Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dis/orient/ed Comedy: Asian Pacific Women Blaze New Trails in Fresno

Fresno might have an underground of art and drama scenes.. but many feel that there is an aspect of “night life” that Fresno is lacking… stand up comedy.

Now, thanks in large part to the efforts of the CCAPW (Central California Asian Pacific Women), a local nonprofit whose mission is to empower all generations of AP women in the Central Valley, that oversight is no more.

On February 8th, at the Tower Theater, CCAPW is proud to present Dis/orient/ed Comedy, a show which is the first-ever nationally-touring stand up comedy showcase featuring the fresh and diverse voices of Asian American female comics.

The Fresno show includes veteran and up-and-coming comics who have been featured on Showtime television, Logo TV, the Comedy Store in Hollywood,&the San Jose Improv and the Best of SF by San Francisco Weekly.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Gena Lew Gong, President of Central CA Asian Pacific Women, to talk about CCAPW and the show. 

First off, some background on CCPAW. The organization has been around since 1980. It was originally created by women who wanted a place to network and for professional development specifically for Asian Pacific women. As the organization has grown, the mission has increased in scope and nowadays the group offers support in work transitions as well as a focus on the expanding roles of women in terms of working professionals and women at the midpoint of their careers. But while the demographic of the group is changing to facilitate a slightly older generation of women, the main program every year is still scholarship granting. Originally to help Asian Pacific women in the Central Valley attend college (many as the first daughter to do so), the scholarship program has been expanded recently to include graduate student level options. Many of the applications come from immigrant or refugee families who are low income. The chance for the women from these families to go to college is huge and it serves another ore tenant of CCAPW, to combat the stereotypes of the “good” or “proper” Asian woman.

Which brings us to women in comedy, specifically, Asian Pacific women in comedy.

“Here in the valley the Asian demographic is different than in other urban settings,” Gong says, “Overall it is important that we show that there are Asian Pacific women who are doing things outside the norm or expected. We want to highlight AP women doing all kinds of things and show that there are a variety of ways we can express ourselves opposed to just being the expected doctor / lawyer or wife/mother. We are excited to highlight these women, these comedic women, who are going after their, not typical, dreams and who are creating a new kind of role model for the community.”

The interplay between expected and stereotypes versus new avenues of self expression and professions outside the box will be the focus of a limited seating workshop the day after the show. Participants are invited to Fresno State to meet the comics and take part in a storytelling session. The panel of comics, fresh off of doing the first of its kind show here in Fresno, will talk about how they got started, what fuels them, comedy as passion, and how to deal with the obstacles and resistance from families and society when one chooses a different path.

That backlash and resistance is key to the identidy of any woman who breaks away from tradition, but it is very strongly felt in the Asian Pacific women community. While some Asian countries have made strides to support women in nontraditional roles, there is still a lot of work to be done for some of the “newer” South Asian women. Hmong and Cambodian women, for example typically have a harder time following a nontraditional dream. These women are first and second generation here in the Valley and as Gong says, “They face a lot of challenges. Their communities are still adjusting to the American Dream, and there is a struggle between the two cultures. The younger generation has a lot of difficulties negotiating for new roles… these women might be in college, but they still face an unequal expectation of home responsibility compared to their brothers etc.”

Which is why shows like this are so important, not only for the nightlife of Fresno, but the day to day life of the Asian Pacific women in our community.


Gay Central Valley is proud to be supporting the Dis/orient/ed show and the CCAPW. We hope you will join us on February 8th, 7:30 at the Tower Theater for what promises to be a night of laughter and impact.

For a chance to win tickets, please click here! 

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