Ep. 2: On Stage With Jenny Yang

Jenny Yang’s lane is making people laugh. A writer and comedian, Jenny explains why she left labor organizing to become a performer—and how she’s still doing the work by telling stories, organizing through shows, and turning despair into creativity. Ai-jen and Alicia also discuss the importance of changing narratives, from what we tell ourselves to what we tell each other. Plus: Jenny’s latest viral video, the power of Gen Z, and why it’s OK to get uncomfortable.

You can follow Jenny on Instagram at @jennyyangtv and on Twitter at @jennyyangtv

Learn:

Watch | Jenny speak at the upcoming East-West Seminar: Combating Bigotry with Satire Briefing on September 22nd

Watch | Jenny’s “Honk if you won’t hate crime me” video addressing anti-Asian racism related to COVID-19

Read | In Jenny’s words, her story about navigating the comedy world as an Asian American woman what she’s doing to make comedy a more inclusive space

Act:

Join | Jenny’s virtual comedy show, Comedy Crossing, happens every first and third Saturday of the month and benefits organizations supporting the movement for Black lives

Create | Is art your jam? Are you looking for activities while at home with your kids during a global pandemic? Check out Families Belong Together’s art resources for creative ways to help your child become an agent of change

Donate | Support Asian American and Pacific Islander artists and entertainment leaders by donating to CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment)

Vote:

Already registered to vote? Now it’s time to get #VoteReady! Learn what you can do to get involved with National Voter Registration Day on September 22nd

Transcript

Alicia Garza:

Welcome to Sunstorm, where we get real about what’s happening in the world and what we’re doing about it because we are the light in the storm.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Hi, I’m Ai-jen Poo.

 

Alicia Garza:

And I’m Alicia Garza and joining us today on the pod, we have a woman who I and you and we are obsessed with.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Obsessed.

 

Alicia Garza:

Jenny Yang.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Jenny is one of the funniest people we know. She’s an amazing comedian, performer, writer, and way back when, a labor organizer, too. If you’re not following her on Twitter, you are missing out.

 

Alicia Garza:

A hundred percent. She is one of us. She’s family. She’s folks. She’s friends. Please welcome Jenny.

 

Jenny Yang:

Oh my goodness. I am so excited to be on this podcast. This is my dream, just beautiful, intelligent movement women out here shaping history.

 

Alicia Garza:

I’m loving the fact that you and me and AP finally are getting to sit down. I feel like we’ve been wanting you since season one, but pandemic brings people together.

 

Jenny Yang:

I mean, listen. We’re going to look for silver linings sometimes.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Yes. All right. So we know you, we love you dearly. For people who don’t know you out there… I’m sure people introduce you for your shows all the time. What’s the best intro you ever got?

 

Jenny Yang:

I’m Jenny yang. I am a stand-up comedian, a writer, an actor and host, and then I do consider myself an organizer of people.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

You totally are.

 

Jenny Yang:

In the context of working in Hollywood and comedy, I organize comedians and audiences. That’s how I think of my work. But also, I’m an immigrant from Taiwan. I’m the youngest of three with much older brothers. I’m obsessed with the self-care industrial complex, food culture, politics and pop culture, obviously, and karaoke. You know what I mean? I feel like that’s the fullest intro you’re going to get in under two minutes.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Karaoke.

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s really good.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

What are your karaoke go-to songs?

 

Jenny Yang:

Oh, listen. Any R&B from the ’90s. You know what I mean? I feel like that is what-

 

Alicia Garza:

Facts. Facts on facts on facts.

 

Jenny Yang:

Anything that I grew up listening to in Southern California where you had little images and dreams of smooching with your crush at the dance, so like a little Brian McKnight maybe-

 

Alicia Garza:

Ooh.

 

Jenny Yang:

A little Toni Braxton.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Yes.

 

Alicia Garza:

Ooh. Yes.

 

Jenny Yang:

Japanese people and East Asian [inaudible 00:02:29] karaoke for a reason. Our shit is repressed and we’re like, “We need to sing it out.” You know what I mean?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Big time. Big time.

 

Alicia Garza:

Yes.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Alicia’s karaoke game is strong. I don’t know if you know this about her. She can hold her own in a karaoke bar in Hawaii with all the Asians. All the Asians.

