Pillbox

Jimmy O. Yang

Bringing in Jimmy O. Yang, as well as opener Julia Shiplett, Activities Board put on a fantastic Carnival Comedy Show this year. I, unfortunately, did not make it to last year’s show, but this year’s event was a definite success, packing all the seats in McConomy on Thursday and ending with a standing ovation for Yang.

Shiplett grew up with a Chinese mother and a white father, constantly braving personal attacks from her mother about looking boyish or not being Asian enough, including for roles she’s tried out for. There have been quite a few critics when it comes to biracial Asian actors playing Asians in Hollywood (including Henry Golding who starred in Crazy Rich Asians) when in reality the critics should be more worried about movies that whitewash, but I digress. Yang touches briefly on this later.

As much as this event was a comedy show, both Shiplett and Yang didn’t shy away from talking about their problems, as well as relevant social issues. In fact, most of each act was fueled by them.

Of the topics Shiplett discussed, the ones that stood out most to me were sex positivity and gender. She argued that there was a gender disparity when it comes to declaring sex positivity — it is usually more acceptable for men to discuss sex than women, but she made it clear throughout the night that sex was not something she was afraid to talk about. If I’m being perfectly honest, comedy shows always surprise me because I sometimes forget how normal it is — or how normal it should be — to talk about relationships and sex. If we’re able to discuss these things through thinly veiled jokes, we should be able to discuss them (or at least the issues regarding these topics) more openly.

She went on to complain about going to baby showers and how nobody really cares about the gender of the baby. Unless they were giving birth to a puppy or something, she thought it was uneventful and unnecessary for people to host such affairs. In her view, a human baby is just a human baby. Besides, she would prefer if gender reveals were at the discretion of the individual, throwing them as if they were bar mitzvahs or quinceaneras.

Although Shiplett was a strong opener, the excitement in the room hit its peak when Yang stepped onto stage and the audience roared its approval. You could instantly feel the strength of his stage presence merely from his entrance and introduction.

Despite this confidence on stage, he never shied away from self-deprecating jokes. He thrives on watching unscripted television, such as shows like Hoarders, because it makes him feel better about the state of his life. Even if he’s had a terrible day, the show makes it better because at least he’s not buried under piles and piles of junk. He complained about how it’s so hard as a mildly famous celebrity to be on dating apps because nobody believes he’d do it. And yet, he ponders why anyone would want to catfish with his face. He joked that he’d be the person who showed up instead.

Yang spoke a lot about racial stereotypes, the obscurity of being thanked for representation, and tips on how to use being Asian to your advantage. For example, if you don’t want to attend an event, just make up a fake — in his case, Chinese — holiday that is extremely important that you can’t miss. As someone who grew up in Hong Kong, Yang did not feel like he fit into stereotypes until he moved to the U.S. in middle school. In Hong Kong, it was normal to play competitive ping pong, play the violin, and be good at math. Everyone just did it. So when he came to the U.S., Yang tried to stray away from the Asian stereotypes and do everything the stereotypical American way.

Speaking on the “good at math” stereotype, Yang shared that his parents forbid him from using a calculator until the age of 15. In fact, it was so bad that even though Yang was forbidden from locking the bedroom door or using a calculator, he did both and explained away his forbidden door locking — without getting in trouble — by throwing out his calculator and pulling down his pants.

Yang highlighted the importance of representation. When Great Wall starring Matt Damon came out, “That was not our year.” When anime-turned-live-action film Ghost in the Shell starred Scarlett Johansson, it wasn’t our year either. Crazy Rich Asians, though? That was our year. However, Yang admitted being someone to represent others was a weird thing. He wakes up every day in this body as an Asian. It’s not a choice to represent Asians. It’s all he can do, although he would happily jump on board to play Washington if anyone decided to make a film like Great Wall based on Mount Rushmore.

Even though Shiplett seemed to be more interactive with the audience, she lacked a flow from one story to the next that Yang excelled at. He pinballed from one topic to the next with such ease that the set never got dull.

Both Shiplett and Yang offered humorous and refreshing sets that touched on a wide range of topics, both serious and more lighthearted. Speaking to other attendees, the audience definitely enjoyed this year’s Carnival Comedy Show. Sophomore David Kim told me, “I thought it was a fantastic show; Julia Shiplett was unabashedly clever and insightful, and Jimmy O. Yang’s bits were executed hilariously.”

All in all, the Carnival Comedy Show was a massive hit, and I hope the Carnival Comedy Shows of the years to come will be just as great.