a specific sexual orientation, it truly means something to me when I see a queer, biracial man from the midwest living his dream. It gives me a sense of “if he can do it, then I can do it”—and I feel as if many others in the crowd had a similar feeling. This conjuring of emotion and community within underrepresented people through one’s art is extremely potent, and proved to be the most powerful part of the night.