Grad addresses lack of diversity in Humber’s Comedy program

by | Feb 17, 2017 | Headlines

Sarah Watson
News Reporter

Back when she was learning her comedy craft at Humber College, Anasimone George was the only woman of colour in her class. She says this made it hard to tell jokes from her lived experiences, because people couldn’t relate.

“So, the running gag for a while was like, ‘Oh, are you gonna talk about being Arab?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, probably, that’s my life,” says George. “It’s really hard to resonate with a class of straight white men.”

In what seems like a direct result of that feeling, George has recently started hosting a comedy show called SHADE, which aims to represent and celebrate comedians of colour, comedians from the LGBTQ community, and other comedians who are women. George makes sure the comics get paid as well. The first show was sold out.

“The only way to support change in the industry,” George said, “is to make change.”

A recent alum of the Humber Comedy program, George has also been bending boundaries by dressing a little differently to her shows of late. 

That’s included deep v-necks that go down to her naval. Mesh bodysuits. Most recently, lingerie.

“I love pissing people off,” said George. “Every time people see an over-sexualized woman, they’re like, ‘Oh my god, throw a blanket on her, cover her up!’”

As a confident woman in comedy, George says she’s had male peers tell her she only gets attention because of her boobs. Instead of letting that bring her down, George takes that criticism, and owns it.

“If you’re too busy staring at my tits, you paid for the ticket, you know what I mean? Too bad. It’s kind of a joke, to be judged on your appearance. I’m here to tell you jokes,” said George.

This began, she said, after her Humber Showcase at Yuk Yuk’s last spring – a rite of passage in the Humber comedy program where students do a short set with their best material in a mock showcase environment. Teachers and graduates of the program are invited to evaluate. 

While George was hoping for solid feedback, she says she was disappointed with her reviews, alleging that many focused on her revealing outfit instead of her performance.

“I think I was just mad,” said George. “I was like, I want feedback for my jokes. Not necessarily gonna take it, but I prefer criticism on my writing or my writing style versus my outfit.”

Ironically, the set in question focused on body positivity, as George analyzed, and joked about, the subtle fat-shaming comments of her ex-boyfriend. 

“I was making sure that I was getting on that stage, and I wanted to feel like Beyonce,” said George,  “like the way Beyonce gets on stage and she is stunning and everyone is like, ‘Yes, Queen.’ I was like, this is going to be me, for this story. This is my moment. Like when Katniss Everdeen (of The Hunger Games) wore that flaming dress.”

Larry Horowitz, who teaches stand-up comedy at Humber College and organizes the showcase, says he has no recollection of George’s clothing being an issue.

“I don’t remember her wearing anything out of the ordinary,” Horowitz said. “I don’t really notice that kind of stuff too much, I must admit. I don’t remember anything, when we went over everyone’s little critique packet, about her clothing.”

Horowitz says the approximately 40 evaluators just write “chicken scratching” in a small space underneath their scores, sometimes adding notes in the margins as well.

Any comment that comes up repeatedly, he says, gets brought up and addressed, so if 10 or 20 people commented on George’s clothing, he thinks he’d remember.

Evaluation packets are destroyed just a few weeks after the showcase, once the performers have had some time to look them over.

Whatever the reviews said, George continues to do stand-up comedy, mainly about her personal life, her family and relationships.

If people are annoyed, that’s okay.