Asian American comedians reclaim their narratives in S.F. ‘Asians Are Funny’ fundraiser – SF Chronicle Datebook
“You think all Asian dicks are small?” asks Chinese American comedian Jiaoying Summers, setting up her quick and effective response to the stereotype. “Did you suck all of them?”
Summers plans to bring her uncensored, unapologetic comedic stylings to Pa’ina Restaurant and Bar Friday, July 8, to perform alongside local comedians Nicole Tran and Bradley Lum as the headliner of the “Asians Are Funny” comedy fundraiser. Proceeds from the event will help the groups Stand With Asians and Asians Are Strong fund awareness campaigns, grassroots political efforts and safety resources for Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
Lum, the evening’s master of ceremonies, has been performing comedy since the mid-1990s, when he found early internet success with his character Tai Mai Shu, an Asian rapper. Born in San Francisco and raised in Daly City, Lum, who is Chinese American, performed in Los Angeles and Hawaii and then across the United States as part of the “Cocky Asians” comedy tour before returning to the Bay Area. Though he is no longer performing full time in order to devote energy to owning and operating his own catering company, Lum has never stopped doing comedy on the side.
“I’m all about the cause and bringing awareness for the Asian community,” Lum told The Chronicle about getting involved with “Asians Are Funny.” Although he has not been personally affected by an increase in anti-Asian violence, Lum says he is taking part in the fundraiser to create a safer future for the most vulnerable members of his community. “I wouldn’t want my mom or any of my relatives to be affected or intimidated by somebody, or even attacked,” he said.
For Summers, her Chinese American and immigrant identities are integral to her comedy. Born in China’s Henan province, Summers moved to the United States for college at age 18 and later moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. After cracking some jokes during an audition for the police drama series “Rebel,” executive producer John Singleton suggested that Summers try her hand at comedy.
Always the “funny girl” growing up, Summers decided to take his advice and performed at her first open mike in 2019. Since then, Summers has performed at renowned clubs including the Laugh Factory and Caroline’s on Broadway, accumulated more than 1 million followers on TikTok with her sketch comedy videos and has two clubs of her own: the Hollywood Comedy and the Pasadena Comedy.
Summers’ experiences growing up in China and living as an Asian American woman drive her mission to combat Asian stereotypes and increase Asian representation in the comedy scene. She frequently challenges colorism, expectations that Asians are “exotic” or “shy,” and other harmful beliefs in her material.
“Have you ever seen an Asian woman?” she asks. “Because the toughest people I know are Asian women.”
Being the mother of two young children further inspires Summers to use her voice to promote lasting change. “History shows what happened to Chinese Americans in America and what happened to Japanese people after World War II,” Summers told The Chronicle. “And there are all these weird stereotypes about Asian men and Asian women that are very insulting and can potentially really hurt the ego and mental health of young Asian kids in school.”
While amplifying the Asian American perspective through her work, Summers also talks about a variety of topics and experiences in her sets. “I’m just a comedian who is commenting on what’s happening right now. I happen to be an Asian woman, but being an Asian woman should not define who I am,” she said.
“Asians Are Funny” is the first — but hopefully, not last — show of its kind by Asians Are Strong and Stand With Asians. Summers is in discussion with the organizations to potentially arrange up to five or six AAPI-centric fundraisers each year. “I think it’s my responsibility as an Asian American performer to put the fight in my art, to really make a difference on the level I have. Maybe it’s not big enough, but it is going to make a difference.”
“Asians Are Funny”: 9:30 p.m. Friday, July 8. $15-$38. Pa’ina Restaurant & Bar, 1865 Post St., S.F. asiansarefunny.rsvpify.com
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