Comedy Troupe Explodes Myths, Busts Guts
November 30, 2004 11:58 PM
A man in a long black duster coat stalks suavely across the floor, his weapon of choice in hand. He lifts his arm and fires into the crowd. No, it wasn’t Chow Yun-Fat starring in another Hong Kong heroic bloodshed classic. The weapon at hand was a plastic spray bottle, and it was just part of a “John Woo Thanksgiving” one of the sketches performed by 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors on Nov. 30.
The Asian-American San Francisco sketch comedy ensemble performed to an enthusiastic near-capacity crowd at Jack Adams Hall, part of an Asian Student Union benefit for the 2005 Asian-American Studies Graduation Celebration. The six member troupe performed “Hatest Grits,” a collection of favorite sketches that plays like a combination of theater, stand-up, and situation comedy.
“They never know where to list us in the paper—is it theater, or is it comedy? They just sort of put us in the middle, under exotic dancing,” said Michael Hornbuckle, a member of the troupe as well as an information technology consultant for the College of Ethnic Studies.
From the “Bruce Can Cook” show, to the travails of a Chinatown street gang trainee, to a display of conjoined twin synchronized gymnastics (the sport of the future), 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors defused myths and stereotypes abut the Asian-American community with their comedy.
“I think the very presence of Asian-Americans onstage being very goofy, and dropping our pants, and saying really nonsensical things explodes a lot of Asian myths right there,” Hornbuckle said. “I think a lot of Asians are seen as studious and dorky and geeky and stuff like that, but we prove them wrong by being wacky.”
For 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors, just being the stars of the show is an act of stereotype busting.
“We’re seemingly pushed to the margins in everything whether it’s movies, or plays, or television," said Greg Watanabe, another member of the troupe. “So it’s nice to have a troupe that’s entirely Asian-American where we cover all ranges. Not only the lead, but also the foil, and the dupe, and we can do all of those things and have a much broader range than the narrow presentation that you normally see.”
Watanabe says that at the end of the day, they are primarily actors and not activists. However, he said the troupe does feel an affinity for the effort of activists.
“As entertainers, as artists, we try to change perception," Watanabe said. “We try to communicate stories that are Asian-American, and bring out issues that are Asian-American, but we can’t actually reach out and grab people and make them change their minds. We can only try and win them over to the side of cultural understanding.”
He highlighted one of the sketches in particular, in which the all-male Chinese Women’s Swim Team does an infomercial for eye-widening and breast-enlargement surgery.
“It (deals with) a lot of issues about Asian-American identity and internalized racism…but it also has guys running around in bikinis, so we run the full spectrum,” he said.
Along with appearances in locales as far-flung as Hong Kong and Washington DC, the group makes frequent appearances at SF State.
“They’re pretty much the first Asian American comedy tour that’s out there,” said Eddie Lee, a member of the ASU. “It’s pretty unique. You rarely see that. We’re really supportive of them, because of the fact that they’re Asian Americans representing.”
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