LAFF Interview #9: Jen Kwok

We’re not supposed to talk about the LAFF submissions process. Imagine a distaff jury wielding the power of the Harvard admissions office, but in someone’s living room, with open containers of Thai food everywhere and a lot of “can you pause it?” I will say this, though: when Jen Kwok‘s video came on the TV screen that day, I was laughing so hard that my pad kee mao with tofu had a hard time staying down. Jen is arguably the most nationally famous LAFF performer, having appeared on actual TV networks you’ve heard of, including PBS, and was in the film Eat Pray Love. She also had her love affair with the ukulele written up in the New York Times (not in the Weddings and Celebrations section).

LAFF: What made you choose the ukulele as your comedic musical instrument of choice?
The ukulele is so much fun to play – and is a helluva lot more portable than my first instrument, the piano!  It wasn’t until I picked up the uke that I really started writing my own songs and finding my comedic/musical voice.  And I also didn’t want to limit my act to only piano-having venues i.e. hotel lobbies and select Costcos.

LAFF: Your video “Date an Asian” is hilarious. Are Asian guys getting laid more because of it?
I HOPE so!  I wish I had the stats to back it up, but I think the break dancers in the video are definitely getting some action.  If they can do all that stuff with their bodies to a piece of cardboard on the street, just imagine what they could do to a lady or another dude between the sheets!

LAFF: You’re a host on PBS’s Asian America. What’s it like to be a PBS celebrity? Do you get to hang out with Tavis Smiley and/or Bert?

It’s a great gig chatting with some truly talented and forward-thinking Asian-Americans.  We film at an old Board of Education studio in Downtown Brooklyn, so I don’t know if there’s some castle in the PBS sky where Tavis and Bert are eating craft services and gossiping about Ken Burns.  But it’s pretty surreal being on PBS now because I used to watch it nonstop as a kid (Square One was my jam!).  My mom even used to watch hours and hours of opera on Great Performances while she was pregnant with me, so this is feeling pretty full circle.  Now if I could just meet Elmo, I will be totally effing self-actualized.

Jen Kwok and her ukulele perform Saturday night at 11pm.


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