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updated: 12/5/2013 5:37 AM

Comedy Central star headlines Lombard diversity event

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  • Keegan-Michael Key, left, star of the Comedy Central show "Key and Peele" with Jordan Peele, will be a guest speaker at a diversity conference Friday in Lombard.

    Keegan-Michael Key, left, star of the Comedy Central show "Key and Peele" with Jordan Peele, will be a guest speaker at a diversity conference Friday in Lombard.
    AP File Photo


If you can laugh at yourself, you're more likely to accept the differences that make us unique.

That message is a theme of a diversity conference coming Friday to The Carlisle in Lombard.

It's also why Keegan-Michael Key, star of Comedy Central's "Key and Peele" and an alum of Chicago's Second City, is the headliner for the Images and Perceptions Diversity Conference.

The event caters to CEOs, educators, social workers and others in the professional community, but is open to anyone who's interested.

"This conference is not about talking to people, it's about talking with people and entertaining them as well," said Siham Jaafar, founder and producer of Detroit-based Images and Perceptions. "Using the concept of comedy, it engages people more. They don't realize they are absorbing and learning."

Key, for six seasons a cast member on the show "MADtv," himself comes from a bi-racial background: his father is black and his mother is white. Jaafar was turned on to Key by her son, who watches "Key and Peele." Key did a similar conference in Detroit earlier this year.

"His comedy and his skits come with a very diverse message and address a lot of cultural issues," Saafar said. "He is very culturally in tune, very diverse in nature, extremely well-versed. You can tell from his skits how in tune he is to creating comedy and also having a message for the comedy."

A discussion on diversity is important for anyone that comes into contact with a diverse constituency, Saafar said, to better create an understanding of others and share that understanding with others in their communities.

"You can't appreciate what you don't understand," Saafar said. "Building a bridge across that cultural divide always gives a different perspective. People are more apt to understand and process a message."

The conference also examines the images of different ethnic communities portrayed in media, film and television, and their implication in education, government and corporate America.

Also on tap to perform is stand-up comedian, radio personality and journalist Ray Hanania, who wrote a column for the Daily Herald for several years. Hanania, a Chicago native, is a Palestinian-American married to a Jewish woman raising their son Jewish and will speak on "Comedy in Confronting Stereotypes."

"He really speaks to what we are trying to address, that we can live in harmony and we want the same things," Jaafar said. "We try to address the point that we have more commonalities that we should embrace than differences. Even with different backgrounds we all have kids, we all have jobs, we all want the same things in life."

The conference is from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at The Carlisle, 435 Butterfield Road, Lombard. The cost is $100, $25 for students, and includes breakfast, lunch and workshop materials. To register, visit

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