Asian-American Comedy Showcase Pokes Fun
September 17, 2006 1:08 PM
Brent Weinbach stands rigidly on the stage of Jack Adams Hall at the Cesar Chavez Student Center during Saturday night’s Asian-American Comedy Show presented by the Asian Student Union. He clenches the microphone with two hands, as though he were holding a sword or a baseball bat, ready to attack the audience.
“Whenever I tell people I’m half Filipino, people don’t believe me,” Weinbach tells the audience in a loud, edgy, monotone voice.
Weinbach squints his eyes.
“Now do you believe me?” Weinbach asks to the delight of the mostly Asian audience of about 125 people.
Weinbach, who’s also half Jewish, is a cult favorite on the San Francisco comedy scene, complete with an album, “Tales from the Brown Side,” and T-shirt featuring his bug-eyed face. His act really must be seen to be believed. It’s surreal, outrageous, and sometimes offensive. It’s also really hilarious.
Weinbach goes from talking about his stint as a substitute teacher in Oakland to a series of creepy phone calls about rooms for rent on Craig’s List. He drifts into an R. Kelly rendition of “Happy Birthday,” and delivers a right-wing version of “Def Poetry Jam.”
The other two performers got the show off to a pretty good start. Edwin Li, 20, a SF State cinema major, spent much of his act poking fun at Asian stereotypes.
“My dick isn’t small,” Li said. “It’s cute.”
On the subject of the lack of Asians in American horror movies, Li said, “I found out why there are no Asians in American horror movies. We’re making all the graphics.”
Sheng Wang, 26, a comedian from Oakland, issued a warning to the audience.
“I have this condition,” Wang said. “Awkward silence…tends to make me very horny.”
Wang also talked about growing up Asian-American in Houston, Texas.
“I wanted to do everything white people do,” Wang said. “I want to listen to black music. I want to date Asian chicks. I want to get tattoos in Chinese.”
Both Li and Wang got a good reception from the crowd. But the evening belonged to Brent Weinbach, whose delightfully quirky set killed the audience from beginning to end.
Some of Weinbach’s best material comes from an almost scientific look at comedy as a whole.
“Sometimes people think I don’t act natural on stage,” Weinbach says. He then drops his awkward façade to become a hackneyed standup comic (“What if Pee Wee Herman and Mr. Bean had a baby?”).
When a particular bit in which he speaks gibberish at a Chinese restaurant elicits a few groans, Weinbach calls “time out” to remind the audience that the Chinese characters in the story speak perfect English. Only he, the one non-Chinese character, speaks gibberish.
There’s an Andy Kaufman-like quality in Weinbach’s act. He goes from looking paralyzed and uncomfortable onstage to throwing his body in all manner of directions and interacting with the audience. Manipulating the audience is one of Weinbach’s greatest strengths. Several times during the show, Weinbach went straight to the same young woman in the front row to practice pick-up lines and perform his R. Kelly routine. Was she a plant, or is this for real?
“It was a surprise,” the audience member, Aimee Mac, 25, said laughingly of her unexpected turn in the show.
Weinbach pushes the edge frequently with bits about race, religion, sex, and bodily functions. Yet, Weinbach doesn’t play to the lowest common denominator. He maintains a comfortable level of intellectualism at all times, without acting too dim or too pompous.
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