‘Yellow Fever’ at Red Gate Arts Society
By Isabelle Orr, Entertainment Editor
There comes a point in almost every stand-up set where a comedian (often white) makes an off-colour (pun intended) joke that completely takes me out of the set. I find even some popular Asian comedians rely on jokes that make white people feel safe, giving them an “in” on cultural jokes and allowing them to laugh at the expense of others.
The aptly named Yellow Fever, held at Red Gate Arts Society on November 14, did the complete opposite. The show’s described as a “night of comedy by Asians, for Non-Asians, and also Asians.” Produced by Anna Cran, Tin Lorcia, and Matty Vu (all of whom also performed), the small space was packed with people. Interstitial music was, fittingly, Japanese Breakfast, Mitski, and choice gems from the Mulan and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift soundtracks (for any interested parties it was “Tokyo Drift” by the Teriyaki Boyz—a certified banger). Other comedians included Soo Jeong, Andrea Jin, Cory Lupovici, and Bradley Fung.
Jokes were centred around, but not limited to, the Asian experience. This included earning parental approval, interracial dating, and hardships faced in the comedy community. Family dynamics were explored, traumas unearthed, and popular culture dissected. Several comedians were of mixed descent, while others spoke on the queer experience, adding layers to the comedy that resonated with the crowd.
As a Chinese-Canadian, it was invigorating to see comedy where being Asian wasn’t the unfortunate punchline to every joke. Lorica said in an interview with the Other Press, “An Asian comic making jokes for white people only stands to reinforce stereotypes. It contributes to that feeling of ‘otherness’ that we already face every day.”
Laurel Krienkie, a Japanese-Canadian friend of mine who attended the show with me, echoed my own feelings. “It was amazing to hear something similar to my own life experience, instead of hearing about how a white comedian hates his girlfriend for the millionth time. It spoke to me on a personal level that I’ve never really experienced before at a stand-up show,” she said.
Ronald Dario, a regular at Little Mountain Gallery and the host of Blood Feud, said to the Other Press that though he saw diversity in the audiences of open mic nights, most of the comedians were white.
“More Asian people should, and can, do comedy.” Dario said. “I try and diversify my shows as much as I can. More voices contribute to more shared experiences—which are always hilarious. It was amazing to see an almost fully-Asian crowd tonight.”
Red Gate has been working to expand its scope from mainly music to include comedy, spoken word, and other artistic performances. Yellow Fever is a step in the right direction, showcasing both local talent and cultural voices. Lorcia said that a follow-up show is being planned for February 2019, where I (and several of my friends) will be in attendance.