By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“At the start of [the virus outbreak,] we were in California, in Indian Wells. A girl on the street saw my husband and I walking in the street, and was loudly wondering what ‘the Asians’ were doing out. That we should be staying locked in and we already spread it.
“I thought, ‘Yup, here we go.’ I wasn’t surprised, but it doesn’t make that gut-punch hit any less,” said Seattle comedian Ellen Acuario, a native of South Korea, as she recalled coming face-to-face with virus racism. But Acuraio, working in cyberspace alongside many other talents, has, if not a solution, at least a plan to strike back.
Kiki Yeung, a former Seattle resident now living in Los Angeles, masterminds the Crazy Woke Asians comedy group. After canceling a few real-life events to the virus, she decided to put on the first Crazy Woke Asians Virtual Comedy Festival, running live over the web, via Zoom, from May 8–10, with the express purpose of pushing back against virus racism.
The festival will feature comedians and performers—many Asian, but some not—from Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, Bay Area, Florida, Atlanta, Mississippi, Chicago, Hong Kong, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
“We had to postpone the Crazy Woke Asians Solo Performance Festival from May 28–31, to September 24–27,” Yeung explained. “We partner with NBC, and the festival features over 60 comedians in 4 days on three stages at the Santa Monica Playhouse.
“We wanted to celebrate Asian American Pacific Heritage Month in spite of the stay home order, especially due to the rising coronavirus racism against Asian Americans. We had a comedy show live on Zoom, and a karaoke party on Instagram, with great feedback from the audience. We just felt a need to create a comedy festival to spread laughter during this time of fear and uncertainty.”
Jesse Warren, another talent on deck for the festival, moved to Seattle after growing up in Bellevue.
“I actually was inspired to do comedy after seeing parallels between joke writing and engineering,” he said. “As a software engineer, I was inspired by one-liner comedians like Mitch Hedberg, because I could see how logical patterns could be applied to the writing of a one-line joke.”
Acuario arrived in America from South Korea at “age 8, without speaking a word of English, on my first flight ever in my life, by myself.” In terms of performing inspiration, “I of course was blown away by Margaret Cho, but I myself never thought I could do comedy until I started to get a taste of storytelling comedians like Mike Birbiglia that resonated with me.”
As for how the festival will go down across the web, Yeung laid out the technical details.
“We will be live streaming on Zoom from May 8 at 5:30 p.m. to May 10 at 10:30 p.m. Each performer will login to Zoom 15 minutes before showtime, so we will all be on [the same] screen together at once virtually! It’s pretty fun, the audience feels like they are socializing with us.
“The ticket holders need to download the Zoom app on their laptop or smartphones. Login 15 minutes with the meeting ID and password provided to watch the show or join a workshop. We have a 90-person max capacity per show on Zoom, so get your tickets early before we are sold out.”
In addition to regular comedy performances, the festival also features online karaoke, online yoga, and inspirational material.
Staying strong, and staying funny, in the face of the virus and the racism, isn’t easy. But Acuario offered a few tips.
“I just try to remember, I am resilient. I’ve been through worse and come out on top. I can use this to fuel me and not let it destroy me. Try to find the funny in it.
You know that saying white people use… when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade? Well I made my first batch of kimchi ’cause nobody out here’s giving me lemons during quarantine. Also I’m out here making real food, not a fruity drink when life gets hard.”
To access the Crazy Woke Asians Virtual Comedy Festival, visit crazywokeasians.com.
Andrew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.