WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — E.J. Masicampo knew he was destined to be in front of a crowd.

He says that growing up he thought he would be the new Magic Johnson. Instead, he has found an audience in the classroom, as an associate professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, and at comedy venues, where he does standup. 

What You Need To Know

  • May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month 

  • Asian and Asian American speaking roles in films have grown over the years

  • Comedian E.J. Masicampo is representing his community on stage and is excited to see the growth of the Asian American community in media

  • He was named North Carolina’s funniest person in 2022

“I was just very excited to learn that there's a whole field where you could conduct experiments, collect data, do experiments on people to learn about these just everyday important questions about how we relate to each other," he said. "What makes people happy? What makes relationships work? What leads to a meaningful life?"

He has been included in and conducted numerous experiments in his field. 

E.J. Masicampo teaching a class at Wake Forest University.
E.J. Masicampo teaches a class at Wake Forest University. (Spectrum News 1/Sydney McCoy)

“We try to understand how people manage their behaviors and make decisions or relate to other people. And we'll design experiments and students will get a look at their own ideas and get their own hypotheses that we'll test, that we'll run studies on," he said. "And then we'll discover new things that we didn't know before. And that's extremely exciting."

Through his lectures, he helps students see the world from a new perspective. Because psychology is such a complex topic, he will always crack a joke to keep the class involved. 

“I think one connection between psychology and comedy is just a lot of self-reflection and a lot of sort of looking at people, humanity, and in a new light," Masicampo said.

"I think the goal of every psychologist is to get people to understand themselves better," he said. "And I think good comedy does that, too. My favorite comics are people who get me to see myself or people in a new, more accurate way." 

After class, he puts this theory to the test, taking his jokes to the stage as a comedian — something he never thought he would be doing.

“I teach in front of large classes and at night, I’m doing standup comedy in front of a huge room of people. Some people are living their childhood dreams. I'm like, I'm living my childhood nightmare,” Masicampo said. 

He performs at venues across the state and country, including Cameo Art House Theater in Fayetteville presented by The Locals Comedy. With every set he does, he is bringing light to Asian Americans in comedy, something he rarely saw growing up. 

“It was incredibly rare. You know, if there was ever an Asian person in comedy, they were always the butt of the joke. They weren't the funny person. And it was always poking fun at some terrible stereotype, like you can't understand what they're saying or they're awkward or super nerdy,” Masicampo said. 

He said this community was never represented the way he would want to be seen, and getting on stage allows him to give himself and others a voice who maybe would not have gotten the chance before. 

“It is nice to be a part of what I feel like is more Asian representation and honestly, I like that part. I like just being in a space where it's clear that people like me and respect me and I'm able to be myself and I have a voice and other younger Asian people can see me,” Masicampo said. 

A poster promotes E.J. Masicampo's performance at Cameo Art House Theater, presented by The Locals Comedy. (Spectrum News 1/Sydney McCoy)
A poster promotes E.J. Masicampo's performance at Cameo Art House Theater, presented by The Locals Comedy. (Spectrum News 1/Sydney McCoy)

The comedian was even named North Carolina’s funniest person in 2022 through a contest at Goodnight’s Comedy Club in Raleigh. 

“This huge honor felt nice because there are just so many funny people in North Carolina who enter the contest,” Masicampo said. 

In a diversity report in 2023 from USC Annenberg, 1,600 top box office films from 2007 to 2022 were analyzed, with almost 70,000 characters with speaking roles. The study showed that the percentage of Asian characters with speaking roles leaped from around 3% to nearly 16%. 

“I just like to see more diversity in the voices that are represented. And I'd like to see more appreciation of there's a lot of diversity within the Asian community," he said. "That's something I talk about a lot on stage as people think of the Asian community as just sort of this one group, but it's so diverse."

"Crazy Rich Asians" had the first all Asian and Asian American cast in 25 years at the time of its release in 2018. It sits at 721 in the Top Highest Lifetime Grossing Movies list on IMBD with almost $240 million in lifetime profits. 

As a dad, he is excited to see more representation in entertainment and hopes it continues to grow. 

“I love seeing the audiences come out and connect with the things that I'm saying," Masicampo said. "Please, keep coming to shows, keep reaching out. Talk to me after a performance. I love connecting with people, talking about my experience and my culture and let's just do more."