On Valentine’s Day, Netflix released Ken Jeong’s first ever comedy special titled, ‘You Complete Me, Ho’ :
In his first-ever stand-up special, Ken Jeong pays tribute to his wife and shares stories about Hollywood and how “The Hangover” saved his life.
in honor of his wife, Tran Ho, who has been cancer free for over 10 years:
“It’s a play on my wife’s last name, which is Ho. It was actually her suggestion for that title,” he said. “Netflix wanted a catchier title than what I initially pitched, and Tran, my wife, thought ‘You Complete Me, Ho.’ We were both laughing hysterically and I pitched it to Netflix and they loved it. In many ways the act and the title were inspired by my wife. I look at is as almost like a one-man show touching upon my family and my wife with a bunch of dick jokes.”
In the special, Jeong talks about his marriage and his wife’s brush with breast cancer 10 years ago, while the camera cuts to her reactions in the audience. According to Jeong, the cutaways were the idea of “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu, who also helmed “You Complete Me, Ho.”
The comedy show was filmed at The Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena, Calif., where he got he first performed stand up for his wife.
Without any plans for Valentine’s Day evening, I had a chance to watch the special and was pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t a ton (there was some) of overlap material (from what I recall – I admit, I had a few required drinks) from when I saw Ken perform back in April of last year with a fellow Asian American Duke alum – where Ken also went to school where he called my friend and I out as “Duke dorks,” as we were seated near the front.
” … working on, and being recognized from, his role in three Hangover movies, as well as riffing about his ABC sitcom, Dr. Ken, and how he’d still be sad about its cancellation if he hadn’t hopped on a plane and shot his first scene for Crazy Rich Asians the following day. Jon M. Chu, who directed Crazy Rich Asians, also directed Jeong’s special.”
and how his wife inspired him, especially his difficult times when his wife was battling cancer around the time when The Hangover opportunity materialized and was filming. If your a Ken fan and have Netflix, I highly recommend the special.
In Ken’s media blitz to promote his Netflix comedy special, I caught this great 20+ minute GQ YouTube video, Ken Jeong Breaks Down His Most Iconic Characters:
where he talks about his most iconic characters, including his roles in ‘Knocked Up,’ ‘The Office,’ ‘Role Models,’ ‘The Hangover’ trilogy, ‘Community,’ ‘Bob’s Burgers,’ ‘Dr. Ken,’ ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ and his recent hit TV show ‘The Masked Singer’.
Get the day's stories from 8Asians.com, delivered to your inbox every evening.
Asian Americans are in more and more TV commercials these days, but when I saw this Wells Fargo ad, it immediately caught my attention. Rather than the familiar white man Asian woman couple commonly portrayed in commercials, it has an Asian guy married to a non-Asian woman of color (either African American or Latina or both – hard to really tell here). There have been a few commercials with an Asian male in an interracial relationship like this one of Asian male and white female, but I personally don’t recall any commercials with this particular pairing. I also like the fact that the Asian American guy isn’t a nerd or martial artist and seems pretty outgoing and worldly.
While Wells Fargo has been in the news lately for a variety of problems and lapses in judgment, I would have to agree with the commercial that eating out a lot can really strain a budget. This ad was part of Wells Fargo’s rebranding efforts called This is Wells Fargo.
When she was 14, Diana Chao began experiencing severe pain in her eyes. The pressure buildup in her eyes was diagnosed as uveitis, an inflammatory eye disease that caused her to go temporarily blind. For the next four years, she repeatedly visited doctors to find the cause of her uveitis, which would recur every few months. When an ophthamologist mentioned that she had seen the same symptoms in patients with mental illness, it dawned on Chao, who had been experienced depression as a child and was also diagnosed with bi-polar disorder as teenager, that her mind might be affecting her body. This article from the Philadelphia Inquirer talks about Diana Chao and how somatic symptom disorder, a form of mental illness that manifests itself as bodily symptoms, is actually common in Asians and Asian Americans.
