While many have critiqued the racist, sexist, and otherwise prejudiced nature of comedic rhetorics, few have considered how identity-based comedy, particularly racial comedy, functions productively, rather than merely oppressively. Studies of comedic rhetorics have primarily focused on Black and white comedians, but the increasing number and variety of popular comedians of color demands investigation into how comedians from different racial backgrounds use humor to rhetorically articulate the boundaries of their racial(ized) identities. This essay theorizes comedic rhetoric, particularly stereotypes in comedy, as a constitutive form of rhetoric that can articulate generative racial identities as they exist within the ambivalent spaces of in-group stereotypes. By pairing polysemy, Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of polyphony, and Tina Chen’s theory of impersonation to analyze the standup performances of Asian American comedian Ali Wong, this essay ultimately represents a necessary intervention into understanding racial comedy and stereotypes as potentially productive sites for examining racial identity.

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