When Kiki Yeung first began performing comedy in Los Angeles, there was a running joke among Asian American comedians: shows will only book one Asian because they think they all say the same thing.
“But we’re so different,” said Yeung, producer, creator and co-host of comedy group Crazy Woke Asians and a former Seattle resident, “and they never gave us a chance.”
Yeung immigrated to Seattle from Hong Kong when she was 12. She attended the University of Washington, where she received a B.A. in drama before moving to L.A. to take up comedy.
“There was only ever a few Asians in my classes [at the University of Washington]. Even when I became a comedian in L.A., I was still usually the only Asian in the show.”
This frustration led to the creation of Crazy Woke Asians, a comedy group made up of all Asian Americans, formed in May 2018, that comes to Seattle for performances July 24-26. For Yeung, this was an effort for representation, a celebration of Asian American comedians and an attempt at comfort. Performing comedy when your jokes, stories and ethnicity are not in the minority has led to relaxed comedians and excited audiences, said Yeung.
The show is a mix of seasoned and newer comedians who joke about anything from motherhood to dysfunctional parents to being immigrants. Some comedians have niche acts: There’s a musician and a magician who perform with the group.
“I started doing magic first. Comedy came along the way,” said Justin Rivera, a comedian who has performed on Comedy Central and participated in NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” “Magic was my way into the comedy scene.”
He will be performing alongside nine other comedians. One of them is Kazu Kusano, a stand-up comic of Japanese background. “I was a funny kid. I was always the class clown in Japan,” she said. “My parents were dysfunctional but humor saved me.”
She immigrated to San Francisco in 2008 and quickly joined the comedy community. Six years later, she joined Crazy Woke Asians. “I just feel really comfortable around the comedians in Crazy Woke Asians, like they’re my family,” she said.
And their family has continued to grow over the years.
“When I was starting out, there weren’t that many Asian comedians. It’s just nice to see how we’ve grown,” Rivera said. “A lot of the people I started out with in comedy are on TV now. You definitely see a lot more Asian characters and roles.”
But there’s still work to do. Asian women, Japanese women in particular, are often misperceived, Kusano said.
But her sheer presence on stage should be enough to change some opinions, she believes. In American stereotypes, “Japanese women are super over-sexualized and viewed as demure. When audiences watch me, I have a lot of energy and I think I can help them change their perspective.”
Crazy Woke Asians has never been to Seattle before, and Yeung can’t wait. “Coming back to do a show there is a dream come true. I’ve always hoped to bring the show back to Seattle and now we get to do it.”
Crazy Woke Asians. 7 p.m. Wednesday July 24; Unexpected Productions, 1428 Post Alley, Seattle. 8 p.m. Thursday, July 25; Laughs Comedy Club, 5220 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle. 9 p.m. Friday, July 26, Jai Tai, 235 Broadway E., Seattle. $15-$25; crazywokeasians.weebly.com