How does mental illness manifest physically in Asian Americans? The article mentions that how chest pain, headaches, and stomach problems with no known physical causes are common in Cambodian refugees, many of whom are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It also talks about a Filipina American who experienced daily stomach pains which an organic cause could not be found. This Filipina traced back the source of her problems to being sexually abused as a child. These kind of stories are very familiar to me. I have a relative who had persistent stomach pains for which no physical source could be found. Alleviating anxiety and depression were key to making her pain go away. One explanation for why somatic symptom disorder occurs in Asians and Asian Americans is that many Asian cultures stigmatize mental illness and tend to repress talk about feelings, causing mental problems and issues to manifest themselves in other ways.
As for Diana Chao, she attributes fewer episodes of uveitis to better mental health treatments. Her own story is remarkable. Despite suffering from uveitis symptoms and dealing with bi-polar disorder, she is a photographer who has placed work in prominent places and is currently a sophomore at Princeton University. She advocates for mental health treatment, giving a TedxTeen talk on the subject and founding a nonprofit called Letters to Strangers, which aims to destigmatize mental illness and to increase access to mental health care for people aged 13 through 24. I had previously written about Wendell Tang, who suffered from mental illness but did not receive treatment. Diana Chao shows that students with mental illness can thrive, even at intense Ivy league institutions, when they receive treatment.
Back in September 2018, I did a review of a movie Baby Steps on 8Asians. The movie was written, directed and starred Barney Cheng. I was still so intrigued with the movie, that I got in contact with Barney and asked him to do this 8Questions segment for 8Asians.
Before we get to the questions, a little bit about Barney from his wikipedia page
Barney Cheng is a Taiwanese-American actor, director, writer and producer. Cheng was born in Taipei, Taiwan. His family emigrated to the United States when he was 12 years old and he grew up in Brea, California. He speaks Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese Hokkien fluently.
and from his own official site:
Barney Cheng landed on the Hollywood map as an actor in 2002 with his acclaimed performance in Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending. The New York Times described Barney’s comedic timing as “surgically precise.” The Orange County Register raved that Barney “steals every scene he’s in.” Barney accompanied Woody Allen to promote the film and to open the 55th Cannes Film Festival.
On to the questions:
1. How did you get the idea for the movie Baby Steps?
I came across a story about a gay couple from Israel. They wanted to have a baby, but since it was illegal for gay couples to hire surrogates in Israel, they flew to the U.S. to work with an American egg donor. They flew to India to transfer the embryos to an Indian surrogate. Nine months later, they traveled across the globe to pick up their baby. I was intrigued by the couple’s emotional and physical journey, and I could see that as a movie. Then I thought, “What if it were my life? What if I had a partner, and we decided to have kids?” Baby Steps was conceived.
2. You wrote, directed and starred in Baby Steps, how similar are you to the main character Danny?
Very different. The movie is fictional. I’m single and don’t have kids. However, the film is inspired by the relationship between my mother and me. She definitely evolved throughout the years. The more than 20 years of her evolution — coming to terms with my coming out to full acceptance — was captured in the 90-minute film!
3. What advice would you give a gay Asian American who wants to be a parent?
To be visible, open and out. It’s important to be proud of who you are and be a role model for your child. Being in the closet conveys a message of shame, and that would be detrimental to the child’s development.
4. I read that you showed Baby Steps in mainland China. What was that like?
The State Department under the Obama Administration hosted U.S. embassy screenings of the film in six cities in China. At the screenings, the staff at the American consulates handed out study guides to highlight American culture and LGBT marriage equality. After the screenings, I was surprised to learn that many Chinese audiences didn’t think that the story was plausible. It seemed like a fairy tale to many Chinese audiences. Many of them just couldn’t imagine coming out to their parents and getting the kind of acceptance that Danny received. They also couldn’t imagine living openly as gay people and having children as gay parents.
5. Who are your role models and influences on your work?
I don’t have specific role models for my work, but as a storyteller, I always aim to be authentic, real and truthful.
6. Compared with Danny, how supportive have your parents been in your career, life, and movies?
I remember when we were filming Baby Steps in Taipei, my mother would make me breakfast each morning to make sure that I was well-prepared for the long, hectic day ahead. We would have early 5 o’clock calls, and my mom would get up at 3:00 a.m. to make me breakfast. She didn’t have to say anything, but I felt that she cared. Taiwanese parents rarely say explicitly “I love you” or “I care about you.” They show through actions.
