Immigrant Experience and More Featured in Goatface Sketch Comedy Special11 Dec 2018
The experience of living as a first-generation American can be fraught with complexity. Bridging the gap between two cultures, fending off xenophobic comments from neighbors and coworkers, and forging an identity in a political climate that is suspicious of outsiders can give children of immigrants a multifaceted perspective on the meaning of “the American dream.” This distinct viewpoint is the essence of Goatface, a sketch comedy special featuring a quartet of Indian and Middle Eastern American performers who recently aired on Comedy Central. And, judging by the positive critical reception the program has received, the group’s fresh style of humor is making a splash in mainstream America.
In an interview with GQ, Goatface group members Hasan Minaj, Fahim Anwar, Asif Ali, and Aristotle Athiras ruminated on how their shared experience of growing up in America as the children of immigrants influenced their brand of comedy. “My parents are from Afghanistan and I grew up in Seattle,” explained Anwar. “It’s not a huge Afghan hotbed. I grew up in a certain way where some Afghans would say I’m weird or I’m whitewashed. But I still felt that. I grew up on [Saturday Night Live] … and since then, that was my comedy identity, but sometimes they look at you like ‘you’re weird.’ I always hated that.” Minaj went on to recount how the group, who has been performing together off and on for years, initially pitched their idea for a special to Comedy Central as something that could have a significant cultural impact. “… I talked about how, to me, what Comedy Central represented was a home to these very unique singular voices, like Chappelle’s Show, Key & Peele. I said, I’ve never seen anything like Goatface before. We have a body of work that core fans know about but a lot of people don’t know about. And it really piqued their interest.” [See Goatface Wants You to Know They’re Funny First, by Jaya Saxena, GQ, 27.Nov.2018.]
Viewers seem to be connecting with the highly specific takes on race, identity, and cultural gaps featured in Goatface. The AV Club, a popular entertainment blog, praised the special as “very brown and very funny.” And The New York Times featured the special in its weekly series “3 Shows to Watch This Week,” and noted that “the jokes are funny and the premises…are fresh.” And while it hasn’t yet been confirmed if Goatface will make another appearance on Comedy Central, the group’s members are hopeful that the special will unify audiences through laughter, if only briefly. “You want to get to a point where people can become comfortable … about where you’re from,” mused Ali to GQ. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is just be funny. But the byproduct of people seeing themselves reflected … with any sort of respect in mainstream media not being the butt of the joke, is like huge.” [See Comedy Central’s Goatface is Very Brown and Very Funny, by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, The AV Club, 28.Nov.2018. See also 3 Shows to Watch This Week by Margaret Lyons, The New York Times, 26.Nov.2018.]
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