Usama Siddiquee Wants You to Remember Comedians’ Names

Photo: Mike Bryk

Usama Siddiquee (@UsamaBinLaughin) is a stand-up comedian based in New York. He’s appeared on BET, Showtime’s Desus & Mero, and at Just For Laughs festival. He also hosts a podcast called Mango Bae.

This week, Usama and I talked Osama bin Laden puns, immigrant parents, and bombing for three months straight.

What made you pursue a comedy career?
I was always funny with my friends. Never dared to think Hey, maybe I could do this as a career. One day I just went to an open mic at Hyena’s Comedy Club in Dallas. I had all these terrible Osama bin Laden puns. But I went up and killed it. Then I bombed for three months straight. But that first win was powerful — I was like, Why not, let’s go for it.

Lots of pain in this one. Sometimes in comedy you feel like you’re killing the game, and sometimes (most times) you feel like you have absolutely no idea what’s going on. This tweet was just a way to air out those frustrations. This game is very up-and-down, and how you deal with it mentally on a week-by-week basis is everything. Still at the behest of my frustrations, but every day I’m working on them and growing.

Has social media changed the way you write jokes? Has it changed your sense of humor in general?
I try not to use social media too much. Yeah, I’ll throw in a line there or a tweet here into my act, but comedy is something you have to feel with your and crowd emitting energy together. Social media is generally an individual affair, and I think it can close you off from that connection that is so essential in stand-up.

Is there anything you wish you could change about the comedy scene right now? Is there anything you hope never changes?
Comics need to help each other out more. You consider the networks, industry, the bookers, etc. — the only group of people that really have your back is the comics. Every credit I ever got was due to the referrals of comics. We have to watch each other and build each other; I see too much envy and negative energy being thrown around amongst us.

I hope what never changes is the kill. At the end of the day, the kill is the currency. Maybe not to get a TV show, but in that room on that night on that stage, the kill has the most power. I love that — it locks in stand-up as a craft and a way of life. Keep trying to kill harder, no matter what the powers that be say.

I can’t tell you how many times my friends do this. There’s something so intense about experiencing a hot comedy set that you forget all details and just stay on the emotion. When you’re laughing your ass off, you’re not really assessing details. It’s sort of a blackout of joy. The downside of this is that many hilarious comedians get forgotten, name-wise. If someone kills and you love it, remember the name!

What do you think the future looks like for brown comics?
We’re ascending from the stock stereotype (finally). A ton of brown musicians, artists, and performers have been working diligently at their craft, and people are finally giving us true respect. People are seeing what we’re capable of and what we’ve already created. Browns have a long way to go, but we’re no longer the butt of the joke, and We’ve earned that. People really about to know.

Tell us about your podcast, Mango Bae!
It’s the funniest podcast out there right now. My best boy, Pranav Behari (also a hilarious comic), and I wanted to do a podcast about South Asian and immigrant issues and make it wild as hell. Just true rambunctious humor while also being proudly brown. The jokes are quick, the chemistry is fire, and the love is all-encompassing. We release episodes every Monday on YouTube and we do clips on IG (on my IG @UsamaBinLaughin and @yourmangobae) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Check it out, you will laugh your ass off.

I love doing immigrant jokes. I used to think only South Asians got their asses whooped with sandals! It feels good to joke about the intensity of family life. So much of it is not funny when it’s happening, and then you think on it later and it throws you into conniptions. Also, with so many new voices in comedy, all of the first-generation immigrant comedians are sort of coming of age, and we all have a lot to say about our families. It’s just really fun to hear how we differ and intersect!

Any other immigrant parent translations you can provide us with?
“Where’s your dad” = “I need to yell at someone.”

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Usama Siddiquee Wants You to Remember Comedians’ Names