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Ali Sultan launches new POC-focused comedy night: 'It feels odd that comedy is shamelessly segregated'

Comedian Ali Sultan at Comedy Corner.

Comedian Ali Sultan at Comedy Corner. Image courtesy the standup

Over the past several years, a wave of new comedy rooms and showcases have created opportunities for local comedians to get valuable stage time. Twin Cities comedy veteran Ali Sultan still sees plenty of opportunity to bridge the gap.

This Friday, Sultan is launching a new showcase, called People of Comedy, as a way to empower young POC comics. Taking place at Sisyphus this Friday, Sultan says his motivation isn’t based in necessity so much as his desire to help grow the local scene. 

“I wanted a showcase that new POC comics can call their own, and hopefully other POC can be encouraged to do standup and feel like they have a place in the mainstream comedy scene,” he explains. 

Having hosted open mics, showcases, and even a live album recording, Sisyphus has quietly established itself as one of the top comedy venues in the Twin Cities over the past two years, with a talent lineup and steady crowds that rival bigger, more established clubs around town.  

“Sisyphus is a special place. It’s built by someone who did standup comedy and knew how to make [the comics] the spotlight rather than the venue,” he says. “There isn’t a fancy background or food to distract you from the comedian. Every show is really fun there.”

Though there are a handful of black and urban comedy rooms in town, like Baddie’s Comedy Co. where Sultan performed last year as part of the taping of Kevin Hart’s Hart of the City on Comedy Central, he says that his motivation with this showcase is to balance the racial biases -- intentional or not -- that currently exist locally.

“It feels odd that comedy is shamelessly segregated,” he says. “The Minnesota comedy scene has a special place in my heart. There are bookers and rooms that give POC fair opportunities and there are rooms that feature predominately white comedians or seek POC that appeal to their way of thinking. I am indebted to this scene and I can value it while addressing flaws in the most constructive manner, like with this showcase.”

This week’s event features a lineup was curated by Sultan himself, and features a blend of unique voices of all colors and genders, including Moe Yaqub, Kahdijah Cooper, Corey Adam, Greg Coleman, Shed G, and Shawn Nafstad.

“I picked people that are diverse in style, thought, and background,” he explains. “I made sure that you will see a lineup that you wouldn’t find in any other showcase. Empowering POC isn’t about separation, but integration into one scene. That’s where the name People of Comedy came from.”

IF YOU GO:

People of Comedy
Sisyphus Brewing 
8 p.m. Friday, July 20
$10;
click here for details