The movie was released theatrically in Taiwan. When we were promoting for the release, it was very important to me to be an openly out filmmaker and actor. One of the important themes of Baby Steps is being open and authentic, and our promotion campaign had to be consistent with that vision. My mom joined me on a TV talk show to promote the film. My mother openly shared her struggles of coming to terms with having a gay son. She invited all of her friends to see the film in theater. And my mother enrolled friends and relatives to join her at marriage equality rallies in Taiwan. Through Baby Steps, she “came out.”
7. Do you have any new projects in the works you can tell us about?
I’m developing a TV series called “Curated Lies,” and it centers around an Asian-American family in a wine country. I’ve recently finished filming a transgender love and acceptance video for the Asian-American LGBTQ community. It’s called A Love Letter. Please check it out: https://youtu.be/
8. Where can someone watch “Baby Steps” now?
All digital platforms. We recommend Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/yawje8ry
EDITOR’S NOTE/UPDATE: Aubrey placed second, earning Silver Medal at US Figure Skating Championships. On that strong performance, she received her first international assignment from Team USA, and competed at the 2019 Bavarian Open in Oberstdorf, Germany. Henry placed 7th overall at US Figure Skating Championships. He’s getting ready for the new season after taking some time off for an adventure to Shanghai, China.
By Helen Mendoza
Southern California teens Aubrey Ignacio (15) and Henry Privett-Mendoza (16) will compete next week at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, MI. They have a lot in common: a love of skating; big families, and they’re both US Figure Skating novice level competitors. Together, these two Filipino-American skaters are bringing island style and a champion’s grit and determination to the championships.
For Aubrey Ignacio, who was crowned the 2019 Pacific Coast Sectionals Novice Ladies’ Champion in November, this is her first trip to the US Championships. Aubrey fought through a back injury and faced tough competition to win gold in Utah. “I’m so proud and blessed to have watched Aubrey mature both as a person and a skater this season,” says proud mother Ophelia Ong. Prior to her championship performance in Utah, Aubrey earned a Silver Medal at the 2019 Southwest Pacific Regional Championships. In 2018, she was the Southwest Pacific Regional Intermediate Ladies’ Champion. Aubrey is coached by Amy Evidente and Wendy Olson. Her short program was choreographed by Cindy Stuart. Her long program, a medley of songs from the Broadway show, “On Your Feet: The Musical”, was choreographed by Jamie Isley.
Henry Privett-Mendoza also fought through injuries for much of the 2018-19 season. “It was tough being hurt,” said Henry. “I had to be really patient, keep working to get better, and trust that it would come together.” That patience and hard work paid off when Henry won the 2019 Southwest Pacific Coast Regional Championship in October and then followed up by placing 2nd at Pacific Coast Sectionals in November. For Henry, who picked up a US Championship medal in 2015, this is his 5th trip to nationals, qualifying at every level he’s competed. Henry is coached by Robert Taylor and Rudy Galindo. Galindo, a USFS Hall of Fame inductee, is also Henry’s choreographer.
Aubrey represents the All Year Figure Skating Club and Henry skates for the Figure Skating Club of Southern California. However, together at nationals, they are proud to be part of the great tradition of Southern California skating, and to represent their Mabuhay! heritage. The 2019 Geico US Figure Skating Championships Novice Ladies and Novice Men competitions will be held on January 21-22 at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, MI. The competition will be live-streamed through the USFSA Fanzone at https://usfigureskatingfanzone.com/.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Helen Mendoza is a film/video producer, writer, and photographer. She is a vocalist and a founding member of Vox Femina Los Angeles. She is also a mother of two and lives in Los Angeles with her wife.
Lawsuits against Harvard and well-known selective universities contending discrimination against Asian Americans have happened over the years, with the lawsuit sponsored by Edward Blum still in play and actively opposed by Harvard. In late 2018, another kind of lawsuit against Harvard was filed. The family of Luke Tang filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Harvard contending that the University was negligent in caring in for Luke, who committed suicide in 2015.
After a suicide attempt his freshman year, Luke Tang was hospitalized. While he was there, he signed a contract with Harvard saying he could return if he received mental health counseling. He was able to return for his sophomore year even though, the lawsuit alleges, Harvard personnel knew that he had not received the required mental health counseling.