 

Jenny Yang:

Ooh.

 

Alicia Garza:

It’s true. It’s true. I was grounded a lot as a kid so I listened to the radio obsessively and I know all the words to every song that was put out in the ’90s. We could actually do this thing. Let’s really get it popping.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

We’re going to do this thing.

 

Alicia Garza:

I just have to ask. You said the self-care industrial complex and now I’m so curious. What is that?

 

Jenny Yang:

To me, it’s my love-hate relationship with all the products and practices and discussions around how we need to be taking care of ourselves, especially as women. There’s all these sort of recommendations for how to live our best life. I think we’re only now deepening that conversation amongst each other about what that really means and in a way that’s not just simply consumerist or superficial. You know what I mean? So yeah, we can enjoy the face masks. We can enjoy the weird jade rollers that you’re obviously appropriating from some culture, but what else does that really mean on a deeper level?

 

Jenny Yang:

I think along with the political awakening that happened in 2016, for a lot of people, that’s been connected to an awakening around what true self-care means so we could counterbalance the despair that you might feel because of the world. Because it’s deeper. Because it’s deeper than just, “Oh, I’m stressed at work and I don’t have time on the weekends for myself.” For more people outside of political movements, it’s hitting them like, “Oh, there is a problem that I might need to be responsible for outside of my immediate life.”

 

Ai-jen Poo:

“And that I can’t solve alone, that it’s actually a collective…”

 

Jenny Yang:

Oh, exactly.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

“A collective issue and challenge.”

 

Jenny Yang:

Exactly. I feel like it’s been a huge upheaval in our culture. That’s why it’s like, “Of course we need Ai-jen and Alicia to have a podcast,” because you’re in it.

 

Alicia Garza:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I will say, though, that we are proudly outside of the self-care industrial complex because we believe self-care is winning.

 

Jenny Yang:

I love that. Of course winning is self-care because you’re organizers so you’re like, “Winning is everything.”

 

Alicia Garza:

Speaking of laughs, and you’re giving me deep belly laughs this morning which is what I need, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. I mean, this is like a perfect time to be in conversation with you, but I really want to know, and I just have to ask every comedian who I talked to, what is making you laugh these days?

 

Jenny Yang:

Oh, God. That’s tough.

 

Alicia Garza:

Give us the scoop.

 

Jenny Yang:

I’m going to tell you this: these TikTok kids, I got to tell you, this is like next level.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

It is.

 

Jenny Yang:

The TikTok kids, they are the product of who we are now. They are political, they are deep thinking, they are synthesizing that into these short bursts of energy and creativity. It’s really powerful to me to see how Gen Z are out here educating people. Really, they’re doing a lot of massive work and so I think we should not underestimate the entertainment value and funny value of TikTok teens.

 

Jenny Yang:

I’m older than people think I am because I need to keep it that way in Hollywood because I’m still on camera sometimes. But, the honest truth is I started in politics. I think we all know politics, prior to #BlackLivesMatter… Even now still… the movement sometimes was not adapting. Let’s be honest.

 

Alicia Garza:

Facts. For sure.

 

Jenny Yang:

You know what I mean? Things were getting a little ossified, a little dusty. There were a bunch of hippie activists who went on to be executive directors and funders and just keeping things-

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Still male and pale.

 

Jenny Yang:

[crosstalk 00:06:28] kept out. Yeah. I left nonprofits and I left the movement for a reason. I was a young buck trying to be a part of the change and then once I got to be a director in a labor union, I was like, “Fuck this. I don’t look up to these people at all.” I forgot what I was saying, but I just needed people to know that. I forgot what question [inaudible 00:06:53].

 

Ai-jen Poo:

And now they know.

 

Alicia Garza:

We were talking about what makes you laugh. You know what I’m saying?

 

Jenny Yang:

Yeah. For me, I feel like I laugh constantly about politics. I feel like it’s both knowing how the sausage is made, but also just on the face of it, it is theater. People always ask me, “How has it been transitioning from politics to comedy?” And I’m like, “Oh, it’s the same.” It’s the same. It’s about power, how you control it. It’s about communicating. It’s theater. It’s building relationships, whether immediate or not. It’s telling your story. To me, it’s like, “Do I want to try to have a humorless experience in the political work that I was doing that didn’t give me freedom, or do I want to have more freedom to be myself and talk about the things I care about and make people think about the things that I care about?”

