Review: Asian Comedy Night – What are the 10 most misunderstood things about Asians?

Review:  Asian Comedy Night – What are the 10 most misunderstood things about Asians?



At the afterparty – OPM with Vancouver's Charlie Cho (Hot Sauce Posse) back row: Charles
Kim, Charlie Cho; front row: Janina Gavankar, Ewan Chung, Vancouver's
Philip Gurney, and Jae-Suh – photo Todd Wong

A man steps into the spotlight with a guitar slung over his
shoulders, and a jet black pompadou hairstyle.  The sound track is
Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” but the words are strange.  It’s
about being Asian, racing “rice rockets” on “Streets of Fire.” 
It’s comedian Tom Chin, doing yet another karaoke musical send up.

The
7th Annual Asian Comedy night opened on May 26th at the Round House
Community Centre, produced and presented by Vancouver Asian Canadian
Theatre.  Flipping racial stereotypes is the norm, and white
actors are the exotic rarities.  The mostly Asian crowd laughed,
tittered and guffawed.  Even the white folks laughed and had lots
of fun identifying with the humour.

“Vancouver has a lot of inter-racial relationships…” starts Vancouver stand up comic Jeffery Yu,
a former social studies high school teacher. “Everybody thinks that
mixed race people are so exotic-looking,” he says and goes into a joke
about how Asian/White couples always seem to be Asian female / White
male.  Yu has lots of jokes, and the audience gets lots of
laughs.  Yu will be featured in a CTV comedy special later this
year, and was written up in the Georgia Straight last year.

“You’re
just not french enough!” say three Asian casting directors who are
auditioning a white actor in a racial role reversal.  “This is the
first time in a long while that we are casting an all-white cast in a
move.  Try a little more Catherine Deneuve, a little more French
Maid.”  

The female actor is clearly exasperated, trying to
please them, but clearly failing in her attempts to portray what they
“think” is French.  Finally she says, “I really don’t want this
part that badly,” like so many Asian actors who get frustrated trying
to portray what white casting directors and producers “think” is Asian,
or Chinese, or Japanese, etc.

“Maybe we can get Keanu, or Meg
Tilly,” the directors decide.  They’re half-white already, nobody
will know the difference.

OPM (Opening
People’s Minds) is a sketch comedy troupe now based in Los Angeles,
after first originating in Seattle.  Charles Kim and Ewan Chung
are the leaders with Jae-Suh and new kid Janina Gavankar.  They
also individually make the tv acting round in L.A. individually racking
up credits in ER, Strong Medicine, Girlfriends and Las Vegas. 
This is one talented troupe! 

The skits are fast and
furious.  Kim plays a Japanese rapper named “50 Yen,” or was that
Chung who did it?  Sometimes Asians look alike to me.  But
there is no mistaking their abilities to quickly change characters from
one skit to the next.  Omigod, it’s like an Asian version of
Saturday Night Live with an all-Asian cast, presenting stories with
Asian themes, as well as a wonderful skit about a male car mechanic and
a female car owner who (gasp!) took her car to a different mechanic for
a hose job, when he was too busy.  The double entendres and the
acting were spot on!

Some of the better characters involved an
Iron Chef spoof featuring the North Korean leader dictator Kim Jong-Il
with a “Capote” accent,
and Savuri from “Memoirs of a Geisha,” the night’s performance who
tries her best to become an “exotic dancer.”

For
the Vancouver show, they are joined by Hot Sauce Posse member
Philip Gurney, their token white actor.  Gurney was only able to
rehearse for about 40 minutes with OPM, but seemed to fit
beautifully.   Saturday's show promises to be an even tighter
smoother production.


Jeffery Yu, Tom Chin and Kermet Apio – at the afterparty! – photo Todd Wong

Kermet Apio
grew up in Hawaii, a land and culture that I consider to be much more
interculturally and accepting of inter-racial relationships.  He
now does stand up comedy in Seattle and tours nationally.  “You
learn to laugh at yourself when your name is Kermet,” he says. 
Apio spins jokes and stories about growing up named Kermet as well as
growing up Hawaiian.  

“How was school today?” my parents would ask when I would come home.

“How do you think it went. I’m named Kermit,” he replies.

“I
was first born,” starts Apio,  “I was the guinea pig. My parents
learned with me as practice.  My sisters got normal names.”

It’s
a friendly “in the know” crowd at the Roundhouse.  They know what
it’s like to grow up Asian.  But the comedy is universal. 
It’s the situations that we laugh at.  The stereotypes, the
mistaken identities, the misunderstandings.  But Asian Comedy
Night goes beyond the obvious.  This is also a night of social
commentary.  Yes there is racial discrimination, but we don’t have
to get down about it.  If we can laugh at the world and ourselves,
we’ll do okay.  

Thanks to Vancouver Asian Comedy Night,
the world is safer for Asians and their friends, and hopefully the
world will understand better why Asians are such bad drivers, don’t
understand the concept of tipping, think White people all look alike,
and why we speak with funny accents.

Check out the Comedy
workshops at the Roundhouse on Saturday afternoon, as well as the final
show on Saturday night.  It's well worth it.  Take your white
friends… or your Asian friends… even if just to have an excuse to
make fun of each other later.

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