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Comedian Lilly Singh

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

While most young comics spend years working the clubs trying to get discovered, three of the Golden Horseshoe's hottest comedians have earned a global following without ever leaving home. Jasmeet Singh, Lilly Singh and Amandeep Kang – known on the Internet respectively as Jus Reign, Superwoman and AK aka Amazing – are three twentysomething Punjabi-Canadian comics whose YouTube videos have earned them an audience of millions. In self-penned skits, they skewer the issues that face their peers, a group of bilingual, mostly Western-born young people who listen to both bhangra and hip-hop and for whom "turban swag" doesn't refer to drapery. Their challenges include everything from dating in a culture where the concept is relatively new, to fielding well-intentioned but tactless questions from white friends. The Globe and Mail finds out where the comics are headed next.



Jasmeet (Jus Reign) Singh

Age: 22

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Hometown: Guelph

Most famous for: "Shit White Guys Say to Brown Guys" (2,384,902 YouTube views)



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Why do you think the GTA's Punjabi community is such a hotbed of comedy?

There hasn't been much done in terms of our generation – the first generation, I guess – making comedy that touches upon issues in the Punjabi community in the GTA, or anywhere else. There's random stuff in my head from growing up watching Punjabi TV shows, going to hall parties and picnics, and I just turn it into content and poke fun at it.

Why YouTube videos rather than stand-up or sketch comedy?

I've always been interested in film. I did a bunch of film festivals and stuff like that in high school. Then when YouTube came about, I would watch all these people making their own content and being their own person; they just do their own thing and get hits on hits on hits. It's a creative outlet that lets you combine comedy and filmmaking and I just ran [with it]

How many of the characters are based on people you know?

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Probably 98 per cent. I may tend to exaggerate one or two things, but pretty much all the skits I do are based on things that have happened in my life. My parents, I parody them to a T.

What do your parents think about the videos?

They hated when [the videos]first came out. They threatened to kick me out of the house and all that nonsense. Then other parents started coming up and saying "Your son's doing a good job," and they were like "Hmmm, okay. We're getting a little respect amongst our peers here." Then when the money started rolling in – you can't find no brown parents who are going to complain about money – they were like "Okay, you do what you gotta do."

Why does your humour resonate with young people in your community?

I parody a bunch of different things: South Asian commercials, our weddings, our parents, our festivals. I parody Brampton kids, these kids, those kids, all these things that are never talked about in a mainstream light, but [that]we talk about amongst ourselves.

Lilly (Superwoman) Singh

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Age: 23

Hometown: Scarborough

Most Famous For: "Sh*t Punjabi Mothers Say" (1,094,239 YouTube views)



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Why do you think the GTA's Punjabi community is such a hotbed of comedy?

I think it's because we have that kind of environment where it's so multicultural, it's so accepted. It makes it okay for me to walk down the street in my Indian suit and be funny. Our parents aren't as like "Oh, what will other people think?"

Why YouTube videos rather than stand-up or sketch comedy?

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I like being artsy with video editing, so it's a different outlet for my creativity. And to be honest, I was scared to do stand-up at the beginning, but I've been doing some in the last few months.

How many of the characters are based on people you know?

I would say almost all of them. Lillinder's based on any boy from Brampton. My motherly character – bits and pieces are based on my mom, but it's more just that stereotypical mother that I know. In my family, I have so many aunties like that.

What do your parents think about the videos?

They think I'm crazy, but they're very supportive. It's a bit weird when I make jokes in the videos that they probably don't want to hear – I'll make sex jokes or I'll talk about guys and relationships, boyfriends, so they do look at me kind of oddly. Will they be as supportive when I tell them I want to do this full time? Probably not, but we'll see how it goes.

Why does your humour resonate with young people in your community?

I think I just say things that other people are scared to say. As a brown girl, I don't think people expect me to say the things I say, and when I do, they're like "Oh my god, I feel that way, too, I've just never said it."

Amandeep (AK aka Amazing) Kang

Age: 20

Hometown: North York

Most Famous For: "Living in a Brown Fam #2" (1,897,352 YouTube views)



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Why do you think the GTA's Punjabi community is such a hotbed of comedy?

I don't really know. They say Toronto is the most diverse city in the world so when you look at it in a broader sense it's like, if everyone from different places got together, this is what could happen.

Why YouTube videos rather than stand-up or sketch comedy?

I took a year off after high school and was checking out YouTube when I saw this really wack rapper, and he was from the same culture, same religion and all that. So my first-ever video was just punking this dude, and everyone seemed to like it. Stand-up was something I was just getting into, but it didn't seem like what I really wanted to do. I could just go back to my bed and press "record" and reach out to the people.

How many of the characters are based on people you know?

I portray The Kid, that's me growing up. Then [there's the]Hating Aunties... Everyone [knows]that person, it could be your mom, and you go "Hey, Mom, that's you," or it could be like "Oh, that's that auntie we hate."

What do your parents think about the videos?

They're pretty cool with where it's going now, but they still have their doubts. I was in India and I did an interview at a TV station in Punjab and [my dad]was bragging to all his cousins.

Why does your humour resonate with young people in your community?

The same thing happens with all the families, so people can relate... And they're all [from]immigrant families where there's so many differences between the generations, things that are rotting people's culture and inner beliefs. It takes something well orchestrated and positive to turn that around. You've gotta fight it with love, with positivity. There's no other way.



Interviews have been condensed and edited.



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