AANHPI People Can Be Funny Too

At the ripe age of 31, I had a sudden thought: “Maybe I could be a comedian too?” 

This was after seeing comedians Jenny Yang, Irene Tu, and Zarna Garg perform on stage in Washington, D.C.—a show where Asian Americans were the majority of performers. In fact, Garg, an Indian immigrant mom, was the headliner of the show. 

I mean, I never actually want to perform comedy. I can’t even listen to my own voicemail greeting. But their jokes were familiar to me, their stories accessible. I wondered if I had seen them when I was very young—if I had seen Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) on a big stage perform standup—whether it would’ve opened my mind up to new possibilities. 

The point of AANHPI representation is not just seeing Michelle Yeoh on a Hollywood billboard. It’s not just that Simu Liu and his boy-next-door smile and his abs and his seemingly extremely approachable girlfriend now have more than 3 million followers. It’s the idea that there are AANHPI people who operate in all spaces of media and our lives and that we belong there. 

This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), I’ve been celebrating how ubiquitous we’ve become in U.S. culture. We are not just a stock photo for an office ad, a supporting actor with three lines in a film, or simplified caricatures of our identities and heritage. We are complicated main characters, villains, science fiction writers, chefs, influencers, lobbyists, and comedians. We’re in Congress and state legislatures. We are everywhere that everyone else is. 

If you’ve watched the show Beef—featuring two AANHPI actors—you know what I’m talking about. The show is entirely about two (mostly) bad people and their completely unhinged feud after a traffic incident. That is the whole plot. And now, an AANHPI-dominated show doesn’t have to be about anything else anymore. It can be about people who have complex lives and desires irrespective of their Asian identities. 

This year, APAHM feels like a renaissance. AANHPIs can be the main character. I can’t wait for what next year has in store for us.