‘Crazy Woke Asians’ Comedy Takes Aim at Stereotypes & ‘Cheap Laughs’


Kiki Yeung, founder of the touring standup comedy show “Crazy Woke Asians,” hopes her San Francisco debut is memorable. And not just for herself and the other performers, but for the audience as well—particularly those in the crowd who may buy into the insidious stereotype that, as she puts it, “Asians are not funny.”

According to Yeung, those who attend the show, which opens at 8 pm tonight at Cobb’s Comedy Club, will find that the comedians who take the stage are far from a monolith.

“We’re unpredictable,” she said.

Standing Up Through Comedy

Yeung has long struggled with defining herself. An immigrant from Hong Kong, she moved to Seattle at the age of 12. As a teenager, she felt the sting of American prejudice when she discovered that even though she could speak English, her British accent only compounded her otherness. So, she worked to eliminate it in the hopes of assimilating.

But try as she might to fit in, she found that nothing was ever good enough. Later in life, when she became a professional actress working in Southern California, Yeung said she was consistently cast as the “token Asian.”

In 2017, after giving birth to her child, she started looking into standup comedy. At first, she thought it would be easy for someone with acting experience to get up on stage and tell jokes. But “it’s a totally different thing,” she said, explaining how she was “terrified” as a rare Asian female in the very white and mostly male world of standup.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

She said her breakthrough came when she decided to simply start speaking her mind. Yeung began talking about her immigrant family, her marriages and experiences as a mother. In the process, she subverted racist narratives that Asians are quiet, prudish and shy.

“[Asian comedians] do talk about sex and dating,” Yeung said. “They’re not afraid to go there.”

A Community of Comics

Working her way around the Los Angeles comedy circuit, Yeung ran into other Asians making audiences laugh. In 2018, she had an idea to bring together all the Asian comedians she knew under the banner “Crazy Woke Asians”—a cheeky riff on the book and film, Crazy Rich Asians.

See Also


Comedian Danny Plom performs during his appearance at the Crazy Woke Asians Stop Asian Hate Fundraiser at The Comedy Chateau on March 29, 2021 in North Hollywood, California. | Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images

The “Woke” in “Crazy Woke Asians” is a reference to a term that is often used as derisive shorthand for political correctness run amok. And while some of the comics performing at tonight’s show may take aim at progressive overcorrection, Danny Plom—a Cambodian American who performs with the Crazy Woke crew—said there’s a fine line between telling a perfectly crafted joke and crossing the line into blatant racism.

Plom said he disagrees that comics should be able to riff about whatever they want, free from scrutiny. “I talk about my life, I talk about my appearance,” Plom said. But he is always mindful to find “clever and tasteful” ways to get his point across.

Because even though he may be annoyed by the PC police, there are few things more offputting than a “cheap laugh.”

Thursday, Aug. 4.8 pm, $25+
Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave.

Sunday, Aug. 7, 7:30 pm, $25+
Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave.

Han Li can be reached at [email protected].

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