By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Bombing—in plain English, a comedian stuck with an audience which isn’t laughing—happens to every comic sooner or later. Comics often liken it to dying and being reborn, like the phoenix.
But Aidan Park, one of the young provocative performers featured in the new “Asian American Eyz’d” comedy special, had to dig himself out of a remarkable hole.
Park, who is Korean American, out, and proud, remembered: “My hardest bomb was when I had to do a 45-minute set in front of an audience who were homophobic. The comedian before me made a joke at the expense of LGBT people and got a huge laugh, and so I went on right after him and I roasted him about said joke. The audience was with me, until they realized that I was speaking as a gay man. Then they shut down.”
“It was so bad that I stopped 20 minutes in and said, ‘You guys, I have to do 45 minutes to be paid, and we have 25 more minutes to go. I am gonna keep going. I appreciate your cooperation.’”
“Asian American Eyz’d: An Immigrant Comedy Special,” features Park, Korean American non-binary comic Nicky Endres (who uses they/she pronouns), and the show’s creator, Pinoy American Ana Tuazon Parsons.
Parsons was born in Olongapo, Philippines, but arrived in the U.S. at age 2. “I had an affinity for theater,” she explained. “It’s where I found my love for live performance. In junior high, we took a field trip to see [the musical] ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ and I will never forget seeing the chandelier fall (I was terrified) and Michael Crawford and Sara Brightman, just floating. In my early twenties I saw ‘Rent,’ and was a theater nerd for life.”
Nicky Endres, adopted into a family in small-town Wisconsin, remembered vividly their first inspiration for comedy.
“Margaret Cho’s ‘I’m the One That I Want’ remains a landmark moment for me. I felt so seen and represented by her: Her Asian-Americanness, her queerness, her unabashed verve in talking loudly about sex and mental health, her struggles and power as a woman in the world and in the entertainment industry. All of it made me laugh, made me cry, and most of all showed me I wasn’t alone.
“I actually did not get into stand-up for the longest time, because it took me a while to find my authentic voice. Up until I did, I was pretty much just a Margaret Cho impersonator. When I wrote my book, she was kind enough to write me a foreword.”
Parsons came up with the idea of the special, pitching it to Park, whom she’d met years before, and Endres, whom she’d met through the BGB acting studio in Los Angeles, where the special was shot. She brought in Felipe Figueroa to direct.
“As the creator, comic, [and] executive producer, it was extremely challenging both not having a budget,” Parsons elaborated. “I didn’t have a production team—this was all solo. I worked through it because I believed in this so much, and knew that our stories needed to get out there. We had people who were in the audience the night of the taping telling us they felt seen, that our story was theirs in some way, shape, or form. Those words were what kept me going.”
Asked about plans after the special, Parsons mentioned pitching scripts based on Filipino folklore. Park continues to work with the Yay Foundation, which he founded to encourage health and happiness, through humor and storytelling in general.
As for Endres, “I’m happy to keep busy juggling multiple acting mediums: On-camera acting, voiceover, comedy, and audiobook narration. I feel grateful there’s so much progress happening around inclusive casting.
“At long last, I can finally be a full-time artist. And I hope for everyone’s sake, diversity and authenticity in entertainment continues to move toward belonging, and not just inclusion.”
“Asian American Eyz’d: An Immigrant Comedy Special” is available through Amazon, and will stream on Crackle and Tubi on March 1. Consult the web for further information.
Andrew can be reached at email@example.com.