AAPI Comedians Working in Television: An Industry Panel
Bonfire starts on Sunday, May 23rd from 8:00PM to 9:00PM Eastern / 5:00PM to 6:00PM Pacific.
Join a panel of AAPI comedians as they discuss their paths towards working in the television industry. This event will feature the following panel of writers, actors, and producers:
Mike Cabellon (Mr. Mayor)
Alex Song-Xia (Rick and Morty)
Mark Kramer (Last Week Tonight)
Nik Dodani (Dear Evan Hansen)
Rekha Shankar (Animaniacs)
Sachi Ezura (VP of Adult Animation, ViacomCBS)
Moderator: Otter Lee (Tooning Out the News)
Mike Cabellon is a Los Angeles-based Filipino-American actor (Orange Is The New Black, Crashing, et al.) and writer (Comedy Central). He was trained at the UCB and is currently an active performer, director, producer, and head writer for Webby Award-winning Story Pirates podcast. Mike was most recently cast as a lead in the Tina Fey/Rob Carlock NBC comedy series, MR. MAYOR opposite Ted Danson, Holly Hunter, and Bobby Moynihan. Mike and his sketch team GEIL have created countless sketches and two acclaimed web series: “Early to Rise” (2020) and “Night Crew” (2018). “Early to Rise” won the Audience Award at the 2020 SeriesFest. “Night Crew” premiered on Comedy Central’s digital channels after becoming an official selection for the New York Television Festival, where they landed a development deal with Comedy Central. Together, GEIL has appeared on FunnyOrDie and Adult Swim, as well as screened sketches at Quickie Fest and Red Hot Video Fun Time. Mike’s time in New York included 5 straight seasons with the BoogieManja sketch program, putting up a brand new sketch show every single month at the PIT Theater, as well as 5 straight years of hosting a bar quiz every week with Geeks Who Drink. Mike has performed on stages all over the country, including the Del Close Marathon, Comedy Hack Day, Austin Sketch Fest, Frigid Fest (part of the US Association of Fringe Festivals), UCB's 3x3 Tournament, NYC Improv Festival, SHRTWV Short Theater Festival, Penn Station Area Sketch Fest, and a paid corporate improv show on the Las Vegas strip when he was 16. Notable live shows include Mike Cabellon is: The Bachelor - LIVE!, a small role in Hockey Cops, and hosting Witching Hour featuring Jo Firestone and Aparna Nancherla. His last name rhymes with babylon, grab a swan, crab 'n' prawn, slab of flan, drab chiffon, or lab/salon. Mike is a member of SAG-AFTRA and is represented by Authentic Talent & Literary Management, CAA, and Frankfurt Kurnit.
Alex Song-Xia was born in Toronto, Ontario and grew up outside of New York City. At 18, she moved to the city to attend New York University, where she was a member of NYU’s premiere sketch comedy group, Hammerkatz, and its improv counterpart, Dangerbox. While a freshman in college, Alex began studying improv and sketch comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. At the age of 23, Alex was hired as a staff writer for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC). Since then, she has written for TV shows including It’s Personal with Amy Hoggart (truTV), Night of Too Many Stars (HBO), Comedy Knockout (truTV), and an animated show in development for Cartoon Network. They currently write for Rick and Morty (Adult Swim). As an actor, Alex made her feature film debut in 2018 with a supporting role in the Netflix original, The Week Of, directed by Robert Smigel and starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. On television, they recently appeared in an episode on season 4 of High Maintenance (HBO). She has acted extensively in independent short films, and in digital series and shorts for Comedy Central, Amazon, TBS, Funny or Die, IFC, Above Average, UCB Comedy, and more. Alex trained at the William Esper Studio in New York. Alex performs stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy. In 2020, along with five other queer and/or POC former UCB performers and teachers, they co-founded the Squirrel Comedy Theatre, a non-profit theatre and school aiming to increase inclusivity and accessibility in comedy. Alex has been profiled by Forbes and Vulture. They are playing around with using both she/her and they/them pronouns and hopes she didn’t confuse you too much. Big fan of dumplings.
Rekha Shankar is currently a writer for Animaniacs. She is the former Head Writer/performer for CollegeHumor's Hardly Working series. In 2020 she was selected for Just For Laughs: New Faces - Creators. Recently, she was a writer on Netflix’s Magic For Humans (premiering in 2021), a correspondent on Kal Penn Approves This Message, a guest writer on the Astronomy Club Netflix sketch series, Gaya the Director in Between Two Ferns: The Movie, and an ensemble player in Netflix’s Aunty Donna’s House. She is an improviser at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre LA. She is also the writer/creator of Hustle, which was an Official Selection at Slamdance 2021. Her other pilot, Queens, advanced to the Second Round in the Comedy Teleplay Pilot category at the 2018 Austin Film Festival. Ongoing credits include The New Yorker, ClickHole, Reductress, Decoded and Braless on MTV News, and being a national punner. One of her New Yorker pieces about how recipes have way too much backstory up top even went “viral.” She has also written for a Hari Kondabolu pilot (TruTV) and a Mike Kelton pilot (MTV), and improvised for UCBT NY's Harold Night and UCB's Touring Company.
