The next performance of Pork Filled Players, an Asian Pacific Islander comedy troupe, is more sizzlin’ than fresh bacon on a frying pan.
With subjects ranging from stereotypes of Asian Pacific Islanders to the absurdity of heterosexual norms, the show will feature skits that are themed around pulp movies of the past. Even though the actors promise not to parody the film “Pulp Fiction”, the opening segment begins with a hilarious satire of the film and what it means to be an API in the United States.
As Roger Tang, current producer of the group, recounts, the troupe first began performing in 1997, making them the second oldest Asian American comedy group in Seattle. The group was founded by David Kobayashi, who felt the need to create a comedy troupe that appealed to APIs. Tang says, “I’m one of the original founders. Most sketch comedies center around two or three people, but we are more broadly based. This is the fourth or fifth generation of the group. We’ve had the same core for five years.”
The Players’ brand of humor is both quirky and provocative. As I sat in on one of their rehearsals, I noticed that their performance included a healthy mixture of Asian-related jokes as well as humor that appealed to a broader audience.
“We don’t want to limit ourselves to minority humor,” said Tang. “We strive to make our humor universal. And we’re not afraid of a fart joke.”
One thing that distinguishes the group is that they are mainly composed of women. As one of the actors in the troupe noted, “Eighty-five percent of the material is written by the girls.” During the rehearsal I attended, I found it to be highly interactive, with both the producer and actors collaborating in the performance. As expected, most of the suggestions were made by the women in the group.
The Players have encountered numerous obstacles over the years. The most difficult has been the need to create material that is both fresh and speaks to a contemporary audience.
“We try to have Asian humor without getting stale. Also, we don’t want to be obvious about it.”
In “Pork Fiction”, the next performance, audiences can expect to see, as one actor says, “satires of pulp genres, clashes of cultures, weird stuff, the absurd, poking fun at Star Trek, private eyes, lots of fights, and good stage combat.” People can also look forward to skits that include music to accompany the humor.
Roger Tang, who was part of the Players’ first generation of actors, now produces the troupe. As a veteran of Asian American theatre, Tang exudes a wisdom that comes from years of experience. In rehearsal, he takes careful notes and advises the actors on possible ideas for improving their performance.
Regarding the Players’ future plans, Tang notes that they usually don’t go beyond the next show. “We want to bring down a lot of Asian Canadian acts, such as Assaulted Fish from Vancouver BC. We also plan on working with Disoriental, OPM in LA, and the 18 Mountain Mighty Warriors.”
“Pork Fiction” will perform at the Theatre Off Jackson from April 30 to May 15, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. The theater is located at 409 7th Ave. S., Seattle.