I have always been interested in stand up comedy. I joke around a lot. I like to make people laugh. For me, it’s my way of getting close to people and making them like me. I’ve always thought of myself as a jack of all trades; there are a lot of things that I can sort of do, but few things that I can actually do well. Making people laugh is one of those things.
I only started doing stand up in Hong Kong. I had been to a couple of open mic nights to watch other comedians, and I started to think, “Hey, I can do this.” So I did, and it went well. Other comedians were super welcoming (which I think is actually kind of rare. From what I understand, a lot of comedy communities can be very cliquey and it can be hard to break into the group). After a while, I was asked to be on my first showcase, a five-minute set.
There were two moments that really upped my confidence and they both involved my friend Anto Chan. The first was when he asked me to do a spot on the show he ran, called The Varietea Party. He started it as a way to bring together comedy, poetry, storytelling, music and other types of performance art. The different art communities in Hong Kong really don’t associate with each other too much, and he wanted to change that. Anto asked me to do a 10-15 minute set.
This made me nervous. By this time, I had been doing comedy for about a year, but the most time I had ever been given was 7 minutes. How in the world could I do double that? It sounded like so much.
I sat down, wrote new material, and practiced in front of my mirror. Then I practiced again, and again. I was so nervous when I got on stage (and a little drunk, in an effort to fight the nerves) but I made it through and killed it. I was so proud of myself and also, so excited that someone had enough faith in me that they could give me a shot.
When Anto and his amazing girlfriend (and my very good friend) Jen left Hong Kong to move back to Canada, we had a roast in his honor. I had never done a roast before, but Jen and I got together with another comedian named Mike (who, together with Chris Musni, founded the comedy group I work with most, Comedy HK) to write our jokes. I had seen plenty of Comedy Central roasts and was most nervous about getting roasted myself. I had a hunch that everyone would pick on me for my weight, so I prepared a few jokes about it in advance. I’m pretty proud of this one:
It’s so cool that we were able to get so many brilliant comedians together in one room so we could all take the cheapest shots possible. I guess the reason everyone mentioned my weight is because there is literally nothing else to make fun of me for.
I got a lot of positive feedback from this and that did a lot for my confidence. When Anto left, I took over his show and am currently in charge of The Varietea Party. We’ve had a few ups and downs, but overall I love running this show.
Comedy, for me, is a way to vent my frustrations. I talk a lot about feminism, about trying to make it in a different country. I talk about my boyfriend and about growing up the way I did. It’s a bit like therapy. The audience listens and responds, and maybe some of them can relate.
As I mentioned, comedy has also done a TON for my confidence. I’ve never been shy, but I didn’t always have the greatest self-esteem, mostly because I’ve always been the fat friend. I always felt like the one at the party that people didn’t really want to talk to, the one who was keeping dudebros away from my more attractive friends. But when I get on stage, it’s like something inside me lights on fire. I make fun of my weight and it makes it less significant. Instead of being something that I feel insecure about, it turns it into a joke, and it hurts less.
Being a chick comedian isn’t all shits and giggles. There aren’t many of us. I do believe that female comedians need to work twice as hard and be twice as funny as men, only to be taken half as seriously. Chick comedians also get harassed a lot. We had one guy in the Hong Kong scene who creeped on the women and made inappropriate comments on their Facebook photos (and once left me a creepy ass voice message) but fortunately for us, he moved away.
Plus, you have those douchecanoes who say that women aren’t funny. This, in spite of the fact that female comedians are kicking ass. Amy Schummer, Amy Poehler, and Tiny Fey are taking center stage. Rashida Jones, while not technically a comedian, is creating a new show. Sarah Silverman just blasted Donald Drumpf on Conan, and Jessica Williams is the most talented correspondent on the Daily Show (while Samantha Bee is killing it on her new show, Full Frontal). Margaret Cho is touring Asia, and I was lucky enough to see her and do a meet and greet. Though I had heard of her before, I had never really sat down and listened to her comedy. I left feeling so, so inspired. I’ve also seen Gina Yashere twice in Hong Kong, and she is hilarious, crude and hopefully, will become a household name. In spite of all the difficulties, I think that right now is an awesome time to be a woman in comedy, and there are some amazingly cool women to look up to.
For me, comedy is about bringing a room of people together. I love creating a cool spot for people to come and relax on a Saturday night. I’m not changing the world through comedy, but I am helping people enjoy themselves. I’m that bright spot in the day, and it’s good enough for now.