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Did you always want to be a performer?

 

Jenny Yang:

I feel like as a little Asian immigrant girl, no one’s like-

 

Ai-jen Poo:

That’s right.

 

Jenny Yang:

“Girl, you should grow up to be a professional performer.” That’s not-

 

Ai-jen Poo:

That’s not a thing.

 

Jenny Yang:

… put in our heads. No, it’s not. I’m not one of those people who are like Judd Apatow who’s like, “When I was nine years old and transcribing Johnny Carson,” You know what I mean? Which is amazing. I’m like, “What an education. Fuck. Dude, thank you for your service. You’re obviously this treasure trove of comedy now.”

 

Jenny Yang:

I grew up trying to be a good student because from five years old when I moved to America, my mom was a garment worker and me asking her, “Why are you so tired all the time? Why are you blowing your snot out and it’s gray?” she said, “Well, that’s why we’re in America, so that you don’t have to work as hard as I do if you get good grades and listen to your teachers. That is your job.” The fear of God was in me at five and I was like, “Okay, mom. That is my job.” You know what I mean? That’s all I focused on.

 

Jenny Yang:

But when I look back, I have two much older brothers that exposed me to comedy of the ’80s and ’90 that I definitely should not have been exposed to. You know what I’m saying? But I remember Eddie Murphy. I remember Margaret Cho. I remember just being a child. I grew up loving attention, I’ll admit that, but I channeled any sort of performative energy into what was considered legitimate like school, good grades, activities that’ll get me to a good college.

 

Jenny Yang:

But I do say my first comedy performances was running for student government. I was a big student government nerd. I was like, “Leadership,” but the way that you get elected was through these massive school assemblies where you had to tell your speech. I knew if I can make them laugh, they’re going to vote for me. You know what I’m saying?

 

Alicia Garza:

Let me ask you, Jenny, because earlier you said that you left the movement to become a comedian, but I’m not actually ready to let you off the hook here because you are still out here advancing the movement and stepping into crises or nonsense in ways that are necessary and needed. And, we can chuckle about it the whole way. I do want to talk about a thing you did that brought together organizing and comedy to fight back.

 

Alicia Garza:

Look, I’m going to say it 18 times over the course of the season. We’re in a pandemic. I’m coming to grips with the fact that we’re in a plague.

 

Jenny Yang:

We are.

 

Alicia Garza:

As we’re in a plague, some of the leaders in this country have used this as an opportunity to advance xenophobic and racist tropes about who is responsible. We all the fuck know who is responsible for the fact that 150,000 people have died as a result of the negligence of this government, but there was one notable Asian figure in our political scene who suggested that if Asian people would just be more American, then they could probably avoid all of this hatred that was swirling around. Let’s talk about that. I want you to describe this for our listeners. But also, how can comedy be a tool for organizing and for movement?

 

Jenny Yang:

First of all, I accept your friendly amendment.

 

Alicia Garza:

Thank you.

 

Jenny Yang:

No, I have not left the movement. I have just shifted my role in it, I would like to think. Basically, within the first week of most stay at home orders, especially the one in California, it became very obvious to me within that first couple days that we were going to enter a new time of xenophobia and racism, especially against Asians. Very soon thereafter, I see in the news a Washington Post opinion by Andrew Yang. He had the audacity to write a full out opinion article on a national, arguably international, platform addressing Asian Americans directly. He was talking to me, Alicia. He was talking to me, Ai-Jen. He said, “Asian American, in order to combat the racism or xenophobia you might feel in America, it is your duty to be more American,” and I was like, “Oh no. No, no, no, no, no.”

 

Jenny Yang:

I know that one of the themes of your season of staying in your lane or knowing sort of what your role is, I feel like, and I think that’s one of the things that people have a problem with, especially if they’re new to doing politics. It’s like, “When do I speak up? How do I speak up? When is it my place? I don’t want to step on people’s toes.” This was one of those moments where I was like, “Jenny, you are called forth.” Literally.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

The universe called you forth.

