Asian AF is Proof that SF Needs its Own Asian American Variety Show

The popular variety show comes to the Bay from LA and New York.

Asian AF tickets always sell out.

It’s hard condensing down what exactly the Asian American variety show is, because it is exactly what the category would suggest: an Asian American show with variety. For two sold out nights at Sketchfest, Asian AF brought stand-up comics, sketches, and a massive improv super team to the Gateway Theatre singing about Asian male sexuality, playing a game show (“Name That Gaysian”), and finding inventive ways to spin jokes about white people and disapproving parents. 

Sometimes you can do both: Joy Regullano sang from her musical Supportive White Parents, wishing upon a star for a mother and father who’d understand her switching majors (from biology to Southeast Asian studies). We didn’t ever find out if it worked because the solo show quickly gave way to a fast-paced soap opera parody, courtesy of the Asian AF spinoff group, Filipino AF.

Later, Jiavani Linayao set the bar high with her one woman show about the beginning of the world. Imagine if the Genesis was actually about Eve coming to terms with her own sexuality. It’s hard when you’re the only woman in the world and the only other human (Adam) is something you really don’t want to have sex with: Linayao’s unfettered monologue was a desperate (and well-argued) plea to God for a girlfriend.

Asian AF, after an uproarious “talent show” from Gaysian AF (featuring the most raunchy dancing and music), a superteam made up of the night’s performers came together for a giant improv show. A lot of times, improv can be really painful to watch. Sometimes there are awkward pauses while actors are trying to think of what to say next. Sometimes there are jokes that just don’t land. You never really know what you’re going to get an improv show, but Asian AF clearly knows what they’re doing. Acts quickly cycled through and it felt like every other one was able to find a new spin on an audience-provided word (“pineapple”). Pallavi Gunalan was one of the clear standouts of the show, committing fully to every newly made-up role she stepped into. 

At the end of the night, Asian AF creator Will Choi stepped onto stage. “How does it feel to know you’ll never be as talented as them?” he yelled, pointing at the audience, which continued to clap in resounding support of the actors behind him. “How does it feel?”

Grace Li covers arts, culture, and food for SF Weekly. You can reach her at gli@sfweekly.com.

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