Friday, Oct. 8, Taiwanese-American comedian Jenny Yang performed a stand-up set at the Commonwealth Auditorium in Sadler Center with Renee Ritchey ‘24 as the opening act. Yang was brought to the College as a collaborative effort between William and Mary’s AMP and the Asian Centennial.
Entering the stage in a black jumpsuit and a smile, Ritchey began the night with a flurry of sarcastic jokes centered around the multitude of tents that had seemingly materialized overnight all across the Sunken Gardens for Homecoming Weekend.
“I’m now realizing tents are an invasive species on this campus,” Ritchey said. “The mothership tent came in, implanted her little tent eggs, and now they’re spawning everywhere. The Sunken Gardens looks like a goddamn circus. It’s so bad that every morning I wake up, and I go to class, and I’m now no longer walking outside.”
For the remainder of her set, Ritchey continued making jokes about the College’s Homecoming, exploring what Homecoming looked like last year during the pandemic.
“William and Mary was so committed to remote learning last year that we had a virtual homecoming game. I’m sorry to the football team, but that is the first game we’ve won in a generation,” Ritchey said, eliciting a massive laugh from the audience.
Ritchey also imagined what it would be like to have a high-school style Homecoming dance at the College, making jokes about the types of Homecoming posters that would be seen across campus.
“I can see it now, someone out there being like, ‘Hey Hannah, you make my heart swem.’ ‘Hey Matt, I’d be Sad-ler if you didn’t go to the dance with me. ‘Hey Sarah, you’re looking Bot-a-Hot tonight,” Ritchey joked, performing wordplay on the names of popular buildings around campus, much to the audience’s delight.
As her set was beginning to wind down, Ritchey congratulated the class of 2020 on their long-awaited Commencement ceremony that was occurring in the coming weekend and marveled at the fact that Dr. Anthony Fauci was slated to be the speaker at Commencement.
“Now, if I told myself two years ago that I would be a fangirl for an infectious disease expert, I would question what had happened,” Ritchey said.
As a last note before departing to make way for Yang’s entrance, Ritchey told the audience that it had been her first time doing stand up, making her seamless set even more impressive and bold.
Once Ritchey exited the stage, the main event began with Yang, dressed in an oversized bright green sweatsuit, emerging from the curtains to thunderous applause. Yang then kicked off her set by speaking in Chinese, drawing hesitant laughs from the audience and a few cheers from fellow Chinese speakers. However, after a brief minute, the jig was up.
“I was just playing you guys,” Yang said with a laugh, and she mocked the audience’s uncomfortability. “Asian Centennial sponsored this, but is this in English!?”
For the rest of the hour-long show, scores of laughter filled Commonwealth as Yang’s blunt, sarcastic, and out-of-pocket humor retained an effective shock value that kept the audience continuously entertained and eager to hear more. Yang’s down-to-earth personality, conversational tone, and relatable content topics such as dating and astrology also helped her easily bond with the audience. It was clear that Yang knew how to cater to a younger, college-aged crowd.
Furthermore, much of her set was characterized by race-related jokes, including one about her fiance, Cory, who may have gotten the most scathing review of all.
“He’s so white, he’s from Wisconsin. He is so white, he pisses ranch. You know the drill. He is so white, his girlfriend is Asian,” Yang said.
Yang also intertwined her own racial identity into many of her jokes, delving into subjects like her strict Taiwanese mother who thought that “OK” was an appropriate response to “I love you,” her identification as a political Asian, and the culture shock she had in going from her diverse community in California to the aggressively white Swarthmore College.
“I for sure had to major in whiteness as a second language,” Yang said.“100%. Like what’s a Patagonia? What are Tevas? L.L Bean has an unlimited returns policy? How does that even work? Don’t tell Chinese people about that.”
Yang also dedicated a sizable portion of her set poking fun at William and Mary’s history while referring to a set of premade notes on an iPad, which served as a unique, personalized touch in her show.
Throughout her set, Yang also made sure to engage with the audience by calling upon specific audience members to answer questions.
In one instance, Yang tested out her idea for a podcast called “Gen Z Yells at Me” by asking the audience, which was primarily made up of Gen Z-ers, to share a “generational gripe” they have with her. One audience member, a junior named Sophie, answered, “stop expecting us to fix climate change!”
In another instance, Yang poked fun at one of the only older, middle-aged audience members in attendance, Drew, who happened to be sitting in the front in Yang’s direct line of vision. In a continuation of her discussion about gaining weight during the pandemic, Yang hopped down from the stage, walked over to Drew (whom Yang insisted on calling Kyle), pulled her shirt up, and relaxed her stomach so that it bulged out.
“What would you do if I pulled up like this to a date?” Yang asked, rubbing her stomach for emphasis. In a moment of hilarity, Drew immediately turned his eyes away and raised his eyebrows in a mixture of shock and discomfort, making comments about his wife.
The ultimate pinnacle of Yang’s show came when she launched into an extremely detailed recollection of a date she had with her last boyfriend before she met her current fiance, who was named Sean. For several minutes, Yang went on to describe how Sean had come over to her apartment to cook her a flavorful dinner using ingredients like onions, ginger, and jalapenos, and while things started heating up in the kitchen, so did things between Yang and Sean. Yang talked about how the two spontaneously began to make out in the kitchen and then moved to her bedroom to have sex.
However, the night took an extreme turn for the worse when Sean reached down to touch Yang’s vagina, and Yang felt an intense burning sensation around her genitals.
The audience, which had been captivated with anticipation as Yang built up to the climax of the story, recoiled in horror as Yang revealed Sean had failed to wash his hands of the spices he had been using while cooking before touching her down there.
“Did you wash your hands after cutting the jalapenos?!” Yang shrieked, mimicking the panic she had felt during the encounter.
Yang then described how she rushed to the bathroom, laid in the bathtub, and began pouring milk, then probiotic yogurt all over her genitals in a desperate attempt to numb the burning pain.
“I didn’t know what to do! When was the last time you had to fix a spice acid pussy?” Yang exclaimed.
For Madelyn Bergin ‘24, this extended bit served as the most memorable part of the night.
“My favorite moment was when she was describing her date,” Bergin said., “The kind of realization the audience had before she finished the joke was really funny.”
Yang’s comedy show seemed to garner a favorable reaction from audience members, who were not shy to share their praise of Yang’s stand-up.
“I thought her pacing was really good, her delivery of jokes was funny,” Bergin said. “I thought she did a good job knowing the crowd, and doing research made the show very personable.”
Nina Orozco ‘23, echoed the sentiments about Yang’s extra research being a stand-out part of the show.
“I did like that she did research about the school,” Orozco said. “I feel like a lot of comedians easily just have a bunch of jokes that they recite for every single show that they do, but it was cool that she personalized it for us and put effort into it.”
For others, Yang’s presence at William and Mary held greater significance than a night of lighthearted fun and instead represented a much-needed growth in diversity.
“I’m an Asian from very white Connecticut,” Julia Tucker ‘25, said. “I love seeing Asian performers and things like that. Just seeing myself represented on stage means a lot to me.”
Yang’s willingness to broach any topic, including reliving her most embarrassing moments down to the minute specificities with hundreds of strangers, made her comedy special stand out as an unforgettable event at the College.