Since his death, his parents have set up a foundation in his name to raise awareness of signs of depression and other mental health issues, especially as it affects Asian Americans. In addition, a short documentary called Looking for Luke was produced by the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds to educate and to destigmatize seeking help for mental health problems. In the trailer above, the fact that Luke committed suicide is hidden for a long time and only told to one of his friends six months after his death. My personal experience with the issue of mental health in Asian American families is that any problems are hushed up, considered a shame on the family that is not to be discussed openly, and likely not to be dealt with directly. In particular, this article on Filipino Americans and mental health really resonated with me and other family members. Our family, like many others in Silicon Valley, have known Asian American students who have committed suicide.
Harvard was required to respond to the lawsuit by January 9. I haven’t been able to find the actual lawsuit text or any response since then (if someone has link to any of those, please include it in the comments). At the same time, the Luke Tang foundation is granting scholarships to students who have overcome psychiatric problems and welcomes donations.
By Timmy Pham
There are many things to love about Rina Ayuyang’s Blame This on the Boogie, but one that stands out to me is her waxy, crayon depiction of skin tone. In her first autobiographical comic, Ayuyang captures snippets from her life growing up as one of few Filipino Americans in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the struggles of motherhood and postpartum depression in sunny California. Drawing from the vibrant colors of Hollywood musical cinema and flashy television, Ayuyang crafts a beautifully scrappy look into a unique and relatable (for me at least) Asian-American experience.
But back to the art for a second. Asian-American graphic novelists have been the rise, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang from 2006 was the first graphic novel by an Asian American I read and fell in love with. More recently, I was thrilled to read and witness the success of Thi Bui’s graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do. Both illustrators present clean story-lines with equally distinct coloring and lines. Blame This on the Boogie provides an entirely different approach. Ayuyang’s stories bleed into one another, with no clean panels to guide the reader, and her colors are pure and stacked. It is a strong and well-executed choice that echoes her love of dance and sport. As a darker-skinned Viet boy, I grew up avoiding the brown crayon, reserving it for trees and ground, but Ayuyang artful layerings of yellow, red, orange, and brown all help lend the full range of tone and dimensions to her depictions of herself, her family, and the racial diversity of an American experience. Cheers to that.
Content-wise, Blame This on the Boogie reflected back much of what I knew as the child of immigrants. Living room dance parties, a hungry acceptance of new American culture (yay football–though I grew up in Seattle and therefore am obligated to grimace at her love of the Steelers), and the fascination with American pop-culture that bleeds onto the internet (Ayuyang stans Kym Johnson and Hines Ward’s partnership in Dancing with the Stars) all reflect a familiar experience of a blended Asian-American world amid loud visiting titas. Give this graphic novel a pass through, the ballet sequence at the end (as is customary with Hollywood musicals) is a treat.
(Editor’s Note: Check out more of the gorgeous interiors over at Drawn & Quarterly)
Timmy Pham lives in New York City and only recently trained himself to read on public transportation without getting a headache.
Image courtesy of Shirley Wang, vis-a-vis WBUR.
If you haven’t listened (download the MP3 here) to or read this story, ‘My Dad’s Friendship With Charles Barkley,’ you must – it’s such a heart warming story and made me cry, about a friendship between two people from completely two different worlds – NBA basketball star Charles Barkley and Chinese American Ph.D. immigrant Lin Wang (told by his daughter Shirley Wang) who randomly met at a hotel when both were traveling for work and became close friends:
“”I was on a business trip,” my dad said, “and stayed in one of the hotels and was walking in the lobby, and I saw Charles Barkley.”
“I was in Sacramento speaking at a charity event,” Barkley said.
“So, I just went to say hi and take a picture with him,” my dad said.
“I was just sitting at the bar,” Barkley said. “And me and your dad were the only two people in there. And we just sit down and started talking.”
“He’s a super nice guy,” my dad said.
“And, before we know it, we looked at each other, like, ‘Yo, man, I’m hungry. Let’s go to dinner,’ ” Barkley said. “It turned into a two-hour dinner. And then we actually went back to the bar and just sit there and talked for another couple of hours. And the rest is history.”