 

Alicia Garza:

We sent out the Yang signal.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Exactly. Exactly.

 

Jenny Yang:

“His last name is Yang. People are trying to talk about you and him in the same breath on Twitter sometimes. He is deliberately talking to Asian Americans. He’s talking to you and he’s saying some asinine bullshit.” I was like, “Oh my God, I am so mad right now.” Y’all, I don’t think you understand. The moment I read that op-ed, I was foaming at the mouth. I was in a fugue state of rage when… I was like, “I have to do something. I have to say something. I’m going to start making a sign, ‘Please honk if you won’t hate crime me.’ I’m just going to start doing that. ‘Please honk if you won’t hate crime me.’ I’ve made it red, white and blue.” I took the premise. I said, “Okay, Andrew Yang wants us to be more American. Let’s test that premise. Let’s test that thesis. The argument to be more American, therefore you will not face racism? Let’s do it. ‘Honk if you won’t hate crime me.’ Let me put some red, white and blue on that.”

 

Jenny Yang:

And then as I did that, I thought through what I was going to do. I went outside. I had no one involved. We were all masked up. I was like, “I’m not trying to breathe on people. I’m not having them breathe on me.” I shot this video by myself and it was very cathartic for me. Number one, because I was able to make fun of what he was trying to say. Number two, the responses I got were incredible.

 

Jenny Yang:

While I was shooting, there was a mother and a teenage son who went around the corner and stopped me and said, “Excuse me, excuse me,” and for a second, I was like, “Uh-oh, are they going to be trying to be racist?” No, they said, “Excuse me. I just want to say, I saw your sign ‘Honk if you want hate crime me’ and I honked, but then it made me tear up. It really moved me. We drove around the block three times just to find you because I just want to tell you I’m with you. I want to tell you that…” I know, I’m going to tear up just talking about it. “I want you to know that I’m with you and that I don’t think it’s right what they’re doing to you. I want you to know that.” And she started tearing up. This is from like 10 feet away from her car, and her son was nodding his head really vigorously.

 

Jenny Yang:

I feel like this is a good moment. It’s like, “Why are you an activist? Why did you get called to do this work?” One of the insights I’ve gotten is that I think as a woman, an immigrant, I learned that I was not used to a level of compassion or kindness for my needs for most of my life. I think that’s why I do this work because I think lot of my friends who are activists as well, it’s like we had problems in our home that we realized, at some point, were connected to larger forces. Therefore, if we couldn’t fix shit at home, maybe we could change the policies, right?

 

Jenny Yang:

Or the decision makers that affected that. I think for me, I don’t expect moments of compassion like that. That’s on me. When that happened while I made this video, for me to put myself out there… Which people were like, “Jenny, why are you getting out in public?” This was the first week of the pandemic. We didn’t know as much about the coronavirus. “Why were you doing that? I felt unsafe for you.” I said, “Even if we’re in a pandemic, we can’t allow the people who have the bigger platform to shape and tell the story of who we are right now. Especially if it’s wrong.” The stories we tell ourselves and what we’re capable of, the stories of what we tell others about who we are, that’s what allows us to make change and expand people’s ideas of what’s possible. It violated me on a very deep level. I just was like, “Man, fuck you, Andrew Yang.” Sorry. You can bleep me [crosstalk 00:15:56]-

 

Alicia Garza:

Facts on facts on facts on facts. Listen. And it lets white supremacy off the hook.

 

Jenny Yang:

That’s right.

 

Alicia Garza:

In that moment, I was so grateful for your voice-

 

Jenny Yang:

Thank you.

 

Alicia Garza:

… because I thought it was some bullshit. I’ve seen it and I was like… Ai-jen knows how I feel about this.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I do.

 

Alicia Garza:

But I was also like, “This is an opportunity for the Asian diaspora to come and collect this man in this moment where actually, we’re also trying to collect white supremacy.”

 

Ai-jen Poo:

That’s right.

 

Jenny Yang:

Yes.

 

Alicia Garza:

Because the very reason that this conversation was in the center in the first week of the pandemic is because we have a leadership that is resurrecting the Crypt Keeper and all the ideas that come with the Crypt Keeper. If there was a perfect example of finding your lane, I feel like you led the way.

