“I just wanted to say fingerblast in a university that was founded by Presbyterians,” said Comedian Jenny Yang while doing stand-up for a crowd of 60 to 70 students in the Great Hall of the Student Union Wednesday, October 25.
Yang’s comedy touched on a range of topics such as race in America, love, body positivity, the political and social struggles of being Asian American, feminism, sex and boba tea.
Yang opened the show in Mandarin, attempting to gain audience participation in a free-style Chinese rap. As only three students in the audience said they spoke the language, the opening was intentionally designed to cause and release the awkward tension that always surrounds the beginning of a stand up act.
To get to know the audience she did a nationality/ethnicity roll-call. After shouting out to Malaysians, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Burmese, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians, Native Hawaiians, Native Alaskans, Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, Middle Easterners and mixed ethnicities, a process which took a solid five minutes, wrapped it up with a joke.
“Who are we missing? Who are we missing?” she pretended to contemplate. “White people! Oh, that’s right! Okay, yeah, huh, it just occured to me. I’m sorry. Left you as an afterthought.”
“Now you know how we feel!” she exclaimed to laughter and applause with a silent tension from some white audience members who were turned off by the joke.
“Do you like how that one roll-call took up literally ten minutes of the show?” Yang said. “That’s how invested I am in that joke.”
She talked for awhile about statistics she has learned about TU and comparisons between our tiny school and her alma mater, Swarthmore College, a private school in Pennsylvania with an undergrad total of 1,500 students. Among those comparisons were the average nerdiness of the students and whether Captain Cane was better or worse than Phineas the Phoenix.
She opened her next topic saying “clap it up if you’re in love,” and then noted a “three micro-second hesitation,” which she thought was nice because it was real. Unlike how Hollywood portrays love, Yang said, “It’s good to connect the head, the heart and the head.”
Talking over the laughter she commended the crowd on for being sensible.
“For a long time I was almost like a professional dater,” Yang said. “When I got on that online dating, I hit it hard … I hit the online dating hard, not much else.”
She lambasted Tinder for being too casual and making people more judgemental. “Swipe right on their photo if you think they’re hot, swipe left if you think they’re not. Hot or not, as if dating wasn’t already a game enough,” she said.
“No, no, no, no, no,” she said pantomiming swiping on her phone. “I was able to blow through thousands of local men … Not literally,” Yang said to mounting laughter.
“If half of the men that I said no to on Tinder showed up at my doorstep with homemade Mac & Cheese and a password for HBO GO, they’d be in,” Yang said.
“Are we on board yet white people?” she continued.
She segued into the demographics of TU, a fact which even the mention of caused a wave of giggles.
She noted being excited to talk to TU’s Asian students, and while she remembered there being an acceptable number of international students from Asian countries, she wanted to meet the domestic Asian-American students, because she was raised in the US.
“They gave me the statistic, ‘All domestic people of color, .5 percent,’” she said, groaning in frustration at the end.
She asked to meet with the domestic Asians and was told, “oh, you mean like the three or four, you can meet all of them in one minute.”
Yang described growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles that was so non-white she didn’t know stereotypes about Asians held by white people.
She talked about “learning whiteness as a second language” when she first went to Swarthmore. Apparently this included lunchables, tater-tot hotdish, tuna casserole, tevas and L.L. Bean.
“When I got to Swarthmore College, I got super militant,” Yang said. “I thought I was the second coming of Asian Malcolm X.”
Junior year at Swarthmore apparently one out of three students study abroad. When her professor asked Yang why she wasn’t she said “Bitch, I am abroad.” A joke that was doubtfully true but still drew uproarious laughter.
“I was born in Taiwan. I came to this country when I was five years old. I’m still trying to figure this shit out every day!” she said.
“I like to shout out to political Asians because America has this view like ya’ll don’t think political Asians exist,” Yang said, condemning Americans on the idea that Asians don’t have political views or a desire to voice them.
“Here’s the thing though, as a political Asian, we do not have a unifying language, nor a good unifying chant,” Yang lamented.
She admitted to being jealous of the Chicanx and their “dope” and “militant” chants. “As a political Asian, we don’t have a comparably dope chant.”
When it came to feminism Yang said, “but don’t get me wrong. I don’t want equality. I want to oppress men.” She won wide laughter and clapping from the ladies in the room. She joked about how tampons are currently charged as a luxury item.
By far the best joke of the evening started out as a question to the audience about whether or not they have been “so horny … so turned on … that you’re just like ‘Ohhh, I’m going to give myself carpal tunnel.’”
She then made quick up and down motions with her right hand while moaning the words “and you have the laptop open … [moans] … and you got a live stream going … [warbling] … and it’s the Facebook live of the NBC affiliate in Atlanta, Georgia, and they’re tearing down the confederate statue of Robert E. Lee.”
The laughter after this particular joke continued well into the start of the next joke.
Yang concluded with a freestyle rap about boba tea and then went into a Q&A for those who wanted to stay where she discussed her work with “Angry Asian Man,” experiences as an Asian and as a woman in comedy, and the barriers to political action of Asian-Americans.
I enjoyed the political edge, but I may be biased in favor of liberal political humor. Overall, her comedy can resonate with college students regardless of political leaning. I now consider myself a fan of Jenny Yang.