Crazy Woke Asians

Justin Rivera, comedian/magician
JR de Guzman, comedian/singer
The first-ever LA Asian solo performance festival produced by Kiki Yeung

SANTA MONICA, CA – My eldest daughter and I spent St. Patrick’s Day “Asian style” by laughing at Fil-Ams Justin Rivera and JR de Guzman at the Santa Monica Playhouse Main Stage, along with a funny Korean-American and a Hong Kong-American featured in the comedy festival, “Crazy Woke Asians,” which showcases over 15 Asian American comedians, actors and writers. The shows range from touching autobiographical stories to stand-up comedy acts, from sexy clowning to magic with music, poetry, and more!

Erick Esteban, a product of Chicago Theater

Co-host community partners of “Crazy Woke Asians” include NBC, Asian American Professional Association, FilAm Creative, Filipino American Chamber of Commerce Greater Los Angeles, and Filipino American Chamber of Commerce Hollywood, among others.

Louinn Lota was wearing a jade beaded necklace with a carved koi pendant, that I gave her, and green ‘tong’ sandals. As I asked Asian millennials to take our picture in front of the festival billboard, I asked one young woman what “Woke” meant, thinking it was a Japanese word pronounced “woh-keh,” like a Pokémon character or Japanese Poke (poh-keh) food bowl. She laughed and said “woke means alert or awake to the discrimination or disadvantage that goes with being Asian American.”

That’s when I knew Louinn should write about the jokes I didn’t get, when she was guffawing and I didn’t really know what the punchline meant.

I wrote about 34-year-old Justin Rivera in PNews a few years ago, but boy, has he honed his magic craft. He completed an 8-month, international tour in Canada, Australia, Japan, China, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Malaysia, Seychelles, Philippines, Taiwan, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Cambodia with rave reviews and standing ovations which includes royalty from the Middle East.

Justin competed on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” hosted by Nick Cannon and was named a judges’ favorite by Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, and Sharon Osbourne.

His performance titled “Everybody Hates Magicians,” bourn from a 6-year-old’s dreams of ‘prestidigitation’ (minor tricks that novice spellcasters use for practice) became a hilarious romp of “racist magic,” as he picked a biracial couple, Corey and Nina, from the audience of about 60 people, calling them the “typical white guy who looks like an out-of-work Toby Maguire with a Filipina named Nina.”

Now, most magicians can make a rabbit appear out of thin air, but Rivera made a rabbit into a duck from an ordinary-looking duffel bag full of tricks. Rivera didn’t have a sexy assistant, but he made Corey wear a scruffy Princess Jasmine-looking wig as the Disney theme song from “Aladdin” played, and the two comically danced around while Rivera made a table levitate like a magic carpet from the animated movie.

Don’t be fooled by Rivera’s bumbling magician act; applause exploded as jaws dropped when he kept producing decks of cards, with Kings, Queens and Jacks flying in the air, and then out of his mouth popped the card that Corey had initialed just a few minutes before they were dancing and twirling to “A Whole New World.”

His sleight-of-hand was as good at his impromptu commentary, especially when audience goers acted shocked at the appearance of President Trump. “What?” he asked us. “This is Santa Monica, right? I’m not trying to be edgy here, come on!” Santa Monica is mostly a wealthy, liberal seaside city.

The melodious and clear voice of Pangasinan-born JR de Guzman (Asian AF) wowed the audience as he strummed his guitar to improvised songs about stereotypes of Asian men and sex, the Me Too Movement, and colonization of the Philippines by two nations, after asking stage managers, “Can I do dirty?”

His acoustic rendition of “Asian Guys Can Smash,” sounded like a romantic love song with raunchy words about Asian men “not just good at math but can multi-task” in the bedroom. De Guzman now lives in Sacramento, California, and says he’s “still waiting for Trump to get as tough as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.”

“Man, Duterte kills drug dealers on the spot,” de Guzman stated. “That’s ‘gangstah.’ I’m waiting for Trump to do something that damn bad-***.”

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Erick Esteban (Crazy Funny Asianz), who was featured opening night, March 14: “A Fight Club for One.” Crazy Woke Asians” has shows until March 24, with no other Filipinos in the billing.

Erick is best known for his comedy web-series Minny Pacquiao: Manny Pacquiao’s Shortest Biggest Fan. He was onstage with the Skylight Theater in the World Premiere of Dusty De Los Santos. Erick also was onstage ‘Inside the Ford’ with critically acclaimed The Romance of Magno Rubio/Ang Romansa ni Magno Rubio reprising the role of Claro.

Warming up the audience before Justin Rivera was Korean-American PK, who joked about the woes of being a married parent with three kids. “I’m a Dad with no life,” he lamented to laughter. “No, really. It’s a lot of hard work for a moment of joy. I don’t have an SUV anymore. I have a minivan with baby car seats in the back. But hey, I may be castrated but I still bump Tupac loud, but with the windows rolled up.”

Kiki Yeung, producer of “Crazy Woke Asians,” also made us laugh with stories about her Cantonese-speaking mom and dad in Hong Kong, who warned her that all comedic actresses are whores and the big screen adds 10 pounds per cheekbone. “Kiki, your face looks big and square right now,” her mom told her when she saw her on TV. “Go steam your pores!”