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MicCheck! The Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon last month housed Disoriented Comedy, an all-Asian-American female comedy lineup, in Portland’s Jade District for a night of laughter and community. The self-proclaimed "first-ever (mostly) female Asian-American stand-up comedy tour" made its way back to Portland with Jenny Yang (top photo), Atsuko Okatsuka (middle photo), and Mona Concepcion (bottom photo) taking the stage. (AR Photos/Ryan Nakano)
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #19 (October 3, 2016), page 11 & 13.
Disoriented Comedy tour sells out Portland with JAM-packed jokes
By Ryan Nakano
The Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) last month housed Disoriented Comedy, an all-Asian-American female comedy lineup, in Portland’s Jade District for a night of laughter and community. Disoriented Comedy, the self-proclaimed "first-ever (mostly) female Asian-American stand-up comedy tour," made its way back to Portland for the fourth year in a row since its inception in 2012.
Much of the audience was made up of eastside Portlanders, members or supporters of APANO, and partners of other Portland-based organizations who support people of color.
"Thank you all for coming out tonight, please welcome co-producer of Disoriented Comedy, PB&J master extraordinaire, and overall hilarious person, Jenny Yang!" said Candace Kita, the coordinator of cultural work and development at APANO. She stepped back from the microphone after introducing the first of the three comics for the night. The crowd erupted in applause.
Yang, who spent most of her set on the cultural appropriation of Asian cooking and food, gave a shoutout to APANO, saying that one of the neat things about coming back to Portland for the comedy tour has been to see the growth of APANO year after year and the positive effect it’s had on growing the Asian community.
This time around, Yang and Atsuko Okatsuka, another of the three co-producers of Disoriented Comedy, were joined by Seattle-based Chamorro comedian Mona Concepcion to take the stage and engage the audience on topics of white fiancés, incessant mothers, and how to eat pho.
Okatsuka, a comedian based in Los Angeles, addressed the more than 100 people who filled the concrete floor of the Jade/APANO Multicultural Space (JAMS).
"So glad to be in Portland. I’m actually staying in this neighborhood, the Jade District," Okatsuka said as the audience cheered. "Yeah, when I got off the plane, I was like, ‘what white people?’ Right? Like all of these Chinese restaurants and Vietnamese restaurants, I feel so at home."
"My dad is so Japanese," Okatsuka continued. "My parents actually met each other on a Japanese dating game show … Yeah, my life was a joke before I was even born."
"Because I have certain roles outside of comedy — like being a mom of two boys, being a Pacific Islander, and the youngest of five kids — if I say something like ‘Who else here is the baby of the family?’ it is funny to hear how eager everyone is to say ‘Oh yeah, me too!’" Seattle-based comic Mona Concepcion said. "Many of them are hearing their story told on stage in a way they may never have thought about and in a way they can laugh about."
Concepcion has branded herself as the world’s only Chamorro stand-up comedian. She said there are many female dancers and singers in Saipan, but to be a female Pacific Islander telling jokes into a microphone is simply rare.
Which means, while Concepcion talks about raising her kids, catcalling, and keeping up with her overbearing mother, the audience is given a short glimpse into several generations of Chamorro identity.
Arts & Media Project
The evening was part of APANO’s Arts & Media Project’s (AMP) MicCheck! series, which highlights the work of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) artists and the issues that impact their immediate communities.
"One of the primary goals of MicCheck! is to illuminate the voices of APIs whose stories are often unheard," Kita said. "Disoriented Comedy specifically uses humor to achieve this goal, and its mostly female lineup simultaneously addresses the intersections of race, gender, and social justice."
According to APANO, the name of the AMP series is derived from the call-and-response protest strategy used heavily during the Occupy Movement, a technique APANO hopes to translate into its own programs to promote community awareness and participation.
In the case of the comedy tour, the response was laughter, and more often than not, an acknowledgement from many in the audience that they too had similar experiences as the comic on stage.
"To have an event like this, it’s like finally, here is someone who I can identify with, here is someone in my community who has made it," 20-year-old Helene Huynh said while waiting for the show to start.
Huynh, who grew up in southeast Portland and works with APANO in voter outreach, explained that growing up in a predominantly white area has made it difficult to find comedy that reflects the API community.
Huynh’s outlook was one shared by many who attended the event, as conversations of representation and a general appreciation for the comedians started long before the show and carried on well after it ended.
"Honestly, I feel like what’s great about the Asian-American community in Portland is how grateful they are that we come here," Yang said. "I think sometimes they express how they feel, they wish things were better for Asians, or that there was more representation, so I definitely feel a strong sense of gratefulness."
She went on to say that it was this kind of space (JAMS) and community that not only allowed her to talk about the issues of misrepresentation in Asian cuisine, but continues to enable tours like Disoriented Comedy to even exist in the first place.
The next MicCheck! event takes place Friday, October 21 from 6:00 to 9:00pm at JAMS, located at the corner of S.E. 82nd Avenue and Division Street. The event features an art installation and opening theater performance with Sabina Haque and Living Stages exploring stories of communities east of 82nd Avenue
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