Students gathered in Love Auditorium on Thursday, February 8 for a stand-up show and diversity discussion with comedian Eliot Chang. The event was sponsored by Colgate Stand Up, the Organization of Asian Sisters in Solidarity (OASiS) and the Korean Culture Association (KCA).
Senior J.T. Anderson kicked off the presentation with a brief stand-up routine of his own. The set addressed Anderson’s gap year between his junior and senior years, and detailed the challenges of living without a meal plan. When a first-year bought him a scone in the library cafe, Anderson joked, he fell in love with her.
Chang took the stage next. No stranger to the spotlight, the comedian has appeared on Comedy Central, E!’s “Chelsea Lately” and Showtime’s “Minority Report.” At Colgate, his first topic was – unsurprisingly – the weather.
“How do you explain zero degrees to people who have never felt it?” Chang asked.
The majority of Chang’s routine focused on relationships, recounting his experiences with women and relaying his concerns about his parents’ emphasis on marriage. Chang was playfully honest when discussing his trouble picking up women, especially when joking about how difficult it is to feel protective of taller women.
Chang touched on other subjects, too, using humor to make statements about homophobia and racism. Candid about his feelings towards the topic, Chang humorously recounted a time when he became infuriated by a homophobic remark made by a passenger sitting next to a gay man on a plane. The man felt uncomfortable, fearing that he himself would become gay.
“Nobody turns gay by osmosis,” Chang had retorted.
Chang took on a more serious tone in his post-routine Q&A session. Instead of asking audience members to raise their hands, Chang wrote his phone number on the auditorium chalkboard and requested that students anonymously text him their questions. According to the comic, this less-conventional process would encourage audience members to ask him what they really wanted to know.
While some questions adopted a comedic tone, most addressed the marginalization and generalization that Asian-Americans continually face. According to Chang, the media casts Asians in very specific roles: Asian men play enemies and “bad guys,” while Asian women play prostitutes. The only Asians who are considered “acceptable” are those who assimilate to other cultures –“surfer dudes” being one example. When the media establishes such niche roles for Asians, stereotypes are strengthened, and viewers perceive the Asian characters they see on TV as reflective of reality. Despite this cycle of stereotyping, Chang maintained that there is space for change. By learning one’s own language, reading up on one’s culture and adopting a sense of personal pride, individuals may teach themselves and others to denounce generalizations.
“Pride is intangible. Pride is in your heart and in your mind, and people can’t take it from you unless you let them,” Chang said.
Chang closed with some final advice for Colgate students about getting involved on campus: it is your responsibility to learn your culture and teach your culture to others, because the media will not. Chang emphasized that students represent their own backgrounds.
“You are what you choose to be,” Chang said.
Sophomore Samto Wonso spoke about his appreciation for what Chang had to say. “The performance was really funny and the Q&A part at the end of the event was informative. He spoke a lot about the Asian identity and stereotypes that surround it. Throughout the event, I think KCA did a wonderful job of educating people about the Asian identity, which is rarely discussed on campus,” Wonso said.
Sophomore Phuong Mac echoed this same feeling. “Eliot Chang makes me proud to be Asian,” she said.