Albinism: Caught Between Dark and Light

'Black Albino' Gig Works for Stand-Up Comic

Victor Varnado often begins his stand-up comedy routine by announcing that, yes, he is a "black albino." He is also one of the most successful entertainers with albinism in the country, appearing alongside Eddie Murphy in "Pluto Nash," Arnold Schwarzenegger in "End of Days" and on the sitcom "My Name is Earl." But it hasn't been easy.

"I was doing this show where I didn't mention that I was an albino," Varnado said. "And someone in the audience raised their hand and they were like, 'Are you an albino?' That was a question. And I was like, 'Oh, yes, yes I am.'"

But being the "black albino comic" has sometimes made getting gigs a struggle.

"I was auditioning for yet another sketch show and I got to the final, final casting call and the casting director sat me down," Varnado, 40, said. 'Victor, you're always very funny, but the thing is ... you don't fit into our mold.' I know what the mold is. It's like funny white guy, funny fat white guy, black guy, maybe an Asian girl. There's never a 'black albino guy' rounding out the cast."

Now, Varnado's working on his own labor of love -- the "Awkward Kings of Comedy," a showcase for black comedians who fall outside of the mainstream.

"If you were to ask the 17-year-old me, if I had a choice of not being an albino, I would say, yes, I would definitely not want to be an albino," said Varnado, who grew up in Huntsville. Ala. "But you ask me now, I would say, no, because I would be a different person and I kind of like who I am."

For more information about albinism, visit the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation's Web site.

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