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I grew up in Donald Trump's America. My high school history teachers -- teachers, plural -- openly hated on Muslim Americans in the classroom; I had a science teacher who was fired from his previous job for refusing to teach evolution, and many of my friends pooh-poohed marriage equality and immigration reform. No, I'm not from some dystopian future featuring President Donald J. Trump; I just grew up in suburban Arizona. While Trump wasn't a political leader at the time - firing people for fun from behind a tacky boardroom table is time-consuming -- you could undeniably smell the Trumpism in the hot, dry Arizona air.
Being a lanky gay Indian kid in this world felt like some kind of weird cosmic punishment. And so it didn't really surprise anyone when I moved to Los Angeles to become a know-it-all college activist. Like a moth drawn to a millennial flame, I interned at a racial justice museum in New Orleans, slogged away on Elizabeth Warren's Senate campaign in Boston, and worked with nonprofits on issues like marriage equality and HIV/AIDS awareness. I learned a lot of things by being an activist -- mainly, that being an activist is depressing. Talking about issues like poverty, disease, and crime on a daily basis just made me sad. And I think it was this sadness, combined with the unyielding dread of the place I came from, that drove me to stand-up comedy. Cliche, I know, but I found it so much easier to talk about things like homophobia and racism by laughing about them.
Last year, I went back to Arizona armed with my jokes, ready to take on the town that raised me. I performed in downtown Phoenix at Netroots Nation, a large political conference, and tore into the bigotry that drove me to California in the first place. There, I was lucky to meet some folks from MoveOn.org (that big progressive organization with the logo straight out of the '90s), and a few months ago, I joined MoveOn's election team to help put together a campaign to take on Donald Trump and his politics of hate.
I soon learned that in 2016, for the first time ever, people of color, unmarried women, and millennials -- members of what some folks call the "rising American electorate" -- will make up the majority of voters. MoveOn's research showed that these voters are inherently suspicious of traditional political messages and tend to tune them out. So we asked ourselves, "How do we reach this new American electorate with a message of unity over hatred?" And that's when my coworker said, "How about with a political comedy competition?" To which I replied, "Damn, I wish I had thought of that." After many, many email chains and conference calls, MoveOn's latest campaign, Laughter Trumps Hate, was born.
Through Laughter Trumps Hate, we're searching the country -- from L.A.'s comedy clubs to Cleveland suburbs -- to find the funniest and smartest comedians who can harness the power of humor to challenge Donald Trump, the Republican Party's politics of hate, and the pressing issues of bigotry and bullying. We're looking for voices of diverse comedians from all corners of the country, and we're going to go all in to elevate them.
So to all the LGBT comics, comics of color, female comics, and comics who just have a great zinger about the asshat that is Donald Trump, join our campaign and help play a part in taking down the ugly hatred gripping this country. Don't just ask what you can do for your country -- ask what you can do to make your country laugh so hard it'll get out and vote.
We need your voices, and we need your jokes. Because I really don't want the whole country to start reminding me of my childhood in the suburban desert.