Sunday, September 21, 2008

Queen Comedienne of ChiTown

Leah Eva has hopscotched the world from the Philippines to San Francisco and has recently settled down in Chicago where she has claimed the title of only successful Asian comic in Chi Town. I had the pleasure to interview her before her performance in the Shine For Our People event, which raised money for Typhoon Frank victims.

The stereotypical class clown in high school, Leah's family encouraged her with dance and joke requests.

My aunties and my uncles said 'go dance Leah!' and I'd start dancing and I'm like 'Ok! Ok! Here I am dancing!'. I was trying to figure out if I should try stand-up and I tried it and got up on stage and did stand-up and got hooked on it. If I don't do stand-up I get really sad. I have to get on stage. I have to get on stage.

What type of humor do you do? Regular jokes? Physical humor? One liners?

My stuff is really interesting. It's different. I do a lot of racially related, charged issues. At the same time I do a little out there, surreal; Cause one of my favorite comics, Nick Shepherd, Steven Wright, Dave Chapelle, Paul Mooney, Richard Pryor, Wendy Liebman, and all these other great comics it's just great. I just do what I think is funny and just trying to find my own voice. I do the ethnic jokes but I do everything.

Who are your biggest influences?

I can't really say one, two, three, or whoever but Richard Pryor, I love Richard Pryor. But there is so many great comediennes out there, like Robert Hawkins and my friends are all so funny!

So you did a show with Chris Rock?

I did! I did! It was awesome! I was at Stand Up NY and I thought I had dropped off. Chris Rock is working on his material. And I thought that was awesome because hey you don't get to see Chris Rock everyday. I'm like 'dude I'll stay here and hang out!' and the manager basically said, 'Ok here it is. You get to do it after Chris Rock performs. Here's the catch. You suck you'll never get to perform at this club ever again but if you do well every time you come to New York you'll always get a set.' So I was all scared! I was like 'Oh man! What am I going to do!? How do I do this!?' I work so hard doing comedy and finally the time has come to prove myself and you know being a female comic I have to work harder, try harder because they think women aren't funny. I just have to do it and I got up there and I did it! And I was like 'WOOOOO!'

Recently the most profiled woman comic has been Margaret Cho. Do you feel you're on the level with her?

Well we're completely different and I don't feel I am above anyone. The way I look at it, if you're a comic you're just as good as anyone else. You're a peer. I think she's great because other female Asian comics are out there now doing comedy that she started for us and she started out in San Francisco so it's cool.

Oddly besides Margaret Cho I've not known Asian comediennes

Well that's me! The only one in Chicago! When I was in San Francisco I just felt like I needed to go somewhere because I didn't feel I was growing enough so I moved to Chicago.

Are you finding big differences between the audience reactions between the cities?

Yes absolutely. Certain jokes you can only do in Chicago, certain jokes you can only do in San Francisco, and there's like small towns where I perform, seems like they like a lot of dirty jokes, which is good cause I like them too. New York City, a very liberal city, so it depends on where you are and you have to read your audience. And if you're not doing, you're just sucking, and eating shit on stage you go, just get off the stage and it's not you're night. It's just any other job. You have good nights and you have bad nights.

Do you find it hard to switch out jokes depending on the city you're in?

Sometimes I forget 'Oh gosh I forgot to do the joke about the XBox or oh man about the porn star, and about the condoms.' and I'm still developing and working out material.

After Chris Rock, is there any other person you'd want to work with?

I'd love to work with Dave Chapelle. Robert Hawkins, I'd like to work with him, and just do shows with friends. It would be so much funner! We started out together at an open mic, a little place and all the people that started out there are touring now and doing really good.

Do you have more plans in New York before you go back to Chicago?

I hope to do more shows and I'm just here to network with other comics, hope to get more gigs, and come back here in maybe a few months and do more sets. I'm basically enjoying myself. If there's another set I'll do it! Wherever there's a place to perform.

How has touring around the US been?

It's like me, this Italian comic, and this black comic. I opened up for them on the road. We went to this gas station and I went 'Dad! and dad! You are like so awesome! I'm so happy you adopted me!' and just stuff like that. I've been on the road with them and it's like by the time you get home there's not a lot of money in your pocket but you had such a great time going in this little town. They treat you like a celebrity, like rock stars. Like they hug you and everything and ask you for an autograph and I'm like "oh my god! this is so great! It's cool!' It's just the opportunity to travel the US. I want to go to Iraq and perform for the soldiers. Some people don't want to go to Iraq. I'm like 'take me!' and I'll perform.

How has the media been with your performances?

I did Last Comic Standing but that made me look bad. I did MTV and that was a good experience. I was a finalist at this black comedy competition in California. I'm not black but wherever there is a stage I'd like to get the opportunity to perform. But there's been times where, you can't call yourself a real comic until you get booed or eaten shit on stage. I was doing a show at U.C. Berkley and I had to follow a big rap group and I was like 'oh no' and no one was listening to me and I did it and it was painful but after the show I went to see Dave Chapelle so it was good!

(Conversation went into a whole explanation of how to get legal weed and other fun stuff in San Francisco. Plans of flying there with Leah and her cousin are in the works!)

Do you have any plans for a dvd or cd?

I actually have one out. A documentary about stand-up comediennes in San Francisco. They followed me around to open mics and different shows.

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