Saturday, August 19, 2006

Humor in Asia

Ok...I know I bitch a lot about the lack of "quarity" comedy in Asian culture. But these 2 Chinese Boys have served me up a Louis Vuitton Filet Mignon in Caviar because DAMN I am laughing so hard over it.

The 2 Chinese Boys are the funniest people I've seen come from Asia while I've been here. Their brand of humor is perfect for me, because it doesn't depend on wordplay and obscure cultural references which I think is keeping me from appreciating the Taiwanese Comedy scene. Basically, I'm not Chinese Smart enough, I guess.

It may not be obvious, but one of the hardest things about moving to a new country isn't just getting over the language barrier. There's a HUMOR barrier as well-and it has me more stressed out than the language barrier.

After I moved to Taiwan, I realized how much of my life revolved around humor. To make friends, to do my job, to de-stress, to get inspiration from for my own art projects, make good first impressions,,,errrr to FUNCTION, you get the idea.

I think this was especially brought out after I got my most recent work evaluation. My worst scores were in Communication AND teamwork and that really bummed me out because those used to be the traits that everyone praised me for. Frankly this left me demoralized for weeks and it really messed with my self-concept.

As I was philosophizing over it, I realized that one good reason for the disconnect may be because I am used to depending on humor a lot in dealing with people at work. When we communicate with people, especially while managing them, the underlying goal is to feel comfortable with them and make the other person feel comfortable too. And humor is my way. If someone doesn't make a deadline, I'm not apt to pour them a cup of tea and hold their hand asking for an explanation...I'm more likely to make a short joke with the underlying message, "Yea, just get it to me fast then or I kick your ass." Channeling a caricature of Meryl in Devil Wears Prada may be the recipe to success in NYC, but here, it just gets lost on people, and people would just assume I'm a straight up bitch rather than realize I was making the fool out of myself to make the other person feel better while dishing an awkward message.

Sadly, after almost two years here I have accepted that: a) I don't find a lot of Chinese comedy funny and b) People in Taiwan don't understand me when I try to be funny. After almost two years of living here, and having people not get your jokes a lot and not laughing as much as I used to, it really wears you down. Imagine, being seen as that person who can't tell a simple joke-it must be like having a conversation with a robot. Or a serial killer.

People assume that being Chinese American in Taiwan, my biggest identity crisis would be "Am I Chinese? Or Am I American?" but frankly, it isn't. Instead it's "Am I funny? Or am I just a dork?"


Jin said...

haa...poor Helen,,,don't feel are the funniest person to go out with because you always like to make some jok or doing some funny things...haaa....don't worry too much ok....i feel you did you best at work and people love you here ...^^...

Jonathan Biddle said...


What an extraordinary piece of writing.

I have been thinking very, very similar things over the past few weeks.

I believe that the creative process - at least my one - is analagous to humour. You make links and jumps and metaphors - and if you don't 'get' my joke, you may not 'get' my creativity. The difference I hope, is that the results of the creativity are still good.

And I was always the heart of the team back home. And now I am the sharp-tongued Brit sitting in the corner.

Anyway. This is worth a beer. We should meet up!


ann in China said...

big hug, HELEN !! back to TW unh!?~ must had great fun in NY, aren't u! never mind the humor thing, just the culture/ education/ environment are so different, doesn't mean any! i think only people travelling a lot like us can inderstand it, not easy tho! anyway, u did well already, and just be yourself! i think u r cooool!!
ps: finally i can link to ur blog! wicked!

the Lulu said...

OH Sweetie,
humor's the hardest to translate. my mom has been in the states for +30yrs and can only get some of leno--forget conan or colbert. put your funny on your blog b/c we didn't get enough entries this summer. and in the fall, we might suffer from lol deficiency, which watching leno won't help.