Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 26, 2020

APIDA students celebrate Asian culture with comedy

By RISHABH KUMAR | March 12, 2020

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The Inter-Asian Council (IAC) and the South Asian Students at Hopkins (SASH) hosted the Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans (APIDA) Stand-Up Comedy show at the Arellano Theater on Saturday evening. 

It was an extremely entertaining showcase of eight talented comedians who delved into their lives and the unique situations of being young Asians in America.

The night began with a set by the primary organizer of the event, senior Natalie Wu, who dealt with dating problems that Asian women face. 

One of the particularly funny moments stemmed from a reflection on the fetishization of Asian women by white men. Wu hypothesised about what a romantic conversation would entail.

“You know I hate American women,” she joked. “Yes, American women stand up for their rights too much.”

Wu spoke to The News-Letter about how and why the APIDA stand-up night came to be. 

“Basically, I noticed a lot of comedy shows happening on campus, and more and more groups were doing it. Last year, SASH had a show, and I was a part of [it], so I thought why not do an entire show with IAC and SASH combined,” Wu said.

Bringing together people from across the college and training them took significant effort. 

“Basically we reached out to a lot of people who had done stand-up comedy before, like a couple of members from [the Stand-Up Comedy Club (SUCC)], people who had performed at the Intersession show, and we had a couple of people who had friends who wanted to try it, as well as members of IAC and SASH,” Wu said. 

She spoke about how all the comedians worked together to make their deliveries and writing as smooth as possible, both among themselves and with SUCC.

The night continued with graduate student Joshan Bajaj, who spoke about his Sikh lifestyle — which for him involves having a beard and wearing a turban. 

Along with his brown skin, his appearance made him a prime target of the TSA. He had the audience roaring with laughter with his descriptions of how he buys tickets three days in advance because the TSA keeps him there for 48 hours, and how he has to remind new, untrained TSA employees to pick him out of line when they fail to do so. 

He capped (pun intended) off his performance by talking seriously about wanting to reveal his turban to the audience as a gesture of closeness and as a response to the racism he faced for wearing it. This was followed by him taking it off, only to reveal another turban below it.

Another stand-out performance came from graduate student and first-time performer Ali Siddiqui, who revealed how studying for a masters was like being Kung Fu Panda: feeling like a failure and trying to work with a highly talented group of people who have worked for the degree, “just to get a scroll at the end which doesn’t even mean shit.”

Siddiqui told The News-Letter how he prepared for the show as a first-timer. 

“One of the things that really helped was workshopping your jokes. All the people who took part in this, we got together at least three times,” he said. 

He also spoke about how it was helpful that APIDA hosted the event.

“One of the reasons I wanted to perform was because of the Desi crowd itself, and because most of the performers were Desi... it helped to give me an incentive to come on stage, and I loved [doing it],” he said. 

The night was capped off by junior Sonny Rao, who dealt with her parents’ obsession with her weight. 

“So I gained like 30 pounds in my first year, and my parents couldn’t deal with it. Every day, my dad would call me and tell me that Mama is crying because nobody would marry me because of my weight. I said, ‘Dad please, there are many other reasons nobody would want to marry me,’” she said.

Overall, the night was a fantastic way of celebrating Asian comedians and culture with people who could relate to these experiences. Watching it as a Desi American myself, I felt a great deal of comfort in seeing people deal with our unique experiences with both awareness and relatability, all with a steady stream of humor. 

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