Ali Wong has a few things to say about life as a married, pregnant thirtysomething and what better way than a ferocious hour long set performed six weeks before giving birth? She jokes that she’s probably the first pregnant comedian to do so because, you know, taboos, and she is carrying a baby, but it’s hard to imagine a better time for her. She’s at that magical place called “the moment”; not only is she happily married and expecting, Wong is also a writer for the acclaimed, ground-breaking show Fresh Off the Boat. That’s fulfillment in your early thirties, and given her brief window before 3 a.m. feedings take over, now seems a ripe time for a comedy special.
Wong keeps things personal, unsparing to those in her orbit, including herself. She occasionally dives into long monologues about work, specifically bowel movements and itching one’s lady parts in the office space. Having breached adulthood though, she gets reflective about her youth, meditating on her sexual proclivity, not with shame or regret but with a certain bewilderment lost to adventurous twentysomethings.
Her past where it is, much of Wong’s material is devoted to her immediate future, where her husband has a starring role. She keeps him elusive – a handsome, progressive Harvard grad with huge earnings potential – and shapes him into someone who is as much financial guarantor as he is life partner. Wong opines with cheeky subversion that she would love nothing more than to be a housewife. As she tells it, lounging around as a stay-at-home mom while her husband makes all the money, and she expects loads of it, is feminism come full circle. So not your typical approach to aspirational humor, but oh, the bite. As a reference, her sights are set on a certain level of material comfort where mangos sliced by white people are a thing.
Though these probably aren’t the views she ascribes to in reality, she does have some acute observations on race. Wong doesn’t barrel into debates on racism writ large, but she throws some sharp elbows. She has a few choice words, and images, about white men and sexual colonization, which she counters with no less evocative descriptions of her Asian husband. One thing Wong’s special demonstrates is the manifold ways in which Asian American comics address race and ethnicity. For the first time – ever, in the history of television – two network shows about Asian American families approach that experience in ways that broaden representation. Fresh Off the Boat offers a more distinctly immigrant experience while Ken Jeong’s vehicle, Dr. Ken, aims its comedic fire at the home and workplace. Add Wong’s voice to this, whether she is speaking specifically on race or throwing up tropes that many an Asian American will recognize, e.g. hoarder mom and penny-pinching father-in-law, and we gain a more nuanced picture of a sorely underrepresented community. Slowly, slowly, folks.
Wong doesn’t stop there though. She also opens up about miscarriage and her hopes and fears about motherhood. There’s a real emotional breadth to her set, and the sharpness of her writing comes through as she manages the sadness, frustration, and acceptance of miscarrying. There’s a beauty in the way that she untangles and tries to understand that on stage and an added poignancy in doing her first show just before giving birth.
Dir: Jay Karas
Writer: Ali Wong
Cast: Ali Wong
Time: 60 min
Country: United States