Jaboukie Young-White Performs at Reed for Black Celebration Month

On Friday, February 8, stand-up comedian and rising star Jaboukie Young-White visited Reed and performed for a full crowd in Vollum Lecture Hall. The event was jointly hosted by Gray Fund, the Multicultural Resource Center, the Office for Institutional Diversity, and the Office for Student Engagement as part of Reed’s annual Black Celebration Month        

According to Pat Mullane in the DePaulia, the student newspaper at Young-White’s alma mater DePaul University, Young-White was already a high-flying comedian in his senior year of high school, winning the title of Illinois scholastic state champion in Original Comedy. In 2016, Young-White went viral online with his comedic tweets and memes, increasing his recognition substantially. Young-White explained that he went to DePaul University’s film school in Chicago, where he wrote and performed comedy on his own time. He added that he “only applied to DePaul because a guy [he] had a crush on was applying there … people tell you don’t base your life around love decisions. Honestly do it, it works great.”

Young-White began his show by describing male feminism, accompanied by a slide-show throughout his performance. He asked the crowd about what feminism is and when it started, quipping that feminism was started in “2013 by the musical recording artist Beyoncé” and that “Solange [was] the creator of black feminism.”

Young-White also related to the Reed audience with comments about the campus, Reed’s reactor, drugs, and Steve Jobs. Young-White said the campus gave him a “‘70s-like teen movie vibe, you know? Like I feel like if I were to make-out in the forest, I might get murdered, I don’t know.”

Curious about Reed’s nuclear reactor, he asked, “What the fuck? That’s just something that happens?” After a Reed student explained that operating the reactor involves “pushing six whole buttons,” Young-White replied, “Okay wow, that’s not as cut-throat as I thought. I hear nuclear and I’m like, okay, lives are on the line. People might die.”

Of course he had to joke about Steve Jobs. Young-White asked, “Is that something you guys like told your parents when you were like selling Reed College to them, like ‘Steve Jobs went there’? That’s cool.”

In regards to students distributing drugs in Easter eggs around campus several years ago, Young-White remarked, “I thought that that was woke, honestly. Redistribute the wealth and the cocaine. Do it all.”

Young-White wove various experiences in his life as a gay black man throughout his show: his experience applying to colleges, being a gay black man on the subway, trying to adapt to the LA way of life, auditioning for “gay characters not to be gay,” the sexuality of bugs, his experience coming out to his family, the rise of technology, his debate online with a black homophobic man about what it means to be pro-black, his experiences with people in Brooklyn, and learning about sex before marriage at Catholic school. Wasps are straight, by the way. Dragonflies? Gay.

“I started my first open mic when I was 19, and I didn’t get booked for my first show until last November, so when I was 21,” Young-White told the DePaullia. “Right now, I’m doing things in my life that I thought I would be doing way later in my 20s. Just because I ended up going viral, it swung open so many doors for me.”

Young-White’s comedy career has recently taken off, as he writes for the Netflix originals Big Mouth and American Vandal and he is the newest correspondent on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. In relation to the future of his career, he told the DePaullia it was “hard to say where I’ll be because the comedic environment is always changing. Growing up, I always looked up to Donald Glover, Aziz Ansari, dudes like that. Of course, like most comedians, I want to be writing, producing, making my own show, but I also love stand up. Really, I just like comedy, so whatever capacity it’s happening in, that’s what I want to do.”

Young-White is also known for his Twitter account, @jaboukie. In the same article, discussing his interest in online comedy, he added, “People look down at those who make online content, but I can reach way more people with a joke through Twitter than I could in a bar basement,” he said. “And I’m not saying a bar basement isn’t fun, they’re the best, but I just like making people laugh. And it works.”

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