HomeAsian Americans"Asian AF": Asian American Performers in the Spotlight

“Asian AF”: Asian American Performers in the Spotlight

Will Choi
Will Choi

“First you make them laugh, then you make them listen.”

That’s what actress Keiko Agena says about Asian AF,an Asian American variety show in Los Angeles to combat the underrepresentation of Asians in Hollywood, reports ABC News

The actress from Gilmore Girls and 13 Reasons Why was one of the featured performers Friday night.

The show was held in Los Angeles and starred various comedians including Kiran Deol, Amy Hill, and the improv group Voltron – it was filled with standup performances, comedy sketches, and a mock game-show segment.

“Comedy has been a difficult road for Asian Americans because we are often the butt of the joke,” Will Choi, cofounder of Asian AF, said at its fifth sold-out performance since the show’s launch last year. But, by using comedy to speak up, “we take back the control. For most performers, [Friday’s show] was their first time being in a green room filled with Asian Americans.”

Choi believes that Asian Americans can use comedy to fight against damaging stereotypes.

The concept for Asian AF stemmed from the success of Choi’s first improv show, Scarlett Johansson Presents, a kickback to the whitewashed casting of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, which originates from Japan.

Scarlett Johansson Presents evolved into a series that focused on other incidences where roles went to White Hollywood stars, like Emma Stone, when they should have gone to Asian Americans instead.

Emma Stone was under fire for playing a partially Chinese character with Hawaiian descent in the 2015 film Aloha. In a 2015 interview, Stone claimed that the criticism she received taught her “on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how prevalent the problem truly is.”

Shows like Asian AF allow comedians and actors to kill two birds with one stone: (1) they get to fight against this whitewashing through representation, and (2) they get to have dynamic roles that Asian American actors don’t really get the opportunity to play.

The “best you can hope for is a fun, quirky, ethnic best friend,” said actress Lilan Bowden, a performer in Voltron. She has first-hand experience in seeing how lead roles rarely ever go to minority actresses, as she notes how she doesn’t get her hopes up for big roles when going on auditions.

Shows like ABC’s Fresh off the Boat and Dr. Ken and films like Everything Before Us help challenge the currently White narrative; however, we still don’t see Asian Americans on screen nearly as much as we ought to – Asian AF is helping in this fight.

Related: Daniel Dae Kim Drama Picked Up by ABC, Dr. Ken , Powerless Cancelled

Related: Fresh Off the Boat Renewed, Justin Lin Gets New Series. Justin Chon, Ken Jeong and Vanessa Hudgens Snag New Gigs

“We’re showcasing Asian Americans who are talented and try to get away from the stereotypical humor usually associated with the community,” said Choi. “We want to be included in the narrative that isn’t based on race, one that focuses on human qualities and interesting characters that aren’t one-dimensional.”

Choi said that he “can’t wait for the day where we don’t need this show anymore.”

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