Hours before Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York’s first confirmed case of coronavirus infection on Sunday, two Asian comedians appeared on stage at Caveat wearing bras over their faces as masks. “How many of you have experienced racism because of coronavirus?” asked Kyle Marian. “Any allies in the crowd?”
Co-hosted by Kyle Marian and Esther Chen, Asians Strike Back, a comedy and science show about the ongoing global outbreak, is trying to make laughter out of fear. “You won’t die unless you’re old,” virologist and comedian Raj Sivaraman reassured the crowd as they laughed and groaned. “Cuz if you’re old, then I’m so sorry,”
The novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, spurred a round of anti-Chinese sentiments when the World Health Organization first declared it a global emergency. In New York City, an Asian woman wearing a face mask was called a “deceased b****”. Chinatown’s business has suffered because people are afraid to step foot in the area. Asians wearing face masks on the streets are feeling uneasy about stares from others.
For New Yorkers, it’s just a matter of time till more infections are confirmed. For the Asian comedians, though, it’s a matter of sick burns and roasting the heck out of Asian-haters. On Sunday, Dylan Adler sang a song about coronavirus: “I once went on a date with a white gay and he was like ‘I have a samurai costume I’d love to see you put it on.’ Then he was like ‘I speak fluent Japanese and I studied that in college.’ And also he was like talking about internment—-I hope he gets corona.” Alex Song-Xia invited three white audiences onto the stage, chugged Corona beers with them and won: “Who said Asians can’t drink?” Brittany Carney told a comic history of pandemics. According to her, the flu pandemic lasted till the 1890s, killed millions of people, “but Mao Zedong was born during then.” Kyle Marian compared different kinds of masks against a screen presentation that read “STAHPPP with the masks”.
All the comedians took every chance to slam Trump and shame white people. “Coronavirus is too vague for Trump. So they changed it to covid 19 because it sounds like a Guatemala street gang that he would want to take down,” Bryan Yang said. He then joked about his compulsive coughing on the train due to asthma and said, “My wife is white, unfortunately. We got married three years ago. I would never marry a white person now.” His set, making fun of the election and Trump, earned arguably the most laughs from the audience. By the end of his set, he smiled with satisfaction. “Now I’ve made all of you white folks uncomfortable.”
“For the white people in the room,” Marian said straight to the audience. “Yeah, that’s how it feels.”
Below, a clip of Woody Fu performing at Asians Strike Back.