A Night at the Brainwash!
Hangin Out at Frisco’s Avant Garde Comedy Club
A Hip Young Chinese Comic
One does not often get the opportunity to hear Chinese American comics in New York, so it was delightful to hear a couple of really talented Chinese comedians in one night. I saw their show at the Brainwash, an off beat comedy club in San Francisco, where wisdom weed is freely consumed on the sidewalk café and the comics border on blasphemy and treason in their acts.
Like all comics, the young Chinese draw from their cultural experiences in creating their material. But what makes them different from ethnic humorist such as the Jewish Borscht Belt comics, is that they are thoroughly integrated into American society. The Borscht Belt comedians fashioned a tradition that was deeply rooted in inside Jewish Shtick because they were addressing audiences that were not far removed from those who had attended performances of the Yiddish theater.
Milton Berle in Performance
Anybody who ever saw these comedians perform in the Jewish resorts up in New York’s Catskill mountains will recognize the dramatic changes in the American Jewish comedic tradition when it crosses over to goyim audiences. While they used some of the same comedic devices they employed in the Borscht Belt – such as maledicta and one liners – the cultural differences are dramatically different. There is a reason why comedians are always the last group of performers from minority groups to cross over to the main stream audience.
This is because comedy is an intellectual art and dares to speak about the unspeakable. If the life’s blood of drama is conflict, the currency of comedy is irreverence and irony. Hence telling jokes in cross cultural milieu, especially when there are class and race issues involved, is a risky business. One way of dealing with this is the way Bill Cosby did it: build your act around universal themes. While there was no doubt that the Cosby Kids were black, it was not the central fact around which their characters existed. So it was with the Chinese comics in Frisco. While they made no attempt to obfuscate their Chinese heritage, the situations they address in their comedy speak to what Andre Malraux called “La Condition Humaine.”
The black comics were more edgy, one talks about how he wants to be a down black thug and race man…but he likes fucking white girls in the back seat of cars in shopping malls and skate boarding! The other’s humor centers around being a struggling black dude with an attitude. His humor conjures up the art of Steppin Fetchit and Red Fox. Thus it is more risky, because it speaks directly to questions of race, class and black anger. Although at first glance it seems incongruous to speak of Stepin Fetchit and Red fox in the same breath, a closer look will reveal that both traditions can be seen in Walden Jordon’s art.
Like Stepin Fetchit, he assumes a dramatis persona that would be totally cool in a black club, but becomes problematic – for blacks and whites in the audience – when his act is performed before a racially mixed audience. And like Red Foxx, he frightens or titillates the whites who suspect that he might just be the real deal: the “bad nigger” who haunts their nightmares. Red Foxx used to dare white audience not to laugh at his jokes, threatening to lay for them in the ally with his black jack if he lost his gig. And there were hints of that in Walden Jordon’s act, and like the guy Malcolm X remembers as the hustler “Chicago Red,” Jordon was funny as hell!
Thursday night at the Brainwash comedy Club
Walden Jordon and Renaldo Ricketts After His Act
Like Salesmen Stand Up Comics Must Win Their Audience With their rap
A Misunderstood pioneer
Blacks and Asians Have Complex Relations in Frisco
In Fact, They Are Creating A New Race Called “Blasians”
A Classic Blasian Cutie
Asian Eyes and African-Booty
Another Blasian Beauty
The Reluctant Gangsta/Race Man
This Guy Was Hilarious!
Is Something Wrong With Me?
Bemoaning The Fact That He Was Not Molested As A Child!
Fired Up Off Spirits and Cannabis
The Discerning Audience Demanded Excellence
Their Love Didn’t Come Easy…
One comic fled from the stage in fright!
Although Rumored To Be Talented
Some Artist Never Made It To The Mike
The Master Of Ceremonies
Was Funny As A Muthafucka Too!
Harlem, New York
June 6, 2010
All Photos by: Playthell
* Except for Milton Berle, Stephin Fetchit and Redd Foxx