By Ryan Meehan
Ali Wong is a stand-up comedian living in Los Angeles, CA. After SF Weekly selected her as “The Best Comedian of 2009″ and the SF Bay Guardian awarded her “Best of the Bay,” she decided that it was finally time to depart her hometown. Since then, Ali has performed on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, the FOX series “Breaking In”, E!’s “50 Super Epic TV Moments”, and can be seen in Oliver Stone’s “Savages” to be released September 2012. In 2010, Comedy Central listed Ali Wong as one of 7 “Comic’s to Watch.” This year, Variety Magazine named her as one of the “10 Comics to Watch” for 2011, and Ali appeared in the 2011 Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, QC. This season, you can see Ali as “Olivia” in the new NBC series based on Chelsea Handler’s memoir “Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea”, and she’s our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: How did you first get into doing standup comedy?
AW: Making people laugh was the only thing I ever truly excelled at. When I moved back into my parents’ house after college, I had no idea that my hometown, San Francisco, happened to be the absolute best place to start doing standup. I walked by a cafe nearby, that had a sign outside reading “Open Mic Night,” and attended, but was too chicken to go up. So I waited until the next week, prepared some material and did my very first set. The other comics there plugged me into the rest of the open mic circuit and immediately started going up every night. The booker at the Punchline hired me as a host, for really great comics like Doug Benson, Dave Attell, Patrice O’Neal, and that helped me grow so much.
FOH: So far, which live show has been your best? Your worst?
AW: My best sets are always at the Comedy Cellar in NYC. It’s the most intimate venue so I feel very free to experiment, and I respect the history there so much enough to not fuck around too much. My worst set ever was my first TV taping. It was for Comedy Central’s Laffapalooza. I was a year deep into comedy and just plain not ready, to be taped in front of 1,500 people. It never aired.
FOH: As a comedienne of Asian-American descent, do you ever feel like you have to have a certain fragment of your act that is based on that?
AW: I do make reference to being Asian-American sometimes, because it informs my eating habits, values and expectations of other people. But I will definitely go for a whole set, without talking about it if I don’t feel like it.
FOH: Who has been your favorite person to work with in the entertainment industry, and what makes that individual so special to work with?
AW: Patrice O’Neal was and will always be, my favorite comedian. He made me laugh so hard. He was so dirty, so smart and so fearless. He was a great storyteller and so insightful about the relationships between men and women. He made fun of me to the point where I felt very awkward because I never had a good comeback, but in his own way, he was so supportive, kind and encouraging.
FOH: What do you think the world of standup comedy look like ten years from now?
AW: I think it’s going to be holograms of Patrice O’Neal.
FOH: What’s next for Ali Wong in the twelve months to come?
AW: I’m touring like crazy to perfect my hour for my first special. You can check my website out to see if and when I’m coming to your city to perform live!
If you’re in Montreal in late July make sure to check out Ali at the Just for Laughs Festival from the 23rd to the 28th.
Ali’s official website: http://www.aliwong.com/words/
Ali on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AliWong
Ali on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AliWong3000
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