St. Louis Park has produced some of the most influential comedic minds of recent decades, including Hollywood filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen and former Saturday Night Live cast member and political humorist Al Franken.
And the laughter continues. St. Louis Park resident Khadijah Cooper has already made her mark on the local comedy scene, just two years after she first stepped onstage at an open mic night.
Stand-up comics often rhapsodize about the sweet sound of audience laughter that compels them to keep getting back onstage. It has a drug-like pull.
Cooper had a chance to experience it at a young age. She was only 9 when her mother Ci Ci, who has been doing stand-up since the 1990s, brought her along to open mic stand-up gigs.
“Comedy has been part of my life as long as I can remember,” says Cooper. When she was 12, she and her mom had a Saturday morning local cable show that Cooper describes as “being silly on the air.”
Two years ago, Cooper took the plunge into stand-up at Minneapolis’ Comedy Corner. She talks about growing up in a Minneapolis suburb (Crystal) with a mother who was from New York and a grandmother from the South. She jokes about the stereotypical Minnesota passive-aggressiveness being a relief from her mother’s East Coast directness.
Cooper also draws material from her life as a single mom and her work as program manager of a sexual health clinic for teens. The quirks of racial differences are another topic, especially when in front of a mostly white audience. She likes to use her comedy to help people find common ground, as she did recently in River Falls, Wis., where the entire audience was white. “I may have been the only black person they saw all week,” she says. “But the room was on fire. In a good way."
Cooper averages three performances a week and has staged a solo theatrical show—an accomplishment for any performer, especially a newcomer and someone juggling parental and full-time job responsibilities. In December, she performed five shows at the Skyline comedy club in Madison, Wis. Her goal is to become a full-time comic within three years.
Photo courtesy of Jon Savitt
St. Louis Park native Jon Savitt—now based in Washington, D.C.—is building a career as a comic and humor writer. Among stand-up comics, 27-year-old Savitt is unusually entrepreneurial.
Although he’s done stand up on the road (New York City, Seattle, D.C. and Minneapolis) he considers himself a writer at heart. He’s been able to apply his knack for humor writing in a number of formats and venues.
He’s explored the topic of antisemitism in his one-man show, Carrot Cake and Other Things That Don’t Make Sense, and has contributed to Funny or Die, TIME, Washington Post, Huffington Post and more. He’s a past contributor to the YouTube comedy series Good Mythical Morning and has delivered the funny to clients from nonprofits to NBA stars.
Savitt says the ability to be funny is a family trait. “My parents are hilarious; I can connect the dots between my parents' humor and mine,” he says.
Talking about the historic link between Jewishness and comedy, Savitt says, “I think it starts with the feeling of being the odd one out ... and trying to find humor in that. We’re hard-wired at an early age to confront tragedy, to deal with complex subject matters by using humor.”
Savitt first waded into comedy a few years ago at open mic nights, and he has been refining his skills ever since. He says he’s yet to find his unique voice.
“There are so many ways people can be funny, and serve a purpose,” he says. “Comedy is a great way for people to connect, which is important in the age of device addiction. It’s another way to get people off their phones and in a room together.” Savitt’s ultimate goal doesn’t involve big money, fame or the other trappings usually associated with show biz success: “To do what I want to do, not what I think I should be doing,” he says.