When Iggy staffer Woods stumbled across Jen Kwok’s “Date an Asian” video on YouTube, he couldn’t believe his eyes. For many reasons.
Primarily because there was a guy in the video who looked just like him, but also because a cute girl just made an awesomely funny music video playfully embracing, mocking, and rejecting every stereotype imaginable about Asian men.
Wanting to know more about this fresh-faced singer with crack comic timing, we emailed Jen Kwok for a quicky Q&A.
What got you thinking about Asian men and dating?
This is a topic I’d always wanted to address in my comedy, but wasn’t quite sure how. Last summer, I heard a joke on network television that was anti-dating Asian men. As an Asian, I was kind of pissed that this was broadcast as mainstream entertainment. As a comedian, I took it as inspiration to put a positive spin on the subject.
How did the video come about?
After performing “Date an Asian” live at New York comedy shows, I was ecstatic that audiences really dug the message of the song — and most of all, they were having a great time with it. I wanted to reach more people, and knew the best way to do it was through a music video showcasing a ton of Asian hotties. I wanted this to be a video love letter to Asian men everywhere. My homie Soce, The Elemental Wizard produced the song and did a guest rap from the gay perspective, and fellow ukulele player Ballard C. Boyd came on as director. I put out the call to all the talented Asian guys I knew from the NY performance scene, and they totally freaking delivered!
Who is the cute older guy at the end of the video?
That’s Phil Nee, who’s also known as the Godfather of Asian Comedy. He’s kind of like my comedy dad. This is a rough business, but he’s an amazing performer, industry veteran and all-around nice guy who was doing this long before any of us young whippersnappers hit the scene.
How does your real dad feel about all this?
My dad hasn’t seen the video yet — he’s just not Internet-friendly. The only way he’ll ever see this video is if I fly home to California and show it to him — or if it’s on America’s Funniest Home Videos. (Seriously, I know I’m not the only one with a dad who laughs himself to sleep while watching AFHV. It’s like YouTube for old people.)
What’s your favorite dating story?
My friend set me up with this really nice guy (who looked a lot like Andy Lau, by the way!). We’d only hung out once, but my birthday was coming up, so he bought me the special edition DVD of one of my favorite movies, “Apocalypse Now”. I don’t think he’d ever seen the movie before — or even knew what it was about. But there we were, on a second date, watching Francis Ford Coppola’s vision of the Vietnam War unfold in the dark. It was the opposite of a bonding experience. It taught me that revealing what a weirdo you are upfront can actually help you date more efficiently.
The MTV Iggy team’s got lots of Asian men and we all thought this was hilarious. What’s your strategy for dealing with the people who say it’s racist?
The majority of feedback for “Date an Asian” has been great, and it truly warms my heart when people really get what it’s about and where it comes from. This project was done with affection for the Asian-American community, and was intended to be a response to negative stereotypes about Asian men. Also, it’s a comedy video, so I hope people will have fun with it and take it lightheartedly. Each person is entitled to his or her own opinion, and race is a particularly touchy issue. You can’t please everyone, but at the end of the day, I’m proud of this song’s message and the way that it was portrayed.
As a lot of commenters on YouTube point out, it’s not often that East Asians and South Asians include the each other when talking about ‘Asian’ anything. Was mixing it up a deliberate decision?
Yes! First of all, almost all the Asian-American shows I’ve been booked for have had both East and South Asians performers and a “mixed” audience: Asian American Writer’s Workshop, Kollaboration, APA Heritage Festival, Jammin’ Asian, etc. Soce and I have performed “Date an Asian” live to the full spectrum of Asian guys, and I’ve always gotten the sense that they all knew I was talking about them.
How do you feel about white hipsters and Asian chicks? Was that, like, a trend? What the hell was that?
It’s a recession. Why not date someone you can easily share jeans with? But on the flip side, I’m also seeing more white hipster chicks with Asian dudes. See? This song is working, man!
We’ve supposedly come a long way since Margaret Cho got eaten alive for being a funny AZN woman on TV. But Saturday Night Live still sticks to the black guy/fat guy/young guy formula and people still editorialize about how hot chicks aren’t funny. What’s your solution?
Comedy’s changed a lot — I think comedians like Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling and Charlyne Yi are evidence of that. However, you still have to please the masses and stick with more traditional types of comedy, where stereotypes rule the punchline. To me, funny is funny, regardless of race, gender or whatever else. It’s taken a long time for different minorities to be represented in comedy at all – much less equally. That goes for other careers and industries as well. And as a side note, I heard that Margaret Cho has seen the video and loved it!!! She’s a lady who inspired me through her work. We’re all part of the same work in progress. The solution is to keep working – and hopefully keep progressing.
Tell us about yourself. Do you see yourself as primarily a singer/musician or a comedienne?
I want to live in the biggest pigeonhole ever. I think that everything I do has humor to it. That’s my strength. So is music. For me, they go hand in hand. But can I be funny without music, and can I play music without being funny? Yes and yes. But given the choice, I’ll take both, please!
You just wrapped a small part in the movie Eat, Pray, Love (based on the eponymous best-selling book) with James Franco and Julia Roberts. Any funny material to share about the mating habits of movie stars?
I did see Julia Roberts’ adorable twins from afar — cutest Hollywood babies ever!
This is another from the questioning YouTube masses…Do half-Asians count?
Yes, most definitely! Is it not implied? Should I do a remix called “Date Half an Asian”? Half, quarter, one-eighth — as long as you identify as an Asian man, I am singing about you, so get ready to be f***ed!
Where can we get that “All Asian All Sexy” Tshirt in the video?
I have no idea, but you can get “Date an Asian” t-shirts here online.
Bubble tea is a delicious unifier, so thanks for recognizing that! What else should we all be drinking/eating/raising our hands to?
F***ing. Definitely f***ing. “Where my f***ers at ?!”
Photo Courtesy of Jen Kwok/Eric Michael Pearson