Screening Circle: Fumi Abe

When I think of Asian American representations in the media, I think of Asian actors as well as Asian characters on children’s television shows. One person of Asian descent that came to my mind is Jimmy Yang, a famous Chinese American comedian. In fact, during the Screening Circle, Fumi Abe asked the audience if there were any Asian American comedians that came to mind. From an entertainment standpoint, the ABC show “Fresh Off the Boat” came to my mind as a television show that was starred by Asian American actors and actresses. The show was based off of Chinese American Eddie Huang and his memoir.

One children’s television that I used to watch as a kid was called “Maya and Miguel.” One of the main characters on the show, Maggie, was of Chinese descent. For this show, Maggie was portrayed as the “smart Asian student” in the classroom, as well as the small friend group. The show also portrayed Maggie as a perfectionist and her parents also held her to a high standard in school. Another show with Asian American representation that came to my mind is “NFL Rush Zone.” One of the main characters, Troy, is a Korean American football player. In contrast to Maggie from “Maya and Miguel,” Troy is not portrayed as the “smart Asian student.” In fact, Troy was portrayed as an Asian American student that struggled in the classroom. As an Asian American person myself, I personally feel that I can easily think of several Asian American representations in the media.

During the performance, Abe made sure to know his audience’s age. He would ask his audience what their ages were by asking what generation they were before proceeding to make sensitive jokes on topics such as sexuality and race. Once Abe had a feel for the room, he had no hesitation on making sexual jokes and jokes surrounding race. One joke Abe made was “What makes a person ‘gay’? Oh because some little seven year old boy says “HE’S GAY” so that makes the person ‘gay.” He would also sometimes laugh at his own jokes.

As part of his performance, Abe would interact with random people in the audience and make jokes about the person he was talking to. He would ask questions such as the age of the person, what the person does for a living and then he would make funny jokes based off the person’s answers. According to Abe , during the Q and A, he is “95%” the same person on stage as he is off stage. Abe also spoke about his experience getting booked for performances in small towns. Abe expressed the difficulty of not getting booked for small towns because the agents were afraid that not many people would show up to see stand up comedy if it was going to be performed by an Asian American.

I think that journalists can cover Asian Americans fairly and help eliminate assumptions and stereotypes. I think in the world of journalism, the main goal is that Asian American representation (and other marginalized communities) should be “naturally” represented. What I mean by that is that it should get to a point where there is improved representation to say “He or she is excellent in the media and just happens to be a person of Asian descent.” Abe is known as a Japanese American comedian. With proper representation, Abe would be known as “a funny comedian who happens to be Asian American.” Simply put, a journalist would tell the story of Abe by letting Abe tell his story through comedy.

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