Best martial-arts comedian (2008)

Master Lee

A tall, thin Chinese man in white robes with long dark hair walks onstage and says, "I, Master Lee, will take this wooden board, smash it against my head, and howl in pain. But first, I'd like to talk about my childhood. . . . " Despite a background in kung fu, William Lee started out busking as a juggler before turning to stand-up in the early '90s. At the time, Lee estimates that there were only a handful of Asian comics working the club circuit. There, he was able to start turning stereotypes inside out: "Here's my Bruce Lee impression," he'd tell a crowd before blankly staring back at them. For Lee, those years of work paid off, though, as he netted appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Showtime at the Apollo and Comic Relief, not to mention a cameo on Sesame Street. In addition to his comedy act, Lee now also co-hosts a monthly storytelling forum called "Talking Stick," which he insists is no laughing matter.


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