#LEH, a new video by YouTube sensation and comedian Superwoman (aka Lilly Singh), together with rapper Humble the Poet (aka Kanwer Singh), has been getting lots of attention since dropping in June. Since its release the video received over two million views and spawned a hashtag and T-shirt (#LEH). The song uses the dismissive term “Leh”(used in different South Asian languages) to critique the spending habits, social media use, and general bad behavior of so-called “millennials.” Humble and Superwoman’s video satirizes a rap video, complete with dancers, nice cars, and huge mansions, before introducing minivans, their own friends, and a more down-to-earth look at the lives of young people.
Superwoman and Humble the Poet have been making videos and music for years, and with great success online. Their work is funny and critical of how they are perceived by their peers, their parents, and strangers, for embarking on their chosen career paths. Both Singh and Singh are from the Toronto area, and their upbringing clearly influences their comedic styles.
Superwoman’s work is more strictly comedy, with a new video every week, often involving her “parents” (played by her), or a weekly Q&A session. Superwoman’s videos cover topics from the mundane (“How I Get Work Done”) to the hyper-specific (“Annoying People at Parties”). Humble the Poet’s music is more serious — “Life of an Immigrant” deals with the struggles of migration, and “Simple/Stupid Face” covers the pain of breakups.
With “#LEH,” the two bring together their skills in music and comedy for an entertaining video that may attract a wider, and possibly whiter, audience than they currently enjoy. But that doesn’t mean that they’re shying away from making comedy that emphasizes their cultural heritage. “#LEH” uses its cultural reference to talk about issues that affect people from many different backgrounds, in effect bridging a gap that exists in comedy between “mainstream” comedy and “ethnic” comedy.
While there has been a growing presence of South Asians in mainstream comedy, film, and television, South Asian characters are still often relegated to sidekick or stereotypical roles. It’s great to see Humble the Poet and Superwoman debunking some of the stereotypes that still persist in our culture, and having a great time doing it.
“#LEH” is hilarious, even if you don’t know the reference, and it also highlights the active South Asian comedy scene in Toronto, and Canada in general. For people who thought Russell Peters was the only comedian speaking from a South Asian viewpoint, #LEH shows us that there are other comedians out there hustling for a piece of the pie, and they’re worth our attention.
Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite is a writer and editor living in Toronto. She is the Arts editor at Shameless Magazine. Manisha has an MA in Communication and Culture from Ryerson University, and has been published in Snap! Magazine and The Toast.