Why you should care
Because few things compete with laughing alongside 50,000 other people.
See Trevor Noah, Dulcé Sloan, Ronny Chieng and Tom Rhodes at OZY Fest in Central Park on Sunday, July 21 — alongside musicians like John Legend, thinkers like Malcolm Gladwell and politicians like Beto O’Rourke and John Kasich. Get your tickets here.
OZY Fest means New York, and it means comedy. Which means it’s the perfect event to catch three of the funniest comedians on New York–based The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. Anchoring this year’s all-star OZY Fest comedy lineup are Daily Show host Trevor Noah and correspondents Dulcé Sloan and Ronny Chieng, who, along with itinerant funnyman Tom Rhodes, promise to light up Central Park’s Great Lawn with laughter. But not all of these popular entertainers expected to end up on a stage.
Growing up in South Africa under apartheid as the child of an African mother and a Swiss-German father, Trevor Noah often faced racism. Once, when a taxi driver threatened the young Noah and his mother, they hurled themselves from the moving vehicle and ran to safety. Noah was extremely close to his mother growing up, but when he first started doing stand-up in South Africa, she couldn’t quite believe people were paying to hear his jokes. Noah, 35, told OZY Co-Founder and CEO Carlos Watson on the PBS television series Breaking Big that when he started working the stand-up scene, his mother thought he was selling drugs: “So you go away at night, and you don’t work during the day. You’re never working. And then you just have money. What do you say you do?” Now, Noah is one of the world’s most famous comedians. He sells out shows across five continents and grosses nearly $14 million from tour dates alone, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Ronny Chieng never wanted to be a comedian either.
Daily Show correspondent Dulcé Sloan also had a formative moment along the side of a road. In 2015, the comedian was fixing a tire on the side of the highway after a gig in Nashville when she got the call announcing she’d won NBC’s showcase for diversity in stand-up. The following year, she won the Big Sky Comedy Festival. Then she got an even bigger break: a coveted spot as a correspondent on The Daily Show. “I didn’t think I was funny growing up,” Sloan says. “It’s weird to be good at something you never wanted to do.” Sloan is unapologetic about her comedy, which she says reflects her experience as a plus-size Black American woman. “It’s more significant for you to hear how I am affected,” the 36-year-old says. “Just hearing about my life and what makes me laugh and what I think people should hear about … I think is a political statement in itself.”
Ronny Chieng never wanted to be a comedian either. The Daily Show correspondent was in law school in Melbourne in 2009 when he first tried stand-up — and his classmates warned him against it. Since then, he has appeared in 2018’s hit film Crazy Rich Asians and has honed his arrogant on-air persona on The Daily Show. The 33-year-old Chieng, who is of Chinese descent, was born in Malaysia and raised in New Hampshire and Singapore. He went to college and launched his comedy career in Australia. Now, he’s a cigar-bar-loving New Yorker. Chieng’s most high-profile gig (on The Daily Show) came out of the blue: He was touring when Noah emailed him and asked him to join the team.
Tom Rhodes may not be on The Daily Show, but he’s done most everything else one can do in the comedy world. At 19, he won “The Funniest Person in Central Florida” contest, and he’s been off to the comedic races ever since. Lately, that race is a global one. Rhodes’ new album, Around the World, was recorded in 24 different cities and takes listeners on an epic three-hour journey that starts in Paris and ends, hundreds of jokes later, in Jerusalem. The New York Times describes the 52-year-old stand-up veteran as “a mostly natural intellect with a knack for reporting the harsh realities of life.” Best known for his critically acclaimed podcast, Tom Rhodes Radio, he is a fixture on the international comedy circuit. Rhodes has described himself as the Anthony Bourdain of comedy and we agree.