At Baruch, the loudest laughs arrived when Mr. Wong, whose actual name is Xi Huang, played on that culture clash. Take, for example, his riff on an American guessing at how to pronounce the name “Xi.”
“Zee?” Mr. Wong said, to barks of laughter. “Zy?”
The crowd roared.
Cultural stumbles are a theme in immigrant comedy in New York, said Oleg Boksner, a Brooklyn comedian who is preparing a one-man show called “From Russia With Laughs.” In it he has fun with his heritage through caricatures like the transplant from Communist Russia who tries to join in with the American custom of Halloween, but scares away trick-or-treaters with his Soviet-style treats: a raw potato and an onion.
Still, some things viewed as innocuous in American comedy are verboten, and hailing from the place you are needling can be useful in knowing what to avoid — like “Your mama” jokes if your audience is Zambian. “Parents are like gods there,” said Kasambwe Mpulamasaka, an immigrant who now lives in Dallas and has performed shows for the African diaspora in New York.