By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent
When Keith Kawamoto heard a bit by Tim Conway Jr on KFI-AM 640 imitating a Japanese American woman, Kawamoto “couldn’t believe” they were doing that.
The sketch on May 3 involved the long time Los Angeles radio host supposedly interviewing the wife of sportscaster Vic the Brick Jacobs, Yuko Sakamoto.
Producer and voice talent Sheron Bellio played Sakamoto.
“The imitation was so stereotypical with the character saying “Moshi-moshi” & “Ah-so” type comments in a sing-song voice interspersed with karate screams with gongs gonging in the background,” Kawamoto said to AsAmNews.
Kawamoto showed AsAmNews an email from Conway denying the intention of the sketch was to mock Asians.
“It wasn’t an attack on Asian Americans. It was an impersonation of Vic the Brick Jacobs who is known for his Zen sayings, Haikus and his wife’s name happens to be Yuko – it would’ve been the same impersonation if her name was Jane Wells,” Conway, the son of the late comedian Tim Conway, wrote.
AsAmNews reached out to both the show and the programming department at KFI.
“The last thing we wanted to do was hurt anybody,” said program director Robin Bertolucci in a phone interview with AsAmNews. “The whole thing was that people start acting as their spouses.”
Assistant Program Director Neil Saavedra explained that Jacobs is an over- the-top personality who wears “funny hats” and regularly recites haikus and uses gongs as part of his normal routine.
“The voice you’re hearing is not an Asian tonality. Its them doing an impersonation of Vic,” he said.
“Under the microscope of the horrendous stories (anti-Asian hate) going on in our community, we can hear why that would have landed differently.”
Here’s the sketch. You can decide for yourself.
Saavedra said they would like to have an on air conversation with Sakamoto about what happened. They are also open to inviting a representative of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans which Sakamoto has reached out to for support.
Saavedra asked us to listen to a video of Jacobs alongside the bit done by Conway and Bellio.
“The segment was inappropriate & offensive & shouldn’t have been allowed to broadcast,” Kawamoto said. “Especially in the wake of all the anti-Asian hate, it is particularly irresponsible. It could be seen as encouraging racists to think, “If he can do it, so can I!”
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