Referred to as the official spokesperson for gay, super cute Asians, Vong Show presented his popular show RICE: Asian Comedy Showcase at Jokers Comedy Club in Richmond Hill on Nov. 5.
Since its launch during Asian Heritage Month in 2019 as Canada’s first all-Asian monthly standup comedy revue, RICE has consistently played to sold-out audiences and garnered glowing reviews from media outlets, including CBC Comedy and NOW Magazine.
Growing up in Winnipeg, Vong always felt like the narratives in media rarely reflected his experiences or the lives of his friends and family. He was inspired to pursue standup comedy to share his story and build a platform to celebrate unique voices whose stories need to be heard.
Vong got into comedy when he was still in university in Calgary where he organized human rights conferences to talk about diversity and inclusion. What he discovered was that people would get bored from long speeches no matter how serious the topic was.
“I want to reach wider audiences and comedy is a good way to connect with people,” said Vong, who rewrote his keynote speeches so that he could perform anywhere.
Vong, who majored in engineering at university, was supposed to be either a doctor, a lawyer or an IT engineer, like most Asian parents expected. And it puzzled his parents that he left engineering and became a comedian after graduating with good grades.
“My father used to be the president of Laos and Thai Association in Manitoba. He always told me it’s important to talk about our heritage, to share our story. And I told him that I was honouring his legacy in the works he did in the association, you know, just in my own way.”
Saturday marks his 20th anniversary in the business.
During his two decades in the business, Vong has received bad comments and seen different racists. But he never took that to heart because he attributes these to lack of understanding. “If you can talk about who you are, talk about your life and experience and make it funny, they’ll start to think ‘we are not that different after all.’”
Vong pointed out that half of his audiences are Asians and the topics of his standups are not limited to stereotypes, accents and cultural walls. “I think the great quote from director Greta Gerwig exactly applies to what I am trying to do, she likes to make movies about women, but she doesn’t want to make movies about being a woman.”
In Vong’s case, he wants to tell stories about Asians, not stories about being an Asian.
Speaking on why he named his show RICE, Vong said he got a lot of questions like “what do you mean by ‘Asian’” at first, which made Vong think: what brings Asians together?
“They all eat rice, from East Asian, East South Asian and even the Middle East,” said Vong, who feels RICE is a unifying thing across the whole region.
Just like rice, he believes that comedy could also break down language barriers, even cultural barriers. No matter how different somebody is from you, he said, if you can make them laugh, then you can connect with them.
The RICE: Asian Comedy Showcase show will be continuing monthly at Jokers. For more information, please visit https://vongshow.com.
Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Economist & Sun