Personally it took me a number years in my youth to truly understand the negative impacts of “yellow fever”. Being born and raised in Australia, it never really dawned on me for quite awhile that non Asian men in Australia fetishised Asian women and had all these ideas that Asian women (even those of us in Australia) are petite, meek, obedient but adventurous in the bedroom. I only realised when I dated a guy in my very young adult life and he specifically told me that he only went for Asian women for the reasons I mentioned above.
It is not a surprise that most if not all of us Asian Australian women face this type of discrimination – and yes I will call it discrimination because that is what it is. Anyways, I interviewed Asian Australian stand up comedian JENNY TIAN about this issue because her stand up comedy is about her dating life and references issues around “yellow fever” which she has faced and experienced. I feel it is timely to publish this interview at this time considering Asian Australian food writer/host who will be one of the new 2020 judges on MasterChef Australia, Melissa Leong recently spoke with Huff Post Australia on this exact issue – that it is an everyday onslaught for her dealing with “yellow fever” comments and messages.
“It’s an interesting one. It is a little weird when you look through a guy’s dating history and it’s entirely consisted of Asian women. Then you discover he’s obsessed with anime and lived in Japan for a year. Having dated a guy with ‘yellow-fever’, you can’t help but feel like you’re another collectible in his edition. It feels a bit icky and I still don’t know what to fully make of it,” Tian said.
And having watched some of Tian’s stand-up comedy routines on Facebook, she pretty much incorporates “yellow fever” as part of her own dating experiences. But it is an interesting concept to use dating experiences as a comedy routine and it definitely isn’t easy – Asian American comedian Ali Wong is someone who has always done well with using her own experiences as part of her comedy routine. But Tian’s routine also talks about her long term relationship and heartbreak which really isn’t something easy to do.
“It’s funny because I initially hated the idea of telling a story about heartbreak. I didn’t want to be THAT girl who wrote an entire story about an ex-boyfriend she had 3 years ago. But then I started dot-pointing down all the experiences I had with this guy and realised was a pretty fun story. I’m glad it turned out the way it did.”
On a different note, it is interesting that in more recent years there have been an increase in the number of Asian Australian stand-up comedians – a career path which is not always lucrative and a path which confuses our Asian migrant parents. Tian agrees with this assessment and stated that her own parents do not fully understand what it means to be a stand-up comedian,
“My parents don’t even know what stand up comedy is. When I go out and perform at night, they refer to it as my “talk show”. Because I still work full-time, my parents don’t have an issue with me doing comedy in the evenings. But if I were to leave my job just for stand-up, they’d probably have a meltdown.
I mean, comedy isn’t lucrative at all haha! At least not in the stage where I’m at, so in a way I get my parents confusion. But there’s a sense of satisfaction you receive knowing that everything you’re saying and performing has come directly from you. In that sense, it’s very personal and when a joke lands, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
Tian plans to continue with her labor of love – which really is what stand-up comedy is all about. It is not easy to stand on stage in front of an audience hoping that your jokes are funny enough for them to laugh – but all the Asian Australian comedians I have interviewed are succeeding and continuously persisting with their passion – which is awesome! Tian tells me that she plans to do a solo performance in the coming year, so keep your eyes peeled to check out her stuff!