According to Stats Canada, one in five Canadians was born someplace else and nearly 40 per cent of us are either recent immigrants or part of immigrant families. Actor Peter Keleghan, whose own family story is featured in Firsthand doc Once An Immigrant says, “with every immigrant to our country comes a new story.”

There's something special that happens when you grow up straddling the traditions of your immigrant parents with contemporary Canadian life. That something — in these super-star cases, at least — can translate as comedy gold. Meet five hilarious Canadians who mine their ethnic backgrounds for their winning brands of humour.

Kim’s Convenience

New CBC hit series Kim’s Convenience, based on an award-winning play,  tells the story of the Kim family who move to Canada to set up Korean grocery in downtown Toronto.

Janet the first born Canadian daughter of immigrants Umma and Appa Kim, clashes with her parents about her future.

The series was conceived by actor-playwright Ins Choi, who lived above his uncle’s convenience store — called Kim’s Grocery — as a child and channelled his own memories into the production. 

Kim’s Convenience is breaking new ground as Canada’s first TV sitcom starring Asian actors — a great fit as Asians have been the largest ethic group of immigrants to Canada in the last decade. 

Russell Peters

Iconic Canadian funny guy Russell Peters mines his father’s Indian heritage to highlight ethnic, class and cultural stereotypes.

 

Peter talks about his dad becoming a Canadian by planning a backyard BBQ made with "white" food

He’s now a comedy superstar, packing arenas around the world and star of his own Netflix series, Russell Peters: Almost Famous. His humour is not exactly tame.

“If you’re politically correct, chances are you’re not coming to one of my shows. I get to go onstage and say things that everybody thinks all the time, but can’t say out loud.”

Mangoes

Debuting in 2012, this Canadian/Pakistani series features three millennials from Southeast Asia who live together and try to make it in Toronto. The name “Mangoes” is a take on is a take on "common people" (the Hindi word "aam" can mean both common and mango).

Brothers Adeel and Khurram Suhrwardy produce, direct and star in the series. Pakistani pop legend Alamgir is featured in the theme song.

For Adeel Suhrwardy, the idea for the show came from his experiences growing up in England and North America, where he felt the need to create relatable Pakistani characters in response to existing depictions in the media. “We have the same aspirations like any other citizen of any other country,” says Suhrwardy.

In one episode. “Rakay” is attracted to “Kiran” a former neighbour from Pakistan. But Kiran, who came to Canada as a young girl, looks down on him for being un-Canadian. Her friends call Rakay a FOB – fresh off the boat.

Season 2 trailer for Mangoes

The show developed a cult following online but the second season was didn’t land until the summer of 2016, more than three years later.

Both seasons of Mangoes (sub-titled in English) are available as a digital series online and aired on ATN in Canada.

Dr. Cabbie

Dr. Cabbie is a Canadian movie about a newly-arrived immigrant doctor who is forced to become a taxi driver. After delivering a baby in his cab (and falling in love with the mother), he becomes a local hero and converts his taxi into a mobile medical clinic. The lead role is played by Kunal Nayyar, star of “The Big Bang Theory.”

 

Movie trailer for Dr. Cabbie

Co-star and producer Vinay Virmani  was taking a late night cab ride in downtown Toronto when he got an earful from an Indian doctor who naively thought he could come to Canada and practice medicine only to find himself forced to drive a taxi. “I was really moved by the driver’s story,” he says, “to dedicate so many years into training and sacrifice and then to be told: ‘Sorry, we don’t recognize you as that.’”

The cab driver’s reality was confirmed by a 2012 federal study, “Who Drives a Taxi in Canada” which found that immigrants are over-represented among the nation’s 50,000 cab drivers, many with degrees and skills that are not utilized.

The movie was well received and became the second highest-grossing film in Canada. It’s now available on DVD.

SuperWoman, aka Lilly Singh

She's one of the most popular (and wealthiest) vloggers in the world and she hails from suburbs of Toronto. Lilly Singh's humour (she also had a small role in Dr. Cabbie) is all about poking fun at social stereotypes, especially her fictional parents, played by Singh herself. Her entertaining spoofs have rocketed her to the big time with more than 10 million subscribers, making her one of the most successful YouTube personalities of all time.

Born in Scarborough, Ontario, Singh’s parents are originally from India and she was raised in the Sikh tradition. Punjabi culture and her traditional parents are often the subject of her comedic videos.

 

Singh plays both her parents in a recreation of how she thinks they would react to Nicki Manaj’s video for the song Anaconda.

In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Singh admitted that she gets so many lines for her Manjeet character directly from her dad that he’s asking her for royalties!
 

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