Promoting Diversity in Comedy

“Hey Mum, I want to quit medicine and follow my passion for stand-up comedy.”

With a tone of disapproval, mixed in with unconditional love, my mother replied, “you da very funny man!”

As a son of Vietnamese refugees, my duty as a son of migrants was to “study hard, get a good job and start a family”. My parents escaped war-torn Vietnam in search for a better life and freedom. They left Vietnam on a tiny, wooden fishing boat with 250 other people, including my older brother who was only one month old.

What would compel my parents to take such a journey and risk not only their own lives but that of their first-born son?  What would compel me to risk my professional reputation and job security, for the laughs and adulation of an anonymous audience at the local open mic night?  My own leap towards artistic freedom and self-expression can never match the danger my parents made from Vietnam to Australia.

I can understand my parent’s strategy to put me on the path of higher education and job security. However, the wider Australian audience have progressed far quicker and further than that of the Asian community. The local Adelaide comedy circuit has been very supportive of me since day one, but I feel as though the Asian community are still behind when it comes to supporting the local arts.

Historically, the Asian community simply do not appreciate paying for the arts, let alone comedy. Only since I’ve become an artist, do I now understand that a $15 entry fee to a local show does not feed me physically, however, it does feed my soul (and my hunger to perform).

In Asian culture, comedians are normally portrayed as buffoons with buck teeth, or the village idiot. Humour and laughing at oneself is seen as a vector of shame, dishonour and loss of face to your family. Entry into medicine, law or engineering are seen as respectable tickets towards success. However, I know countless Asian doctors, lawyers and engineers who are dissatisfied with their life choice in their chosen fields. Many have found my story of breaking the mould, inspiring. It is hard as a person of Asian descent to find the courage to resist the wave of expectation of not only your parents and family, but your community.

Truthfully, as a minority grouping, finding our place in society, we need to be open to other occupations, especially in the arts. We can start changing our narrative, by coming out to support artists not only Asian artists at Oz Asia festivals and Lunar New Year, but the arts regardless. Only through bums on seats in the comedy rooms and pubs around the city, will this translate to bums in arts courses.

Gerard Matte in the Australian Journal of Comedy highlighted, “If comedy is a way of saying the forbidden, if it is, in Freudian terms a way of disobeying the internalised parent – the internalised authority system, then multicultural comedy in Australia has evolved to deal with two separate authority systems. One authority system is the culture of the country of origin; the other is that imposed by the local culture. The ethnic comedian has, in effect, two sets of parents, two political imperatives. One imperative is the pressure to respect and conform to the culture of the natural parents, the other is the pressure imposed by the wider culture to reject the natural parents and become part of a wider more homogenised society.”

Last year, I produced and promoted a comedy show dubbed “Pho Real”, featuring a line-up of all-Vietnamese stand-up comedians. It was an experiment to see if there was an audience from within the local Vietnamese community. To my delight, many of my Vietnamese friends and family came out to show support and enjoyed the night. I felt even more validated, that there was a row of Caucasian audience members who came because they simply loved comedy, regardless of the race orientated theme of the night.

If you would like to support local and interstate Asian comedy acts in the upcoming Adelaide Fringe here are my top three picks.

 

MJ Wong: In the Wong Family

MJ Wong was born into the w(r)ong family, then he fell in love and got married to the w(r)ong woman.
Will he ever belong, will two w(r)ongs ever make a right?

https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/mj-wong-in-the-wong-family-af2019

I have a show! Come see me!

Patrick Golamco is a regular on the Sydney open mic scene, performs improv comedy, and studies sketch comedy and scriptwriting. He has been a finalist in several U.S. scriptwriting competitions that recognised his knack for capturing the absurd!

https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/i-have-a-show-come-see-me-af2019

If You Laugh It’s Comedy And If You Don’t Laugh It’s Art

Fresh from Point Blank Music School (London) Loc Tran presents ‘If You Laugh It’s Comedy And If You Don’t Laugh It’s Art’, part comedy show, part DJ performance incorporating such hits as:

https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/if-you-laugh-it-s-comedy-and-if-you-don-t-laugh-it-s-art-af2019

 


Words by Dr Kim Le

Dr Kim Le is an Adelaide based psychiatrist, TEDx speaker and stand-up comedian. He will be performing with Adelaide Comedy’s Next Generation show, featuring a diverse line-up of Adelaide’s best up and coming stand-up comedians. His parents will be at his show.

Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

STEAMing Ahead

South Australia is quickly becoming the prime location for those looking for employment in the STEM fields. For those who are uncertain, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. These fields currently offer diverse career opportunities, from medical advancements to the Australian Space Agency. However, there is one a vital component to STEM fields: Arts.

Arts and STEM have been inspiring each other for years, from Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics to the hard-scientific facts which make Andy Weir’s The Martian more realistic. This combination of STEM and the Arts is better known by professionals as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). STEAM has already been making itself known in South Australia, appearing at arts festivals and used to show off new locally developed technology.

In the 2017/2018 budget, the state government invested $250 million into Education to deliver more STEM topics to primary and secondary schools. Flinders University’s Tonsley Campus and its Innovation Hub, alongside the Medical Research and Science Centre (the cheese grater on North Terrace) are some STEM-focused buildings which now make up part of the Adelaide skyline.

It is expected STEM funding will increase with the new budget due in September. In 2018 the Adelaide Fringe generated $16.6 million at the box office and added $29.5 million to the state economy, as set out in their annual report. It is also the highest earning arts festival in Australia, generating a total of 39% of all multi-category ticket sales in the country. These figures show there is money in both STEM and the Arts in South Australia. Combined, they will make a far bigger impact on the local culture and economy than they do separately. Including Arts in STEM education will learning more interactive and fun while STEM in festivals like the Fringe more engaging and interactive.

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Beautiful night for the Fringe!

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Modern technology has been heavily influenced by the arts. Many hardware and software engineers/programmers have long been inspired by technology in science fiction. One example of this is the Adelaide based company Voxon Photonics. Their technology, the Voxon VX1, is a 3D volumetric engine that was inspired by science fiction, more specifically Dejarik in Star Wars: A New Hope. For it to work, they required the aid of the STEM fields, especially engineering and mathematics (key components in hardware and software design). They create games to demonstrate their technology’s power. The VX1 was showcased in the Indie Games Room at AVCon 2018, allowing the public to interact with their exciting new technology. While the VX1 can do other things like medical imaging, art shows its power off in a more engaging way. Voxon Photonics has advertised pushing to get more local games developed for the VX1, showing it off at Game Plus (a co-working digital games space on Pirie Street) in June 2018.

Recent advances in science and technology have influenced the Adelaide arts scene. One example is the University of South Australia’s Museum of Discovery (MOD). Opened in 2018, MOD on North Terrace is where visitors can engage with science and technology through art (STEAM). Their current displays are a showcase on the future STEAM can bring. One example being the genetic modification of children, if they’re to survive on Earth from choices made today. This allows visitors to witness these changes first hand. For more on MOD, check out our review here.

In terms of festivals, 2017’s OzAsia Festival saw an international example of STEAM. This was Keiichiro Shibuya’s The End, starring Japanese vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Unlike a traditional opera, The End is entirely virtual, containing only Miku and showcases the relationship between art and technology. This also is a reflection on the term vocaloid itself, as Miku is actually nothing more than computer software herself. Another example of STEAM is coming to 2018’s OzAsia. Called War Sum Up, it is a 21st-century electronic opera that is summed up in three words “Music. Manga. Machines.” This unique blend will be showcasing technology working alongside Japanese Noh theatre.

The South Australian Government should be pushing STEAM rather than just STEM. It is already happening around Adelaide, and if given that extra boost, can help make Adelaide stand out against other Australian cities. STEAM can help bring more young people to Adelaide and benefit other fields like tourism and education. A STEAM revolution has the potential to completely reinvent Adelaide, making it a younger, more vibrant city.

What are your thoughts? Should South Australia be aiming towards a STEAM future rather than a STEM one? Leave your comments below.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.