My dad and Barkley saw each other again in the bar the next night. And the night after that. At the end of the third night:
“Certainly, I told him I had a good time talking with him, hanging out with him,” my dad said. “He said the same thing to me, and he left the phone number. He said, ‘Whenever you’re in Atlanta, New York City or Phoenix, check out with me. If I’m in town, we’ll hang out and have a good time.’ “”
The story goes on to cover how their friendship grew, how Wang attended Barkley’s mother’s funeral and later, how Barkley attended Wang’s funeral.
What was interesting to hear from Barkley was that he didn’t have that many friends that he he’d want to spend time with:
“Your dad is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Barkley said. “I’m not just saying that — I mean, think about it: It’s fun to be with your friends, you know? ‘Cause, I don’t have that many friends that I want to be around, to be honest with you. I mean, you know a lot of people. But when you go spend time with your friends, it’s a whole different animal.”
“It gives me great memories and great joy to know that I was a friend of his,” Barkley said. “Just hearing about him at the funeral — what he had accomplished and what he was trying to help other people accomplish, just made me even — I wished he bragged more about himself.””
I imagine being famous, it must be pretty difficult to be true friends with someone, always concerned about alternative motives, etc.
Charles Barkley’s Eulogy at Lin Wang’s Funeral
It’s an incredibly heartwarming human story, and could see many of the attributes of Lin Wang in my father’s immigrant story and life.
Half Gods is a fascinating set of intertwined short stories spanning Sri Lanka and America, charting a story about family, survival, and home. Akil Kumarasamay’s debut collection is captivating and engaging. Two brothers, named after characters in the Mahabharata, lie at the center. Yet they are not the center. A grandfather wrestles with his life in New Jersey, while other remained in the chaos of war. A father looks for a son, disappeared in Sri Lanka’s war. A woman seeks solace in an unlikely, and yet likely, place. We get to see slices of individual’s lives, where the past haunts and guides them. An unraveling of who they are, more than plot.
This is the kind of collection that would be fascinating to read again. The writing is deft and intricate and yet deeply honest in the longing, loneliness, and comforts of humanity. In my first read, there was a single paragraph that struck me. It is not a turning point in a character’s life, yet says so much about living in the diaspora. A second would surely highlight another.
…All were parts of a childhood you had not care for, and now thinking of your son, who would never have to listen to cassettes of bhajans and deal with people he conversed with only in formalities, people who would drop everything to pick you up at an airport, hospital, cook meals when your mother was ill, all because they too traveled that same distance separating one part of the world from the other, you feel as if something dear has perished.
When I was an undergraduate, a Filipino American classmate once asked me why I was pronouncing my last name wrong. What? I was pronouncing my name wrong for the first 20 or so years of my life? Apparently so, and my parents never bothered to correct me, leaving our last name constantly mispronounced. But what’s in a name really? According to this article and others, quite a lot, especially if names are “hard” to pronounce.
Fayeza Hasanat’s debut short story collection, The Bird Catcher and Other Stories, is set in the Bangladesh and the United States. It is filled with questions about identity and belonging, about those who are seeking answers under the weight of expectations–their own or otherwise.
A favorite discusses a talkative grandmother who wrestles with the idea of home, herself an immigrant, residing with her children in the U.S. Several others turn on gender dynamics, and those who are between genders or missing some traditional aspect associated with proscribed roles for men and women. Many take dark turns, faced with life on the edge.
Hasanat’s writing is a bit flowery to my taste, but her concepts are intriguing and her characters vulnerable, and their experiences of feeling out of place honest.
If you need some last minute inspiration for your Thanksgiving extravaganza, take a look through Marvin Gapultos brightly-colored book of finger foods, Pulutan! Filipino Bar Bites, Appetizers and Street Eats. Now given if you don’t cook a lot of Filipino food (hi, me), you might not have fermented shrimp paste on hand which makes the pork meatballs with spicy coconut sauce temporarily out of reach. But you probably do (or your neighborhood run-of-the-mill American grocery store will) have the ingredients to whip up some spam mac’n’cheese.
Pulutan! is seriously flashy, with bold colored pages, and drink pairings for every dish. Organized by how you cook it (grilled, fried), the opening chapter introduces the concept of pulutan to novices (hi, me again). No recipe is longer than an open spread, so you know it can’t be all that complicated. The instructions are easy to follow once you’ve got all the ingredients on hand.