Wanru Tseng, Greg Watanabe, Jully Lee, Denise Iketani in PROJECT APPLE
GTC Burbank ~ 1111-B West Olive Avenue ~ Burbank, CA 91506
A-LO-HE. I was reading the exotic word in giant letters on the stage’s backdrop. To my ears it sounded like a warm greeting from a soft-spoken, dark-haired beauty. Wait…A–HOLE? It’s A-HOLE? As soon as the comedy of sketches TELEMONGOL started, the cast got this straight with me and the two or three other Caucasians in a predominantly Asian-American audience who may have been guilty of indulging in the same Hawaiian Airline-style fantasy. Yes it’s A-HOLE and it’s not going to be docile, polite, or even “unobtrusive” like the rest of us might assume “Japs and Chinks” to be!
TeleMongol Cast with George Takei in center
A-HOLE stands for Asian Home of Language Entertainment, a newly created fictional TV channel. When Lois Lew (Corinne Chooey), A-HOLE’s executive in charge of programming, combines the ideas of Jay Park (Ewan Chung), an idealistic producer trying to write real stories from an Asian perspective, with the raunchy suggestions of a sleazy marketing man, Paul Manalo (Michael C. Palma), whose only obsession is profit, the crowd stumbles into a gold-mine of opportunities for these highly talented and hysterical Asian American performers to blast back at the white-dominated entertainment world.
(L to R standing) Charles Kim, Aaron Takahashi, Corinne Chooey, Ewan Chung, Denise Iketani, Tobert Covarrubias
(L to R lying) Greg Watanabe, Joyce F. Liu, Wanru Tseng
Photo by Michael C. Palma
These actors/writers who come from 4 different Asian American comedy troupes [Cold Tofu, 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors, OPM Comedy, and Lodestone Theater Ensemble] masterfully spoof hit American TV shows and also poke fun at Asian stereotypes from outside and inside their community. To name-check but a few of the 18 consistently entertaining and outspoken sketches: APPA KNOWS BEST shows a greedy Korean mother (Charles Kim) calling her daughter Nancy dumb for dating ‘a Mexican.’ “He’s Philipino,” Nancy corrects, provoking Mom’s warning that the Korean/Mexican grandchildren will be confused: “Do I own the building? Or do I clean the building?” In a PSA promoting literacy, PROJECT APPLE, China Doll (Jully Lee), a female porn star, uses her oral sex skills to turn illiterate young people into “cunning linguists.” In CHINO STATE PEN, a male convict gets a double-life sentence for killing his parents “by not going to Harvard”. But TELEMONGOL is not just about sex and stereotypes; it also throws a few political haymakers towards the dark side of US and Asian politics. In the very edgy NORTH KOREAN HOLIDAY TOUR, hosted by Dear Leader (Charles Kim), the North Korean ruler reacts to a gift of coal from Marilyn Monroe (Wanru Tseng) in exile by JFK, ”It proves there is some left.” His other guest OBL (Robert Covarrubias) advertises his upcoming Christmas tape featuring songs like “Jihad bells” and “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer must die.”
TELEMONGOL is like fireworks, rapidly cracking jokes every minute that go from mild to wicked (you’ll have to find out for yourself where yeast comes from.) The show is also a feat for the eyes and ears. You can listen to the music English makes when played to the tunes of Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and Korean accents. The costumes by Ivy Y. Chou are colorful, sexy, and absolutely goofy, such as Genghis’ costume in the uproarious GENGHIS CONDOM AD. And why wait for the show to begin when you can get started on chuckles by just reading the character names on the program?
TELEMONGOL succeed at what the fictional AHOLE set off to do: educate and entertain. If, like me, you dread going through the next thirty days followed wherever you go by lame and lamer Christmas songs that make killing Rudolf a great idea, through December 17, you can give the finger to tradition by laughing your booties off, courtesy of the witty, irreverent and hilarious collaboration found here.
Happy A-Holidays to you, brothers and sisters!