Meet the Delaware Resident Healing Divides Through Comedy

To hear comedian Ed Blaze tell it, the thing that might finally bring humanity together isn’t a looming environmental disaster or a killer asteroid—it’s comedy.

The resident of Wilmington since 2018 and native of the east African nation of Tanzania launches a 10-date tour this month through the Midwest and southern United States. As comedians from the continent of Africa go, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah is probably the only one who leaps to mind. But Ed Blaze is determined to be the next.

And like Noah, who brings to the stage his own experiences growing up in post-apartheid South Africa, Blaze makes his upbringing with his grandparents in rural Tanzania—where he slept on goatskin blankets and dealt with giant mangy rats—a significant part of his act.

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It’s that experience of deep poverty, with which he coped by making his friends laugh, combined with his observations from more than 20 years living in the U.S., that inform his comedy, touching on situations that are universally relatable. And through that connection, he hopes to mend some divides in these very divided times.

“You try to stay neutral because politics has a way of dragging you in,” he says. “I really believe very strongly as a comedian that it’s our job to bring people together, and I really feel like politics is dividing us right now.”

Besides, in a time when political jokes are almost too easy, avoiding the simple gags forces him to be more creative in crafting a set, he says.

He’s also adamant that sitting in a darkened space laughing along with others creates a connection that can never be replicated through watching a Netflix comedy special at home. “Live events have a different effect,” he says. “People come out and laugh and want to forget what’s going on.”

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In that spirit, Blaze revels in the diversity of his audience. At a show in Rochester, New York, a woman in a hijab delightedly became part of the act when he riffed from the stage on the prejudice she likely faces as a Muslim woman. She thanked him after the show and asked to have her picture taken with him.

“It was a way to make her comfortable and to educate the other people a little about her,” he says. “I tell jokes to try to entertain, but there’s always a learning experience to be gained from it.”

Story and photo by Scott Pruden. Published as “Out of Africa” in the March 2020 issue of Delaware Today magazine.

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