Every friend group needs someone who will make you laugh, check you on your bullshit and build you up all in the same breath. If you’re lucky, that someone is Rae Sanni, a name you should definitely become familiar with. The 28 year-old Brooklynite is making a place for herself in the comedy world, and she’s not waiting for you to catch up.
Much of Sanni’s comedy has been a reflection of finding out who she is as a black woman in this world. After dropping out from Princeton in 2009, she began her career trying to find her niche, but faced a lot of pressure to “sanitize” her comedy, and make it more relatable. “I listened to a bunch of white guys tell me what ‘good comedy’ was, and that wasn’t talking about identity,” she remarked on the time. “So there was a time that I listened, because I wanted to get respect.”
Growing up a first generation Nigerian Muslim, her parents (who have accents) were a source of “safe” material when her career began. They had high hopes for her to be a lawyer, and expected her comedy to be a phase. She asked them for their patience, and they reluctantly obliged.
As Sanni entered the thick of adulthood, mocking her traditional parents began to make less sense, and she dropped the shtick she thought people wanted to hear. “They worked so hard to help me grow that I felt bad disrespecting them,” she admitted. “Now I choose to talk about the disconnect between us culturally, so I can be respectful of who they are.”
Now as an up and coming face in the NYC comedy scene, Sanni’s comedy is at it’s most unique. “The best thing about stand up comedy is that it’s mine,” she said. “I will never tailor my material to make an audience more comfortable. I’m 28, and I’ll bring up what I want. These things [race and gender] are on my brain constantly, so they will seep into my comedy.”
She performs now on bills where she often is the only person of color or woman, a fact she finds ridiculous in New York City. “It doesn’t cross my mind too much. I’m black every day, and I’m dope. I’ll probably bring it up just to break the ice.”
When she’s not hosting her own show in Manhattan, Sanni is working on expanding her writing portfolio. Recently, she’s been writing hysterical reviews of popular television for Vulture online. Her real dream is to write for the small screen, and she’s pushing herself to finish her show concept for this year. She fears having her work edited to the point where it’s no longer “Rae” anymore, but she’s remaining positive nonetheless. “If you stick to your guns and do the art that you want to do, someone is going to pick it up and let you do it.”
Underneath it all, she’s a go with the flow kind of girl that likes politics, Twitter, social justice, and trashy reality tv shows (think Real Housewives). And years from now, when she’s written and produced her own network show, that’s how she’d like to be remembered. “I’m not a political woman, I’m a woman who thinks about politics. I’m a young black, Nigerian woman. That’s just it, that’s me.”
Rae Sanni will be at PROCTORS Saturday April 23rd at 8:00pm as a part of Pretty Much the Best Comedy Show.
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