8Questions: Comedy InvAsian with Robin Tran


A few years ago, I was lucky enough to produce a one hour special for the super talented Dwayne Perkins called Take Notes. (If you want to check it out, it’s on Netflix). It was a fun and great project to work on. That’s why when director/producer Quentin Lee and I were trying to figure out our next project, doing a stand up series featuring Asian Americans made sense. Comedy InvAsian is what came out of those conversations.

Comedy InvAsian, a six-part live stand-up series featuring some of the country’s top Asian American comedians as well as talented newcomers, each performing one-hour specials. Our first season includes Paul Kim, Atsuko Okatsuka, Kevin Yee, Joey Guila, Robin Tran and Amy Hill.

I decided to ask them all 8 questions. Next up is Robin Tran.

Here is a quick bio and video:

Robin Tran came out as a transgender woman in 2015 and has been writing about her experiences ever since. Based out of Orange County, Robin has performed all over Southern California, and she has won first place in three separate comedy competitions.  In 2016, she released a self-funded half-hour comedy special on YouTube entitled “Santa Doesn’t Like Every Kid.”

1. On a scale from 1 to 5, how would you rate your childhood and why? (With 1 being the perfect All-American childhood and 5 being completely and utterly traumatized.)

A 4. My dad was (is?) an alcoholic. My mom suffered from undiagnosed depression (until the past few years). My sister constantly berated and abused me. My earliest memories are eight people living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment (my parents, sister, me, aunt, uncle, and two cousins) and I had to share a crib with my cousin. We lived in poverty. My dad constantly threatened to leave the family. Etc. You get the idea.

2. Tell us about the moment you knew you wanted to be a comedian.

I was watching Chris Rock’s “Bigger & Blacker” and it was the most inspiring thing I’d ever seen. The special that made me feel like I can actually *do* stand-up comedy though was Louis CK’s “Shameless” from 2006.

3. How did your parents react?

They told me that it was a good hobby but eventually I’d have to quit and find a new job. They held this mindset until that NBC News article came out about Comedy InvAsian. Now they don’t want me to work anymore and think that I’m going to be famous. (Actually, they already think I’m famous, but I don’t have the heart to break it to them that I’m so not.)

4. If you weren’t a comedian, what would you have been?

Either a men’s rights activist or dead lol.

5. How funny are you in real life?

I’m very funny in small groups of 2-4 people. Very shy in groups of 5 or more people.

6. This isn’t a question, but a statement. Make me laugh.

I used to wear a fedora in college because I really wanted to excel as a straight white guy but I ended up being none of those three things.

7. Tell us about your worst troll or heckler and how you responded.

Some guy was just muttering angrily under his breath during my set and said “BRUCE” a couple of times (referring to Caitlyn Jenner) and I said “how does it feel that half of the country wants me dead and I still have more friends than you do?”

8. What advice would you give to young Asian American comedians?

Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. Representation is increasing. Watch shows like Fresh off the Boat to be inspired. Also, you’re unique, so always remember that. A lot of people will give you advice as to the *one way* there is to make it. “Get up this many times a week.” “Don’t do this or that or you’ll burn bridges.” All I can say is, figure out how to “make it” your own way, because everybody has a different road, and everybody has different goals/destinations. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to impress your comedian friends. Branch out outside of your local community. Use the Internet and social media to increase your following. And lastly, take a break when you need to.

Robin will be performing on Saturday, February  25, 2017 at 7:30 pm at the Japanese American National Museum. Click here to buy tickets.

Follow me on Twitter @ksakai1

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About Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.
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