Ian McDonald | Staff Writer
Almost every chair in the City College Student Center was occupied well before Hmong comedian Tou Ger Xiong began his set Wednesday night.
Xiong, dressed in traditional Hmong clothing, sprinted onto the stage while pounding a drum and hyped up the crowd. It quickly became evident that the flags that adorned the walls of the student center would only add to Xiong’s positive message.
Xiong isn’t like most comedians. The stereotype behind most stand-up comics is that they all hate themselves and have a large dose of misanthropy running through their veins. This is absolutely not the case with Xiong. He loves himself and everyone around him, like he’s one part comedian and one part motivational speaker.
“Learn something new,” he encouraged the audience. “Something about somebody else, something about yourself.”
Xiong’s material mostly centers around Hmong history, culture and his own childhood. He moved to a housing project in St. Paul, Minn,. after fleeing Laos with his family in 1975, when he was only 2 years old.
“College was a cool thing and you could lie about it,” Xiong said to open his set. He said that some of the older Hmong kids he grew up with lied about going to college to impress girls. One such story involved his brother, who told a girl, “I majored in a degree.”
Between Xiong’s rapid-fire jokes and animated presence, he taught the audience the importance of culture while growing up in a country as diverse as the United States.
“You keep one foot in each heritage,” Xiong said.
Xiong’s comedy career has spanned 10 years and 45 states. It shows in his timing. Every punch line, whether it was delivered in Hmong or English, hit hard.
Xiong’s act contains many sincere moments, especially regarding his rich cultural background.
“We are not rich if you count the dollars in our pockets,” Xiong said. “But we are rich in our stories.”