I was fortunate enough to nab a sold-out ticket to non-binary, spoken word poet, writer and artist, Alok Menon’s show in association with Just For Laughs in Vancouver last week. The multi-hyphenate who has been featured on the likes of HBO’s “The Trans List” and most recently had their book “Beyond the Gender Binary” banned in their hometown state of Texas (in-keeping with their backwards anti-transgender legislations); put on quite the performance!
Electrifying the stage with candy-pink curls and a matching all-pink ensemble of a body-hugging, textured thigh-split dress and rancher boots, (they sure have Texan in ‘em, no matter the naysayers!), they came out with energy and confidence to boost a mid-week audience.
With a mischievous smile that could still be seen under the beautiful beard, they started out with self-deprecating humour that belies their status, by media who label them “an emerging artist.”
“I’ve been an ‘emerging artist’ for the last decade! Maybe when I die, they’ll put that on my tombstone,” they laughed.
And even though there were a majority of white faces in the audience, they were certainly not given a free pass by Menon.
They plunged into a hilarious Uber driver exchange story, which began upon being picked up from the airport in Texas. The driver, named Ron, exaggeratedly commented on what an unusual name Alok was and asked what it meant.
Alok explained it meant “light” in Sanskrit and calmly asked what Ron meant in his culture. Ron’s response was vague and he instead steered the conversation toward his wife Elizabeth’s name, which he said meant “God”.
Menon cheekily relayed his thoughts of the colonial implications of the name, which instigated raucous, if not unsure laughter in the audience!
They steered in and out of comedic to profound themes, relaying their struggles as a trans person from an immigrant family, and speaking about the government and online trolls using propaganda, labelling the community as “trans predators” (which refers to the myth that trans people are a predatory danger to spaces, such as public restrooms), and receiving regular viral death threats which are most prevalent from South Asian folks.
Using spoken word poetry at random intervals after jokes that left you heaving from jest, they fluidly discussed the intimate relationship with their grandfather, their hero, upon his deathbed.
“Some days he was at peace with his fate, and others he’d grab onto me so tight and tell me he didn’t want to die. I had to just lie sometimes and tell him he wasn’t dying to make him feel better.”
Menon’s ability to make you laugh and cry at the same time is a marker of a distinguished artist with depth. You can tell that they have seen and been through a lot, and can speak to both the injustices and beauty in life’s experiences.
Speaking from a marginalized lens that reaches others who feel the same is something that many mainstream comedians often miss the mark on. Alok instead calls out those who are in positions of power and privilege, instead of laughing at the expense of those who are disenfranchised.
It’s a refreshing and honest kind of comedy that I hope to see more of.
To support Alok Menon’s work, head to their online website.
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