Dis/Orient/ed Comedy Show

Female Asian-American comedians show their talents and tips for students

Katie Eleneke/ The Collegian.  Comedian Jenny Vang, gives career storytelling advice to students, faculty and other Asian-American professionals present for the workshop on Sunday, Feb. 9 at Fresno State.

Katie Eleneke/ The Collegian
Comedian Jenny Vang, gives career storytelling advice to students, faculty and other Asian-American professionals present for the workshop on Sunday, Feb. 9 at Fresno State.

An all Asian-American female stand up comedy group came to Fresno for a tour stop on Saturday, in addition to participating in a career storytelling workshop at Fresno State on Sunday.

The Central California Asian Pacific Women (CCAPW), a non-profit that helps spread awareness about Asian-American women in the Central Valley, produced Dis/Orient/ed Comedy to the Tower Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Fresno State lecturer of Asian-American studies, Gena Lew Gong, is the president of the CCAPW and helped organize both events with the help of the Asian Faculty and Staff Association of Fresno State (AFSA) and Jenny Vang, the co-producer of Dis/Orient/ed.

Gong thought it was a great opportunity for her students and others to attend both events as it would help show the diversity within the Asian-American community in the Fresno area, as well as the career fields in which Asian-American females are not well-represented.

“I teach Asian-American studies here [at Fresno State] and I encouraged all of my students to go to both the show and the workshop, because it shows the diversity of the community and Asian-American women doing things outside of the norm that I guess people would not envision typically Asian-Americans, especially women doing,” Gong said.

The CCAPW raises about $10,000 every year for Asian-American women that are continuing students or incoming.

The show hosted the largest audience the tour has seen so far, with more than 700 people in attendance. Vang said that she and other organizers are already thinking of coming back next year and possibly having a Latino and Asian oriented show because of the large diversity of minorities in Fresno.

Vang started doing stand up four years ago and said she figured out that her voice could be used as a platform for her identity. After meeting many other aspiring comedians, Vang wanted to know how many Asian-American female comedians there are in the U.S.

“Launching this Dis/Orient/ed comedy tour as a touring show was about building a network and community,” Vang said. “It’s been very empowering to also hear the diversity of our shows and just how talented folks are; it’s inspiring to me and it keeps me going.”

Vang got involved with the CCAPPW through her friendship with Gong and said that they thought bringing the tour to Fresno would be a great outlet for CCAPPW to connect with other groups of the Central Valley Asian community.

“Launching this comedy tour as a touring show was about building a network and community for Asian American female comedians and for the general Asian American community in general,” Vang said. “Just through her eyes, I got to appreciate what Fresno is about.”

The workshop included tips related to advancing one’s career, including how to practice an “elevator pitch.” The idea is that if you were stuck in an elevator with the person you want to work for or give you the next step in your career, what would you say to them?

Three of the six Dis/Orient/ed comedians came to help the participants go through the practices, including comedians Helen Hong and Atsuko Okatsuka.

Fresno State students and faculty along with high school students and other professionals in the Asian-American community attended the workshop.

Freshman student Malina Lynn, who is a member of the Amerasia club and volunteered for the Dis/Orient/ed show on Saturday, said the group is an inspiration for the Asian-American community.

“They’re teaching us things that we wouldn’t otherwise know about,” Lynn said. “I think it is breaking down stereotypes of Asian-American women because a lot of people don’t think Asians can’t be funny and that’s a negative because a lot were laughing at the show.”

Vang gave several points in how to go about an “elevator pitch,” and said the pitch should be under two minutes, honest, and give a narrative about the goal.

Hong said the best tip she can give is to be honest. Hong missed an opportunity when she was first starting out as a comedian, when she was actually in an elevator with Saturday Night Live creator and producer Lorne Michaels and said nothing to him.

“The chance is never coming back, and just try to be fearless because as women first off, and as Asian secondly, we’re always pulling back and we don’t want to offend anyone,” Hong said. “If you are trying to get a point across, you have to take a risk, because the person next to you will be the one to get what you wanted.”

Hong got her start nine years ago after tagging along to her friend’s stand up comedy class in New York City and has continued to pursue her career as a comedian and actress since. Hong recently acted in the Golden Globe-nominated film “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and hopes to be cast in new pilots for the upcoming fall season of television.

“I think it’s important to realize there are a lot more of Asian communities that have been in the country for a long time and there are people like Jenny [Vang], Astuk [Okatsuka], Helen [Hong] that are pursuing their dreams and aren’t confined to what certain societal expectations are,” Gong said.

For more details about the Dis/Orient/ed comedians and their show, their website is www.disorientedcomedy.weebly.com.

Correction:  On page 4 of the Arts & Entertainment section on Feb.10 contained a misspelling of Jenny Yang’s name. The  organization of the Central California Asian Pacific Women abbreviation contained a misspelling. The correct abbreviation is (CCAPW).

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