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ЯCJN: Russian-Jewish comedian opens up about his childhood

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Allan Finn
Allan Finn

Allan Finn is a Russian-Ukrainian Jew, who was born in Belgium and raised in the United States. Due to his mixed identity, assimilation did not come easy. Finn experienced almost all obstacles when it came down to conforming in the West. Between the physical adjustments to the cultural influences that surrounded him, there is one thing Allan Finn knew for sure: being an immigrant is hard, but channeling the obstacles through his comedy has allowed him to make a career.

Immigrating to the United States when he was still an infant, Finn spent most of his childhood growing up in the South Bronx of New York. As a child of Russian-Jewish parents, he remembers his assimilation being far from easy. At first, he describes himself as a misfit.

“My parents dressed me like it was still the 1950s in Kiev… I looked like I was ready to be in a Ukrainian parade,” said Finn, who now currently lives in Astoria, Queens, which is the most diverse city in the U.S.

It is not unique for immigrants and their children to have trouble adjusting to their new surroundings, but with a culture as rich as Russia’s, the obstacles seem amplified. Although Finn has never been to the old country, he grew up in the New York Russian bubble.

“We left the country, but the country never left us,” said Finn, whose childhood consisted of eat-ing Russian food, watching Russian television shows and shopping at Brighton Beach, a place that is known for having a large attendance of Russian speakers.

Leaving Russia, Finn’s parents moved to Israel and later to France. From France, they immi-grated to Belgium where Finn was born and from there settled in New York. Due to this parents’ immigration journey, Finn found it hard to identify with a particular culture.

“How can I belong to a crowd if I don’t know what crowd I belong to? I’m a man without a country. I’ve never been to Russia… I came here as a baby and have no memory of Belgium and I didn’t feel like I was from the Bronx.”

Because of his trouble conforming and his parents’ inability to help, Finn remembers struggling to communicate with others. He watched a lot of television to fill his time. It was through T.V. that he found comedy.

“I fell in love with it right then and there. It was love at first sight… As soon as I saw it, it clicked for me that this is what I wanted to do”

However, parental support was not the strongest when Finn decided to pursue a career in comedy.

“The furthest thing in their minds was that their son was going to become a comedian and talk about us [Finn’s parents] on stage. There’s a good chance they would’ve stayed put had they known that.”

Despite the adversity throughout his life, Finn has made a career as a comedian. He performs at comedy clubs and festivals in the United States and will be performed for the first time in Toronto at the second annual Toronto Jewish Comedy Festival on May 28.