29/10/2014 06:34 GMT | Updated 29/12/2014 05:59 GMT

Andrew Lawrence's Dangerous Ideas About Comedy Need to Be Challenged


I knew this day was coming. It is no secret that people are starting to kick off about that lack of diversity in comedy. In my job I am basically considered an alien. If you are not male, white, middle class, heterosexual or British you are quickly resigned to the 'other' section. Sound familiar? Now I am not going to say I have not reaped the benefits of a market saturated with hundreds very similar guys. Because I have. That is how 'supply and demand' works. The shorter the supply, the higher the demand. However, I will not be told that the only reason I am where I am today is because of 'surreal' diversity targets as the recent rant by Andrew Lawrence suggests.

It is not often that a Facebook post offends me as an immigrant, a woman and an ethnic; whatever the hell that is. It's like he wrote that post just for me. He starts his rant by criticising panel comedians for: "cracking cheap and easy gags about Ukip, to the extent that it's got hack, boring and lazy very quickly." Ukip is a far right political party which has recently gained popularity in Britain with voters who are largely anti-immigration and Eurosceptic.

I am a Canadian who moved to England to do comedy. I come from an English-speaking country with a British queen on our currency and inherited a Scottish last name through slavery. My mother and grandmother were both born in England and emigrated to Canada in 1965. My great grandfather was an Irish immigrant born in Cork and my great grandmother was an Italian immigrant. Both met in England in the 1920s. My maternal grandfather was born in Georgetown, Guyana formerly known as British Guyana and my own father was born in Jamaica in 1958 before Jamaica became independent of British rule. So I come from a long line of immigrants. I also come from a country full of British immigrants. Or as they like to say 'expats' because, "How could we be immigrants? This used to be ours." I came to Britain with a visa not a gun.


*All red areas were part of the British Empire at one time or another...

Now I am not going to pretend for one minute that border and immigration controls are not vital. Because they are. I also know that these controls are in place and getting tighter and tighter. One of the things that is made clear to every visa applicant in my category is that there is NO RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS. I am not entitled to benefits. Andrew goes on to say, "it's been catastrophic for us all, an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works. Public transport infrastructure is dysfunctional. Hospitals and schools are dysfunctional. The housing crisis continues to blight our economic potential and destroy the hopes and dreams of a generation."

Sound familiar? I remember reading something similar.

"When the same deplorable misery is forced on many millions of Germans from the Reich, who under foreign rule dream of their common fatherland and strive, amid their longing, at least to preserve their holy right to their mother tongue, do wider circles understand what it means to be forced to fight for one's nationality."

-Adolf Hitler

The last time a nation embraced these kind of ideas, six million Jews ended up dead. The left wing "witch hunt" as Andrew calls it is not about infringing upon the rights of some whining, entitled, right wing, heterosexual, middle class white guy who has enjoyed many a success at the BBC. This is about challenging dangerous ideas. Ideas that echo times where I would have no right to my body, my children, to vote, read or own property. Need I go on?

Lawrence describing non-white comics as "ethnic" tells me that Andrew believes that comedians are white. All I know is that I work on an increasingly global circuit and I am being called "ethnic" by someone who himself belongs to a global minority. Are Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor or Chris Rock ethnic comics? Because the last time I checked they were global icons and I have yet to see a British comedian reach their levels of fame.

Comedy has the potential to reach everyone. The reality of the situation is that people who are in Andrew Lawrence's demographic are grossly over-represented in parliament, law enforcement and in comedy. So now we see a publicly funded company getting ONE woman or ONE non-white person on a panel show (which is a crumb) and Gollum emerges from this tortured ginger soul. Minority comedians like me feel LUCKY to get opportunities never mind rights. Like I said. I knew this would happen and it wouldn't be fun if some of these bitches didn't cry on the way down.

Dana produces a show for alternative comics called Fierce and Fabulous - a show for the under represented masses, taking place 13 Nov at the Mac in Birmingham. It features the best and the brightest of Britain's gay, female, musical and alternative comedy acts. For more info and tickets click here.