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'Stand Up Planet' Follows Jokes To Serious Global Issues

By NPR Staff | 05/11/2014

Terrible things are everywhere — and so is laughter. The documentary Stand Up Planet, premiering on TV May 14, features comedians in India and South Africa confronting very serious issues.

"Comedy is one of those few things where you can discuss those things," says the film's host, Hasan Minhaj.

Minhaj, a Los Angeles-based comedian, says the goal of the project was to follow the jokes in to people's lives.

"I think the best comedians have that bravery and courage to say, 'This is what it is, this is unfair, that's not cool,' " he tells NPR's Arun Rath.

For the project, a comedian from South Africa and another from India performed in Los Angeles at the Laugh Factory comedy club.

Aditi Mittal is one of only three English-speaking, female comedians in India. Soweto-born Mpho Popps brings awareness and laughter to the realities of the AIDs epidemic in South Africa.

"They did great," says Minhaj. "Everybody at the show at the laugh factory, they loved them."

Minhaj says he was thankful for the opportunity to put a spotlight on comedy, and important causes.

"I think the way comedy is represented on screen is it's either all fart jokes — and it's just laughter for the sake of laughter — or it's one of those things where it's just kind of very preachy, very heavy-handed," Minhaj says.

"I think this project was one of the few things I've done in my career where it bridges that gap, and we dance in both circles."
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