Mark Kramer is a comedy writer brand new to L.A. after spending his entire life in New York. He grew up the son of a Filipina immigrant and a Jewish Brooklyn Dodgers fan, on Staten Island – where diversity meant serving tomato sauce and alfredo. Before writing he took many formative detours, like working at a juice bar for meatheads, making websites for a mafia-connected Scientologist, passing all 4 parts of the CPA exam, and sadly more. Mark is currently a writer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. His half-hour comedy ISO BALL was a NYTVF Official Script selection. He was one of a handful of writers selected for the NBC Late Night Writers Workshop and NBC Scene Showcase. He also briefly worked as a writer’s assistant at WWE. Mark writes regularly for Vulture, and has contributed to Slant’d, Funny or Die, Above Average, The Kicker, FLEXX, Weekly Humorist, and Write Label. After studying sketch at UCB, he put up monthly sketch shows for several years at the PIT as a Boogiemanja writer.
Nik Dodani is an actor, comedian, and writer, and one of the most-watched emerging talents in the entertainment industry today. Dodani co-founded The Salon, a forum for South Asian artists and executives in entertainment to accelerate the creative development of South Asian-Americans in TV and film through community organizing. Earlier this year, Dodani, along with Reena Singh and Rishi Rajani, announced the inaugural Salon Mentorship Program, a year-long program that will connect aspiring South Asian talent to established members of the entertainment industry. The 23 individuals participating in The Salon Mentorship Program were selected from a nationwide pool of over 850 candidates recruited through an open application and robust review process led by Dodani. The finalists were paired with a mentor in one of five tracks -- writing, acting, producing, directing, or executive leadership -- and will work closely with their respective mentors over the course of 2021 to identify areas of growth, discuss strategy, and expand opportunities. Mentees will also have exclusive access to monthly educational programming. Throughout last year, Dodani was also active in organizing the South Asian community in support of the Biden/Harris presidential campaign. To kick off the election season, Dodani teamed up with Meena Harris to design and release the iconic "Vote for Aunty" merchandise campaign that celebrated Kamala Harris' South Asian heritage and raised money for Biden/Harris. Dodani further rallied South Asians from film and TV for a NowThis video to celebrate Kamala Harris' ground-breaking candidacy and to discuss the power of voting, specifically in the South Asian community. Dodani, who wrote, directed, and produced the video, was joined by other Hollywood heavyweights, boosting the video to become one of the most-watched political spots of the cycle. Following the success of his first video, Dodani re-teamed with Maya and Meena Harris (Kamala Harris' sister and niece) to produce and star in a follow-up video to help motivate the South Asian community for the Georgia runoff elections. The video was the first in a series of Georgia voting videos from IMPACT, the Indian American Impact Fund. In addition to directing, Dodani co-wrote the video alongside Meena Harris. Last year, Dodani also rallied fellow entertainers in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, joining efforts to oust former LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey and co-organized a Netflix town hall in support of the #BlackAutisticLivesMatter movement. Dodani can be seen in Universal’s forthcoming feature adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen, based on the Tony Award-winning original stage musical. He stars as the quirky and charismatic Zahid on Netflix's Atypical and recurred in season two of Netflix's Trinkets. Prior to this, Dodani wrapped a series regular role on CBS' continuation of the award-winning iconic series Murphy Brown. On the film front, Dodani had a starring role in Columbia Picture's horror Escape Room and Netflix's Alex Strangelove. At the start of 2020, Dodani wrapped director Hannah Marks’ sophomore feature, Mark, Mary & Some Other People, which will be premiering at Tribeca Film Festival.
Sachi Ezura is a development executive, comedy producer and writer in New York City. She currently works as VP of Adult Animation at ViacomCBS. She has consulted in development for Irony Point, the production company behind I Think You Should Leave, Astronomy Club and The Break with Michelle Wolf. After graduating from Harvard, she decided to disappoint her parents by pursuing a career in comedy. She has produced on Refinery29’s After After Party, BET’s The Rundown w/ Robin Thede, and MTV’s Girl Code. She was Executive Producer of Development and Talent at Seriously.TV, a digital comedy channel under Verizon Hearst Media Partners, specializing in the intersection of comedy, politics, and social justice. She also worked as Director of Original Programming at IFC, where, in addition to working on Documentary Now!, Portlandia, and Comedy Bang! Bang!, she oversaw IFC's digital platform, Comedy Crib. As Manager of Development at MTV2, she oversaw casting for MTV’s hit comedy series Guy Code and Girl Code. She also co-wrote the Girl Code book, available at Urban Outfitters, and has been published in The New Yorker’s Daily Shouts. Sachi has booked and produced comedy for the MTV Comedy Showcase, the IFC Comedy Showcase, the New York Comedy Festival, the Quarterly Arts Soiree, Laughter in the Park, and the ECNY-nominated annual showcases 50 Best Jokes and 50 First Jokes. She has hosted and produced comedy shows at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, Ella, Alligator Lounge, The Grand, Webster Hall, Littlefield, Union Hall, and the Bell House. She studied improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, completing their Advanced Study program, and has performed at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival. She lives in New Jersey with her husband Jake and their daughter Ellie.
Otter Lee is a queer actor, comedian, writer, and voiceover artist born and raised in New York City. He currently plays Otter Lin on Stephen Colbert Presents: Tooning Out the News, a political cartoon on Paramount+ that airs as part of The Late Show. His standup, sketch, and improv have appeared at such venues as Buzzfeed, UCB, Face-Off Unlimited, Caveat, Union Hall, The Magnet, and The Asian American Writer’s Workshop. Otter co-produced, hosted, and took the stage for NYC’s First Asian Comedy Festival at the PIT in January 2020, selling out multiple blocks and empowering numerous comedians and groups. He followed this with Crazy Talented Asians and Friends, a virtual showcase at Flushing Town Hall. Otter’s performances and projects have been written up and featured in The New York Times, Time Out New York, AsianCrush, and World Journal.