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Show an outlet for Asian comedy

By Rhea Cortado

January 14, 2004 9:00 pm

No topic is off limits to laugh about with comedians. At the
scheduled time for his phone interview, Jo Koy, a regular at the
Laugh Factory, is in the emergency room because he thinks his
8-month-old son swallowed a penny. For the rescheduled interview,
Koy raves about Wolfgang Puck’s canned clam chowder that is
on sale at Vons.

These anecdotes will no doubt be molded into hilarious material
for the Laugh Factory’s “Asian Invasion,” one of
the the few weekly stand-up shows nationwide for Asian American
comedians. Mad TV’s Bobby Lee is a regular, but the entire
show isn’t strictly Asian American. Non-Asian comics usually
make up half the lineup, as Dave Chappelle has dropped in as
special guest. The two-year anniversary of “Asian
Invasion” kicks off this Saturday at midnight.

The Laugh Factory has always welcomed comics to show some flair
for their own culture with “Latino Night” every Monday
and “Chocolate Sundaes” on Sundays. Paul Kim, host of
“Asian Invasion,” relates the importance of having an
Asian comedy night.

“”˜Asian Invasion’ gives Asian Americans a
chance to talk about us in a positive way,” Kim said.
“With “˜Chocolate Sundaes’ and “˜Latino
Night,’ a lot of the jokes are for them. There is a lot of
material that the Asians can talk about in a positive way, not a
self-effacing way. They’re just talking about the culture and
it’s funny.”

Despite the show’s name, people from all ethnicities can
be entertained, and the audience typically reflects a diverse
crowd. Kim ad-libs each week with unsuspecting patrons who wander
in unaware that it is Asian night. There will always be the token
jokes about culture clashes and Asian moms, but the comedians also
talk about being parents or poke fun at their significant others or
lack thereof.

In the eight years he has been a stand-up comedian, Koy has only
worked the ethnic angle for three years.

“When I first started out, I was just trying to be funny
on stage,” Koy said. “That was a good thing because I
learned how to write all kinds of jokes. The more years that
I’ve been doing it, I started making it more built around me
and being Asian.”

In fact, to Koy’s advantage, he looks ethnically
ambiguous. He is half white, half Filipino, allowing versatility in
front of different audiences. He can work the Asian routine when
the crowd is ripe, but he has also hosted “Latino
Night” and performed at the Def Comedy Jam tour.

Koy’s favorite show was not in front of an Asian audience,
but in Honolulu opening for rappers Snoop Dogg and Ludacris. The
task of simmering down an anxious 8,000-person crowd when the
headliner is running two hours late could have easily turned sour,
but Koy rose to the occasion, as he proudly boasts.

“I thought I was going to eat it. But I couldn’t
believe it. I killed it. I did so good. That was the biggest high
for me. I didn’t think I could control those people. I
thought they were going to be pissed and whatever, but I got a hold
of them and I made them laugh and that was fun.” Koy

At two years old, “Asian Invasion” has a line-up
worth expanding and promises to breed “the next big
things” in Asian comedy. One goal is to finally have a
successful sitcom about an Asian family after stand-up comic
Margaret Cho’s “American Girl” bombed in 1994.
But as with all things, there is some painful yet necessary weeding
to be done.

“Ninety percent of the new Asian comics aren’t good.
There are so many people, like in “˜American Idol,’
(who) think they’re so much better than they really
are,” Kim said. “But (now that there is a place for
Asian comics to perform), a lot more people are trying and
that’s good.”

Tickets are $15. For reservations, call (323) 656-1336 x1 or

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