Making comedy wok

[attach]605[/attach]Are you ready to wok?

Asiansploitation, the Toronto based all-Asian comedy troupe, certainly is in their new comedy review We Will Wok You.

After a successful opening in May, the show is returning Aug. 20–22 at a different venue: the Studio Theater at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

Since the group’s conception in 2006, Asiansploitation has played a yearly review in May to coincide with Asian Heritage Month.

This year their show has gone in a decidedly more musical direction, playing off of Queen’s hits such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Are the Champions”, and turning the inspirational Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie charity single “We Are the World” into the equally inspirational “We Are the Asians”.

“The audience enjoys the show more when there’s more music in it,” says Asiansploitation member James Cheng. “With the visual and the audio, it’s like you’re stimulating all your senses … (it’s) more upbeat.”

The show features 17 sketches with about a third of them being rock, opera and country music numbers among others.

Asiansploitation got its start four years ago at The Bad Dog Theatre where three Asian ad-libbers taking a class together decided to join forces.

“We started the first year with 13 members and from then it evolved,” says Cheng.

But why have an all-Asian comedy troupe? Cheng feels it allows for a unique angle on scenarios.

“There’s just a perspective you may not be able to get unless you have the all Asian comedy troupe,” he explains. “There are stories that won’t come out unless there’s a certain angle to it.”

But the decision to feature only one ethnic background has led to some tough decisions in the direction of their comedy and how they represent Asian culture.

“It’s something we’ve discussed at length,” said Cheng. “Should our jokes be very Asian? Will they be accessible? Will they be corny? Will people start cringing?” In the end Cheng says they felt that it’s humour all can enjoy without reinforcing any stereotypes.

Instead the group plays off of cultural interactions.

Fellow Asiansploitation member Gene Abella described a scene called “Let’s Go For Canadian”, where a mystified group enters a restaurant, similar to a Hooters or Denny’s and are amazed by the “exotic” culture on display.

“It just flips things on its head,” said Abella.

Another sketch is based on one of Cheng’s personal experiences in a Japanese class, called Japanese Culture Lesson. It introduces the audience to odd customs Cheng has encountered, such as putting the often smaller left hand on top of the right when greeting someone, or being encouraged to slurp your food in public, which Cheng assures is done to cool the food.

Audiences can expect cultural commentary at the show and even a cameo from the wok.

“It would be disastrous not to,” says Cheng.