 

Jenny Yang:

Thank you. That really means a lot.

 

Alicia Garza:

You set the tone for the pandemic. You were like, “What? I will…” You literally came out like, “I’m going to take my earrings off. Give me some Vaseline because we not doing this today. Okay?”

 

Jenny Yang:

No, we can’t. We can’t. And that’s the thing. Because of my background in politics and then prior to that, being activated in college in… I think with a lot of people who are college activists it’s always done in the context of a multiracial, oftentimes intersectionality everything that I can’t betray these values that I care about. I have to push that out into the world.

 

Jenny Yang:

As most organizers think of when there is hi-jinks and shenanigans like Andrew Yang’s, it’s an opportunity for organizing. You know what I mean? For me, I was like, “I’m just going to try to say my piece and also leverage this to say…” Because I know a lot of Asian Americans listen to me… “And say, ‘Listen, I know you’re afraid of the xenophobia, the anti-Asian racism. By the way, this is all connected and we still need to use this as an opportunity to be in solidarity with other groups who also see this violence on the daily.'”

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I think a lot of maybe young Asians today might not understand that there’s actually a really long history of anti-Asian racism and waves of it that have really defined the experience of Asian immigrants and Asian communities in this country. I mean, when I was in college as a student activist, the way I became an activist was when a 16-year-old Chinese immigrant boy was killed in his backyard by the police when he was playing with a BB gun. Shot point-blank. His name is Yong Xin Huang.

 

Jenny Yang:

Wait, where was this?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

In Brooklyn.

 

Jenny Yang:

Oh. Oh my gosh.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

In 1995, there was a campaign to try to win justice for Yong Xin huang who’s 16 years old, playing in his backyard with his friend and a BB gun and was shot point-blank in the back of his head by a police officer. That was part of one wave, but there were so many waves before. I think it just has different expressions, but I think a lot of people think it’s because the Chinese flu, right?

 

Jenny Yang:

Right.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

When you’re addressing Asian American audiences and you’re knowing that you’re organizing them and you’re a storyteller, how do you tell that story in a way that brings people in, calls people up to action and also to action in a way that is about that broader we that is in solidarity with Black folks who are fighting for their lives, with all the communities that are essentially being terrorized by white supremacy right now?

 

Jenny Yang:

People live with a lot of individual hurts in their lived life that make them think that other groups might not be in solidarity with them as Asians. I think I try to inoculate them, sort of using organizing language since we’re all here, to that by saying, “Yes, you might feel like maybe you don’t think other groups are deserving of your solidarity. I get that. But this is the real game that we need to be playing. There’s anti-Blackness. There’s…” You know what I mean? How do we take steps of where we are? It’s always the starting where we are part because people feel overwhelmed, I feel like, to be an activist. Sometimes I don’t even call myself an activist. I’m like, “Listen, I’m just like everyone else trying to do something.” I just might have had more experience or education on it but to me, it’s all about, how do we make it accessible?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

That’s right. That’s the whole theme of this season, is about making it accessible and helping people see that we’re all just out here trying to find our place and make this country live up to its potential.

 

Jenny Yang:

We got to start where we are. And also, I also like to sort of invoke the kind of myths and stories that we like to tell ourselves sometimes as East Asian Americans.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Right.

 

Jenny Yang:

Right? That if we just come to this country, work hard, get good grades, get a good fade, Yelp our food on the weekend-

 

Alicia Garza:

I can’t. I can’t. I won’t.

 

Jenny Yang:

… get a cute girlfriend who has a high-pitched voice that… You know what I mean? That we’re going to see happiness. There’s a sort of a narrative that we’ve told ourselves as East Asian Americans that if we just become these young professionals who can enjoy the spoils of American consumerism and capitalism, that we’ll be happy. I think what happens is, and I know this from college students I talked to, they leave college, they get that accounting job, they get that engineering job and they are not happy.

 

Jenny Yang:

I had straight As. I got into Harvard-MIT for grad school. I got scholarships for everything. I literally gave the checklist for my parents to make them feel like their immigrant journey was worth it and still, I was depressed. Still, I wasn’t happy. Still, I was searching. I’m telling you right now. I mean, sure I like yelping delicious food on the weekends too. Five stars, whatever.

