By Sarah Kittle
If you can’t laugh at yourself, you have no business laughing at anyone else. That is the heart of comedy. “I’m allowed to make fun of who I am,” says comic Eric D’Alessandro, “and what I know.”
Comedian Vincent Oshana says about himself and his colleagues, “We are modern day philosophers.” Both funny men will star in a comedy show benefiting the Chaldean Community Foundation (CCF) on Friday, October 4 at the MotorCity Casino Hotel’s Sound Board Theater.
Almost three-fourths of the way through an $8 million campaign, the CCF is raising money to complete the construction of a 19,000 square foot expansion to their center in Sterling Heights, and begin construction on a planned community a few miles to the north on Van Dyke Avenue.
For almost 14 years, the Chaldean Community Foundation has been supporting the immigrant community in southeast Michigan. Since 2006, they have been teaching English as a second language, helping with paperwork, and providing pro bono legal assistance, medical care and auto loans to new Americans, mostly refugees from Iraq fleeing religious persecution.
The brainchild of Paul Jonna and Carlo Koza, this fundraiser hopes to have the audience rolling in the aisles and building funds. Ticket prices range from $50 for a single ticket to $7,500 for presenting sponsor, which includes a suite with 20 meet and greet tickets.
Oshana, the event headliner, has his own special on Comedy Central presented by Kevin Hart and has been featured on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam. He began his career in the family living room in Yonkers, imitating cartoon characters and TV personalities.
Raising money for the Foundation is important to Oshana. Of Assyrian descent, he is proud of his Middle Eastern heritage and likes to use his medium to poke fun at stereotypes. “Any Middle Easterners in the house? Yeah? SECURITY! Security, right over here…”
Excited to return to Detroit – where he had his best show in memory – Oshana passed up a chance to do a show in Dubai. Such is the power of Carlo Koza that one phone call persuaded Vincent to come to the Motor City and headline the benefit. “Chaldeans love to laugh, love to give, love to get. It feels good to prepare a show for them.”
There is no need to prepare material, however. Oshana has plenty. He is creating it in his head all the time. It takes real talent to look at life unfiltered and ask yourself, “How can I make this funny?” Each day brings new material.
Like the fact that he is Assyrian. People don’t know what that is.
“Does that mean you’re from Syria?” he is often asked. The subtle nuances between Assyrian, Syriac, and Chaldean are hard to explain, but none of them come from Syria. A friend told him Chaldeans were “like the Armenians, but richer.” The differences don’t matter to Oshana. It’s all sand, he says.
Comedy is a calling. Jokes may be learned and timing perfected, but true comedy is genuine. Oshana has been doing stand-up comedy for almost 15 years and says it is “1,000 percent harder than it used to be. Everyone is so easily offended nowadays.”
He likes to open with recent events, and sometimes making that funny is hard work. How does he make a situation where he is busting the so-to speak doors down as an Air Force Staff Sergeant in Iraq funny? By imagining that it’s his uncle’s house and that he gets a good dressing-down. He has heard his share of gasps and groans. Influenced by comedic genius such as Dave Chappelle, Oshana just likes to keep it real. A true storyteller, he has found his voice.
Also lending his voice and his own authentic, organic version of humor for the benefit is D’Alessandro. D’Alessandro became an internet sensation by posting videos of himself poking fun, doing impressions and calling attention to the absurdity of everyday life.
His Italian American heritage bred a culture not unlike that of Chaldeans, centered on faith, food, and family. He’s relatable, personable and personal, posting photos of his own life on Instagram. Everything he sees becomes fodder for his comedy.
Influenced by talent such as Jim Carrey, D’Alessandro is a physical comedian. His impressions are scarily spot-on while utterly ridiculous at the same time. He grew up with a video camera “the size of my head” in his hands. He always knew he wanted to perform and thought he might one day make a living as a musician.
Like most comedians, D’Alessandro is a writer at heart. He jokes about things he notices every day, things like pop culture and materialism. Comments on Instagram Live told Eric there was a huge audience in Detroit for his jokes.
The CCF is hoping that is true –they have 1,000 seats to fill in MotorCity Casino’s Sound Board Theater.