Once comedian Jen Kwok brought the Ukuele into her routine, it added a whole other dimension. Jen Kwok was a finalist in NBC Stand-Up for Diversity, a nationwide search for the country's top-11 comedians (aka comedians who aren't white). Her quirky brand of humor keeps her in demand at such diverse venues as basement alternative comedy shows, burlesque nights, cabarets and mainstream comedy clubs. Read on for a quick interview we did with Jen.
ASIANCE: What made you decide to video your performances and upload to Youtube??
Jen: Last summer I got together with my friend, filmmaker Vaughn Oliver, and we shot Super Cute Sex Show as a pilot for a web series contest. We uploaded the pilot to YouTube and got a couple hundred hits in the first few minutes, so we decided that we had to keep it going! Around the same time, I also did an episode of the TV show Midnight Ukulele Disco, and all those performances made their way onto YouTube as well.
ASIANCE: Anything to say to Asian girls out there?
Jen: Yes!!! Be yourself and don't pay attention to naysayers and stereotypes. There's absolutely no substitute for living an honest life and being true to yourself. For me – and I'm guessing most girls out there, it was not easy growing up Asian American. Nine out of ten Disney princesses are not Asian (hell, there are even more talking animals than there are non-white heroines), and the pressure to succeed in an immigrant family can be completely overwhelming. It's my wish that Asian American girls continue to reach out and support each other so we don't have to feel like we're all dealing with these issues in isolation. Unless you grew up in the desert like me. Then you are truly in isolation.
ASIANCE: What is your heritage?
Jen: I'm Chinese.
ASIANCE: Do you read Asiance regularly?
Jen: Yes, I check it out a lot – especially to find out what's going on in Asian entertainment.
ASIANCE: Do you see a notable difference in your shows with the Ukulele?
Jen: Yes! But that's because I do notably different comedy all the time: stand-up, sketch, duo, ensemble, musical, improv, musical improv, etc. Ukulele is only part of what I do, but it's definitely the core. I write my most personal material on the uke and it's what made me decide to become an artist. Before I picked up the ukulele I had quit doing comedy for almost a year. Learning the uke really inspired me to create again, and it will always have a special place in my heart because of that.
ASIANCE: What Asian entertainers do you admire?
Jen: Growing up, I LOVED Jackie Chan. Who doesn't love Jackie Chan? The man is hilarious and so fun to watch. Margaret Cho undoubtedly inspired me to do comedy. I remember the first time I saw her doing stand-up. I was completely mesmerized because it was the first time in my life I that I was able to truly relate to someone on television. And right now I'm also really digging singer-songwriters like Vienna Teng, Priscilla Ahn and Justin Nozuka.