Comedian Jenny Yang Goads on Social Change With Lots of Humor

The Asian Students Association invited comedian Jenny Yang to perform at Bowdoin

Stand-up comedian Jenny Yang introduced herself to the student audience with a bit of self-deprecation – “Congratulations, you’ve got a Groupon Margaret Cho tonight!” – but quickly switched into a take-no-prisoners mode, targeting everything from liberal arts colleges to some hapless students in the audience with her humor.

Last Friday night, Yang performed for a packed Kresge Auditorium – so full, in fact, that the crowd in the back bumped into a light switch ten minutes into the show, prompting a back-and-forth between Yang and the offending switch-pushers.

 

That back-and-forth set the tone for the rest of her set; Yang, who has produced work for Comedy Central, Buzzfeed, Funny or Die, and more, brought a good-natured, combative energy to her set, goading the audience to laugh at her, one another, and some of the absurdities of liberal arts colleges. Yang herself graduated from Swarthmore College, and compared her experiences there to Bowdoin.

“I’m from a big suburb of Los Angeles,” she explained, “And you’re not supposed to trust each other! I was touring Swarthmore, and there were these people walking towards me on a path – and they were smiling at me! And I was like, why! Why are they smiling at me? I get why so many white New Englanders love these places. They’re like white utopia – like, let’s just leave our backpacks lying around anywhere! You know, I like that we still trust each other now, even though the heathens are here.”

She also turned to more personal subjects: body image; developing an adult relationship with her parents; growing up in an immigrant community; and opening up on first dates. “I once heard that, if you want an authentic love, bring your authentic self to the first date. I tried that. That’s why I brought my parents along to argue while I cried.”

The show was organized by the Asian Students Alliance for Asian Heritage Month. According to Chareeda Rustanavibul ’18, a co-president of ASA, the organization reached out to Yang because she could take on issues of race, heritage, and class through a new lens. As Rustanavibul put it, she “is someone who is able to combine social commentary and activism with humor and storytelling.”


Photos by Michele Stapleton

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