“Being disoriented is sort of a natural experience if you are not of an identity that’s in the status quo,” comedian Jenny Yang said.
With fellow comedian D’Lo, Yang produces a stand-up comedy tour called Dis/orient/ed Comedy. The tour stopped at UC Santa Cruz last week for the second consecutive year and was hosted by the Asian American/Pacific Island Resource Center (AA/PIRC), African American Resource Center (AARC), Cantú Queer Center and the College Nine and Ten Activity Office.
These organizations collaborated on the Feb. 19 event held in the College Nine and Ten Multipurpose Room. An audience of over 200 filled the space, eager to laugh and cheer for their favorite jokes.
This year’s show was “Black and Yellow,” featuring Yang and D’Lo, as well as black comedians Danielle Radford and King Uncle Dametime. The performers highlighted their experiences as black Americans and Asian Americans through conversations about sexuality, race, gender and religion told through comedic stories. D’Lo joked that the name of the event wasn’t in reference to the Wiz Khalifa song.
“This show was specifically a black and yellow comedy show, and quite often our communities don’t get to collaborate, especially on situations like this,” said Dree Robinson, an AARC intern who helped put on the event. “It brought our two communities together, [something] most people don’t feel like would ever happen, especially on this campus.”
D’Lo acted out a time when he was riding a bike in Santa Monica and was pulled over for not having a bike light. The account included a hilarious dramatization of him observing another passing cyclist — who was white — also without a light. Because the officer ignored the white rider, D’Lo upheld his “citizenly duty” and stopped the cyclist himself.
Though humor was the focus of the story, the underlying message of how police target people of color resonated with attendees. The audience was silent as D’Lo said, “This was one of the better stories because you know what happens when the cops pull folks like us over.”
Third-year Kenia Rosas’ experience being pulled over by the police allowed her to connect most with D’Lo’s story. “I do start getting nervous, and I worry about what’s going to happen to me,” she said. “It made me realize how paranoid people of color can be when they get stopped by the police.”
Events like these are also platforms to break down stereotypes surrounding underrepresented communities, like how people who identify as Asian American are often considered a “model minority.” At UCSC, African American and black students make up about 2 percent of the total population and Asian American and Pacific Islander students about 22 percent, compared to 34 percent white students, according to the Office of Planning and Budget.
AARC Director Shonté Thomas said there’s an expectation that Asian Americans will only have aspirations that fall in line with that concept, which Yang’s stories challenged.
“[This event] broadens the opportunity for [Asian Americans] to be funny. Jenny touched upon it, that’s not something they’re ‘allowed’ to aspire to,” Thomas said. “It gives folks an opportunity to be political, to be conscientious and to be conscious of the way they can affect change in a different package.”
As Dis/orient/ed Comedy demonstrates, social activism and humor don’t have to be separate.
“Not everything was entirely politically correct, but at least there was some cultural competency and something relevant, for not just the majority within a predominantly white institution, to find humorous,” said Lealani Manuta, an AA/PIRC intern. “There were other things for us to connect to, which is important for communities of color.”