 

Alicia Garza:

Five stars. I can’t. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

 

Jenny Yang:

Four stars. The napkin wasn’t folded right. You know what I mean? Those are some of the things I talk about when I talk to Asian Americans.

 

Alicia Garza:

It’s important and actually, there are cross-community conversations to be had right now as well. I’m not Asian. However-

 

Jenny Yang:

Oh wait, really?

 

Alicia Garza:

For sure. For sure, for sure.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

You’re kind of honorary, though. You earned it n the karaoke room the other day.

 

Jenny Yang:

You could be, though. You could be though, Alicia.

 

Alicia Garza:

Don’t let the platinum blonde fool you. But I am in solidarity. I would just like to say here that I think that sometimes, especially in moments of sharp crisis like this, finding your lane is about figuring out how you can contribute and also figuring out how we can have each other’s backs.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Yeah. Right?

 

Jenny Yang:

Yes, yes.

 

Alicia Garza:

I was so grateful for this conversation because it’s a conversation we have in Black communities, too, about not performing for whiteness but claiming, actually, our own culture for ourselves designed by ourselves and using that as a foundation from which we resist and reform and rebuild.

 

Alicia Garza:

In this case, the one who shall not be named was out here talking about, “Well, we’re being attacked because we’re not being American enough and we need to wear fucking flag pins and show everybody that we’re down for this project.” And, in Black communities, we’re having a similar conversation, especially when one of our folks is killed either by police, either by violence that’s happening inside of our communities. There is always a conversation about who deserves dignity. If we don’t make those stories clear for ourselves, and clear about who gave us those stories, “Are those ours, or were those given to us for a purpose and a function?” we can’t fight back well.

 

Alicia Garza:

I guess my question would be, in a moment like this where there are so many crises and there’s people out here who are like, “I know that something is wrong,” kind of like the mom and the kid who circled the block three times to come and find you, if they were going to come back to us right now and say, “Jenny, how did you find your lane, and how can I make sure that we’re connected enough so that we can’t be divided no matter what they throw at us?” what kind of advice would you offer?

 

Jenny Yang:

One of the most important lessons I learned as a young college activist was Rita Burgos who organized with Bus Riders Union, I believe, came and visited us because she also attended Swarthmore College like me. I was a young buck out there, excited, and I remember she came in hot and strong and she said, “What are you all doing?” And we’re like, “We’re kind of doing this and that,” and she’s like, “Why are you not doing more?” And we’re like, “Why is she making us feel so uncomfortable?” And then she said, “What you’re doing here right now is a very small scale. What’s going to matter is what you’re going to try to do out there. You can play here, which is fine, and you can learn things, but I need you to think about yourself in the context of running the marathon and not the sprint.”

 

Jenny Yang:

She was agitating us. She was trying to get us to feel uncomfortable and question ourselves. I think I always remember that because I said, “Well, if I’m committed to this, if I say I’m committed to this, then I’m here for the marathon and not the sprint. I need to figure out what that means.” To me, it’s a lot of… If you commit to that, it’s a lot of internal work, educating yourself just regularly. This is just a part of your life now.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

There are stories that we tell ourselves that we need to be really critical of. And, I think we need to replace those stories with something new, with a new story.

 

Jenny Yang:

Yes. We can’t just tear things down.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

We got to build. I think part of surviving both the sprint and the marathon is having those stories to hold on to. I feel like your work, your incredible comedy writing and storytelling, is giving us a new story. I just want to say thank you for that, first of all. Huge gratitude and big hearts. Tell us about the new story that we need to be writing and holding and that we can kind of call forth.

 

Jenny Yang:

For me, the biggest gift that comedy has given me is saving my life because it is a place for me to channel any despair into a creative process where I could try to actually counteract that with joy. It’s a gift. I get to make people feel more understood. It’s the way out. You know what I’m saying?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Totally.

 

Jenny Yang:

It’s the way out. I’m a hundred percent happier as a comedian than I was positioned as a director in the labor movement because there’s an ability for me to speak to different audiences and to adapt.

