Growing up, Manish Vaidya used comedy for survival.
“I was this scrawny Hindu, queer, closeted, disabled kid in Catholic school in a really white town where one of the main extracurricular activities was the KKK,” the artist and community organizer says. “I do not know how I would’ve made it through without cracking jokes,” they add. (Vaidya is non-binary and prefers the gender neutral pronoun "they").
As the cocreator of Peacock Rebellion, a Bay Area group of artist-activist-healers, Vaidya brings together queer trans people of color (QTPOC) for creative workshops, events -- and a very unusual comedy training program.
An unusual comedy school
Vaidya founded the Peacock Institute for Social Transformation -- known as Brouhaha -- in 2014. Classes, which are purposefully intimate with only 8-10 students, have focused on stand-up comedy with a social justice angle, storytelling and other areas. Brouhaha is one of very few training programs geared towards the QTPOC community. And the program is taking off. The first class garnered three times the number of applications Vaidya expected. There were 60 people on the waiting list for the current class. The most recent Brouhaha show at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center sold out. Vaidya is now planning a comedy festival.
Brouhaha comedian Sista Nau-T got a lot out of attending class. "I loved to be able to learn this craft with folks who are funny, informed, talented," Nau-T says. "And theyʼre using their powers for good.”