Best known for his standup in the United Kingdom, Romesh Ranganathan was working as a high school math teacher before deciding to pursue his lifelong passion for comedy. Over the course of five years, Romesh went from performing pub gigs to becoming one of the UK’s most popular performers. After selling out theaters all over England and touring Australia, he decided to move his wife, mother, and three kids to Los Angeles and try to make it big in America. He recently made his late night standup debut in the US on The Late Late Show with James Corden, and he set the bar high for himself straight out the gate by buying the 5,900-seat Greek Theatre in Los Angeles to put up a show he’s calling Romesh in America, which takes place tomorrow night. He hasn’t sold too many tickets yet, but he hopes if he builds it, they will come. I talked to Romesh about his Sri Lankan heritage, making the jump from teacher to comic, and how US audiences compare to the UK.
Photo: Joshua Huston
“The Racial Equity in HCC Team, a network of about 100 Seattle parents, teachers, students and community members district wide, has worked hard this year to improve the racial equity of Seattle Public Schools’ advanced learning programs.
The Seattle school district offers advanced classes “for students who have been evaluated for and designated as Highly Capable.” To place into the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC), a student needs to score in the top 2 to 3 percent on standardized tests of cognitive, reading and math skills. SPS also offers Advanced Learning (formerly known as Spectrum) for students who have been evaluated for and designated as Advanced Learners.
However, both accelerated programs overwhelmingly consist of white students. In 2015, white students made up 45.6 percent of SPS population, but were 72.3 percent of HCC-eligible students. That same year, 16 percent of students in the Seattle School district were black, but only 1 percent were in Advanced Learning programs. Among SPS’s 12 percent Latino student population, only 3 percent were counted as HCC- and Advanced Learning–eligible students. This compares to data from the U.S. Department of Education from 2009 that shows black students comprising 16.7 percent of total U.S. students and 9.8 percent of students in gifted programs. Data from the USDE also shows that as of 2009 Latino students comprised 22.3 percent of students nationally and 15.4 percent of students in gifted programs. Among the 200 biggest school districts in the U.S., Seattle has the fifth-biggest gap in achievement between black and white students. Seattle’s white-black gap is also the biggest in Washington.”
“Staff sergeant Cathrine Schmid was prepping for physical training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord when Donald Trump sent the 6am tweets that would herald a drastic change in her career.
The country “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” read Schmid, 33, via Google alert on that morning in late July 2017. But it’s a run day, she thought. So she ran four miles.
“It’s not like I’m the kind of person to let fear get in the way of doing my job,” says Schmid, a signals intelligence analyst and transgender woman. A month later, she became a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN challenging the ban, which becomes effective March 23, 2018.”
Photo: Joshua Huston
“By the time Jackie Moffitt was 16, he had transferred schools four times and was longing for a community where he could be accepted as his authentic self — an autistic person. “Autistic people are very dehumanized in our society,” says Moffitt. “They are perceived as being incapable of emotions. People are surprised that people with autism can understand humor or love. They assume that having autism means a lack of desire to connect with other human beings.”
Seeking this connection, Moffitt discovered Theater of Possibility (TOP), a theater arts program based in Seattle and Bellevue serving kids who are “quirky, spirited, or shy or who may have Asperger’s, autism, ADHD, or other learning or ability differences,” as the demographic is described on the TOP website.
Through theater games, improvisation, and role-playing led by TOP Director Lauren Goldman Marshall, Moffitt learned to embrace many of his personal attributes like extreme extroversion and abstract thinking that he’d previously felt pressure to repress.
“A lot of times for kids with disabilities their whole life is about people telling them what they’re deficient in,” says Marshall, who co-founded TOP in the years after her own daughter was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. “With TOP, they are here first and foremost to have fun and create theater together. I’m definitely highlighting relationship skills, but it’s brought in more through the back door. It’s about making kids feel successful.”
Now 21, Moffitt works as a teacher’s assistant at TOP, supporting the next generation of autistic children as they learn and grow while they also reach a level of self-acceptance.
“It’s not just about autistic people needing to learn neurotypical social skills so they can pass in a world that is majority non-autistic people,” says Moffitt. “I think that neurotypical people should also learn how to empathize with autistic people’s perspective and communicate with them on their own terms.”
“Although Ken Marino says he learned nothing about how to be a Latin lover while directing How to Be a Latin Lover, he enjoyed collaborating on the development of such an outlandish character. The movie follows Maximo (Eugenio Derbez), an aging playboy suddenly dumped by the older woman he married for money. With nowhere else to turn, he moves in with his estranged sister Sara (Salma Hayek) and her 10-year-old son, Hugo (Raphael Alejandro). Determined to return to the lap of luxury, Maximo uses Hugo to meet a rich widow (Raquel Welch) —and learns the hard way that love and trust must be earned. Along his journey he meets Cindy, a frozen yogurt enthusiast/crazy cat lady (Kristen Bell) and two bullies (Rob Riggle and Rob Huebel) who squeeze him for cash. His best friend Rick (Rob Lowe) is the only one who understands him as a fellow connoisseur of wealthy older women.
How to Be a Latin Lover is now available on Digital HD, Blu-ray, and DVD. Marino can also be seen in front of the camera this summer on Netflix reprising his role as Victor in Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. I talked to Marino about wrangling cats, driving trucks through houses, and hypnotism.”
“The feminist Canadian sketch comedy series Baroness von Sketch Show has made a splash on the CBC and graces American airwaves on IFC tonight at 10:00pm. The half-hour show is written by and starring Meredith MacNeill and Second City alumni Carolyn Taylor, Aurora Browne, and Jennifer Whalen. Hilarious, smart, and original, the sketches vary in length and never fail to entertain. I talked to the talented bunch about the vibe of their writers’ room, their most humiliating moments as performers, and pigeons.”