In his one-man show Dishwasher Dreams, Aladdin Ullah draws on his father’s life experiences as a steamship worker from East Bengal who jumped ship and made his way to New York’s Lower East Side in the 1920s, settled in Harlem in the 1930s, worked for years as a dishwasher and line-cook in downtown restaurants, and for a time in the late 1940s ran one of the city’s first Indian restaurants in Manhattan’s theatre district. In his performance, Ullah recalls his parents’ attempts to raise him Muslim in Spanish Harlem and his own determination to follow his own path – through Hip Hop and graffiti art to the comedy circuit.
Leading the way for South Asians for the past two decades, Ullah has been performing all over the world as a stand-up comedian, appearing on US national television, including HBO, Comedy Central, BET, MTV and PBS. In response to the entrenched racism and discrimination in New York comedy clubs during the 90’s, Ullah created a show featuring the hottest up and coming multi-ethnic comedians aptly titled Colorblind. The first alternative comedy show to gain critical acclaim in New York, it was hailed by The New York Times as “hilariously original and brave.” He is currently at work on a documentary about Bengalis in Harlem.