 

Jenny Yang:

For example, during the pandemic, I’ve got obsessed with playing the Nintendo Switch video game Animal Crossing, the cutest game ever. It’s like a Sims but with cute little cartoon characters. Everyone was getting obsessed. It was the thing that got me going the next morning, rather than just be depressed. Because of that, I was like, “You know what? What if I started a comedy club inside my little Animal Crossing island?” Therefore, I’ve started to show there that people can watch on Zoom. I don’t think you understand how many messages every single time I do the show of people who are just like, “Jenny, that was the most fun I’ve had this entire pandemic.”

 

Ai-jen Poo:

That is so beautiful.

 

Alicia Garza:

I love that.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

So finding your lane is not just about finding joy and happiness, but it can save your life and it can save other people through a pandemic. It’s amazing.

 

Jenny Yang:

I get overwhelmed all the time like, “Oh man, I wish I could do more like Alicia or Ai-jen.” It’s all about that comparing thing and it’s like, “No. What are you doing given where you’re positioned?” If you are that accountant with the fade and the Jordans who yelped your food, what is it that you can do in your life to change your habits or to add one more thing or to talk to five more people about something that you realize is really important that you want them to think about? That’s huge. If every single person does that, I think that’s what’s powerful.

 

Jenny Yang:

In Comedy Crossing, part of our show is it’s a free show, but so that I don’t feel helpless when George Floyd got murdered, I said, “Let’s make this a way for us to very nimbly collect donations and support the funds that are not being supported who might be smaller.” We’ve raised about $20,000 now since June.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

That’s amazing.

 

Alicia Garza:

Awesome.

 

Jenny Yang:

I’m very proud of that. That’s my way of contributing something. I know it’s not everything, but I know given where I’m positioned, I can do this. I can say, “There are 500 people in the Zoom meeting. I know you’re laughing. If just every single one of you donates $5, I know you can afford it. I know you can do it.” Each of those $5 got to 20,000. I think that’s what’s cool. It’s like, “Start where you are and bring other people along because we’re just much stronger together.”

 

Alicia Garza:

Jenny, you, you, you. We needed this. I needed this.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

We needed this. I needed this.

 

Jenny Yang:

Any time.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

This just gave me so much life.

 

Jenny Yang:

I will be your court jester for your really hardcore work.

 

Alicia Garza:

Please, and especially over the next 80 days. If you could just make sure your calendar is free because we’re going to need you, Jen. 

 

Jenny Yang:

Oh, a hundred percent.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

We’re going to need some belly laughs to make it.

 

Jenny Yang:

If you need to just have a little session, the three of us to… I’ll be like, “Tell me what you need.”

 

Alicia Garza:

Facts. All right. It’s on.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Maybe we can even do karaoke.

 

Jenny Yang:

Oh my God.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Ooh.

 

Jenny Yang:

It’s hard to coordinate that over-

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Over Zoom? Yeah.

 

Jenny Yang:

The timing is tough, I know, but there’s ways. I’ll figure it out.

 

Alicia Garza:

People can find you at @jennyyangtv on all the socials. We love you. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for blessing our second season of Sunstorm-

 

Jenny Yang:

I’m so honored.

 

Alicia Garza:

… and really lifting it off with a bang.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Yes. We love you so much, Jenny Yang. You are the very best. And to all of you lovely listeners, write to us, tweet us. Tell us about how you are making your way through the storm because, my friends, we thought we were in a storm before and wow, we really had no idea. Follow us at @sunstormpod on social media and tweet us at @aijenpoo and at @aliciagarza, #Sunstorm. We cannot wait to hear from you. Until next week, see y’all soon.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Sunstorm is a project of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Sunstorm is executive produced by Alicia Garza, Ai-jen Poo and Kristina Mevs-Apgar. Sunstorm is produced by Amy S. Choi and Rebecca Lehrer of The Mash-up Americans. Producers are Shelby Sandlin, Mary Phillips Sandy and Mia Warren. Original music composed by Jen Kwok and Jody Shelton.

 

Jenny Yang:

I feel like to… Not that this is the time to smoke up your buttocks but…

 

Alicia Garza:

Not the buttocks.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

The buttocks.

 

Jenny Yang:

The buttocks.