This Philly Comedian Refuses to Apologize When He Offends

Tu Rae headlines Punch Line this month.

Philadelphia comedy scene veteran Tu Rae headlines at Punch Line this month

Philadelphia comedy scene veteran Tu Rae will be performing at Punch Line from June 16th through 18th. / Photograph by Stevie Chris

My full name is … Tu Rae Z. Gordon. The “Z” is only known to people I’ve had to dispose of. It stands for “Zanas,” and my mom told me it means “the gift of God.”

I grew up in … East Oak Lane. Now, I’m in Oxford Circle.

My best subject at Cardinal Dougherty was … history. I wanted to be a lawyer. After high school, I went to Temple. A pretty young lady there told me I was funny. And when pretty young ladies tell men something, we have a tendency to believe them. So I became a comedian.

When I told my family I was going to pursue comedy … my mother thought I was crazy. My dad said, “Vera, before we condemn this kid, let’s see if he’s any good.” They have been my biggest supporters.

My first job in life was … as a paperboy for the Daily News. Too much work for the money. I had all these apartment buildings, and somehow, everybody on the top floor wanted the paper.

My style of comedy is … all about real life — a running dialogue on society as it exists every day.

The problem with some comedians is that … they feel like they need to be pointedly political. Sometimes, their sets can feel like outbursts in a therapy session. People just want you to be funny. They don’t want to watch a bunch of thought pieces and emotional rants.

When you start apologizing to people, those people have power over you.”

When I offend somebody with a joke … I don’t apologize, assuming what I said was in the spirit of comedy. But things are different now. It used to be that a comedian might offend you and you’d sit at home and complain to your friend about it. Now, with social media, one offended person can quickly find 500,000 more. But when you start apologizing to people, those people have power over you.

One thing most people don’t understand about this job is … the travel. I drive five hours to get to some gigs. I like to say that I’m paid for getting there.

The problem most regular people have when they try to tell a joke is … that they think it’s funny and it ain’t.

My wife always tells me … what she does not like.

Our kids are always telling me … “You don’t understand.” My lady and I have eight between us.

The last big vacation I took was … the same one I take every year: the Soul Train Cruise in January.

The funniest movie I ever saw was … There’s Something About Mary. I hollered. That movie was stupid. But the funniest stand-up movie is Eddie Murphy Raw.

My parents taught me to … work harder.

I like to collect … comic books. I got the first one when I was eight: X-Men number 183, with Colossus fighting Juggernaut on the cover. I bought it at the 7-Eleven at 65th and Old York.

Ten years from now, I hope to be … performing at my own comedy club. I’m actively working on that plan.

If you really want to annoy me, you will … call me instead of texting. I talk for a living. If you’re not paying me, just text.


Tu Rae will be performing at Punch Line from June 16th-18th.

Published as “One of Us: Tu Rae” in the June 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.