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Thread: The Dat Phan/Margaret Cho connection.

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    The Dat Phan/Margaret Cho connection.

    There have been a number of posts talking about how Dat Phan steals from Margaret Cho. I just wanted to start a thread about this, because i think its an interesting topic.

    Do you think Dat Phan stole anything? Or does this have to do more with the "token asian"/"asians all look the same" syndrome that may or may not have a hold in the minds of american society?

    Here are a few interesting questions to ask yourself:

    1. Can you name an asian comic besides Dat Phan or Margaret Cho?

    2. Can you tell the difference between Dat Phan's Vietnamese Mom accent and Margaret Cho's Korean Mom accent - or do you think of both of their accents being simply "asian" accents. "Asian" being the non-existent language that only exists in the minds of people who can't tell the difference.

    3. If two people did Jewish Mom or Italian Mom accents in their act, would we be making the same comparison? (I'm just going to answer that with a big fat no, btw).

    Me-personally, i think the allegation is a bit racism driven. I think that the society and especially the media tend to have a token-asian attitude towards asian issues. (as in there's only room for just one) and if you look closer at their acts, you will see more of a difference.

    and just with the media in general. how much do you think race plays in reality TV in general? did you notice that in the "Married by America" tv show, NONE of the contestants were either black or asian?

    anyhows, lets see if anyone replies.

  2. #2
    pop culture whore pg13's Avatar
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    Glad you started a new thread for this one, Aerportman...

    Quote Originally Posted by aerportman
    Do you think Dat Phan stole anything? Or does this have to do more with the "token asian"/"asians all look the same" syndrome that may or may not have a hold in the minds of american society?
    I don't think it's as "nefarious" as you imply. Certainly, there's some stereotyping going on--but, to be honest, comedy sometimes encourages that...I mean, why do you think "ethnic jokes" persist in a "trying-ever-so-hard-to-be-politically-correct" world? Because when people see themselves in...or others in...a particular stereotype, there's a recognition of something that many people feel the need to laugh about.

    Quote Originally Posted by aerportman
    1. Can you name an asian comic besides Dat Phan or Margaret Cho?
    Asian-American comics? I remember Henry Cho, he might be the only Asian-Tennesseean comic ever. Bobby Lee from MadTV... And then there's Tina Kim, who was an LCS semi-finalist, talking with Ant backstage for most of the show. Here in Seattle, I've seen Stan Chen perform a few times--he's a very funny guy.

    But you're right, there aren't many in the general public's consciousness...but you can still pick quite a few ethnic types that aren't saturating the comedy clubs of America.

    Quote Originally Posted by aerportman
    2. Can you tell the difference between Dat Phan's Vietnamese Mom accent and Margaret Cho's Korean Mom accent - or do you think of both of their accents being simply "asian" accents. "Asian" being the non-existent language that only exists in the minds of people who can't tell the difference.
    Don't answer your own questions, Aerportman... Give us a chance to answer them!

    I could tell the difference right away, both from a vocal perspective...but also because Margaret used to do material that helped define the differences between some of the Asian national/regional characteristics. (One being the incredibly rude woman who said "I knew that you were not Japanese because you are very HUUUUSSKYYYYYY")

    Margaret's mother, as performed by Margaret and as seen from "Notorious C.H.O." isn't as much of an exaggeration as one might expect, speaks in an elongated step pattern. An example being "i DOOONN'T know WHYYYYYY we HAAAAAYYVE thees BOOOOOOOOOOK"

    Is that stereotypically Korean? I don't know. It doesn't sound like the Korean calendar girl that Margaret does "Drink Vitasoy--It's good for yoooooo..." or Dave Chappelle's Korean grocer. It DOES sound like Margaret's mother though...

    Dat Phan's mother, as he performs her on LCS, speaks entirely differently. The pace is the obvious difference as Dat performs his mother so fast as to be difficult to pick up sometimes. The words are clipped except for the exaggered long "e" sound replacing short "i" sounds. ("cheeeeeeeel" instead of "chill" or "keeeeeeeel you" instead of "kill you")

    Is that stereotypically Vietnamese? I don't know...but it doesn't sound Japanese, Chinese or like Margaret Cho's mom in my opinion. It also doesn't sound like the Vietnamese from "Full Metal Jacket"--but that was filmed in England so who knows. It DOES sound like other Vietnam war movies...but few of those were filmed in Vietnam, so maybe it's a traditionally Filipino, Cambodian, Laotian sounding voice.

    Speaking of which, it does have elements of the voice of Kahn Souphanousinphone. (Bonus points for THAT reference...anyone?)

    Quote Originally Posted by aerportman
    3. If two people did Jewish Mom or Italian Mom accents in their act, would we be making the same comparison? (I'm just going to answer that with a big fat no, btw).
    Again with the answering your own questions thing!

    Actually, I DO think that if a couple comics went up in a row that did the same type of act that people would be critical of it, no matter what the connection might be... (With the exception of specialty shows--Def Comedy Jam, Women of the Night--but even there, despite each comic working a similar vein, individual act differences shine through...)

    The question is really--is it the same act? I'll give an example...is Cory Kahaney too much like Judy Gold? Judy does stuff ABOUT her Jewish mother giving HER grief...while Cory's stuff is about her BEING the Jewish mother of a hip hop-era teenage girl who gives her grief.

    Similar road, different paths...

    I said in a different thread that the voice work comes from a similar place...but Margaret's not just about doing her mom's voice and her other material is much different than the other material we've seen on LCS from Dat.

    Quote Originally Posted by aerportman
    Me-personally, i think the allegation is a bit racism driven. I think that the society and especially the media tend to have a token-asian attitude towards asian issues. (as in there's only room for just one) and if you look closer at their acts, you will see more of a difference.
    Margaret Cho is currently THE high profile Asian-American comedian in the United States and she does bits while imitating her Asian mother. Dat Phan is an Asian-American comedian who does bits imitating his Asian mother. I think you're right, if there were more well-known Asian-American comics, the differences between Dat & Margaret would be more obvious and perhaps the comparisons between them wouldn't seem so obvious... But the fact is, there IS some overlap and its natural for people to comment on it.

    People commented to Eddie Murphy that he was trying too much to be like Richard Pryor. People commented to Chris Rock that he was trying too much to be like Eddie Murphy. People commented to Martin Lawrence that he was trying to be too much like Chris Rock. People commented to Jamie Foxx that he was trying to be too much like Martin Lawrence.

    I'll tell you this, nobody's tellin' Bernie Mac NOTHING.

    The unfair comparisons between comics of a similar background fade away when more comics in a given style add diversity and variation to expand the stereotype.

    I don't know if its "Racism" (with a capital "R" indicating "serious and evil intent) but it might be "racism" (with a small "r" indicating the natural tendency of people to categorize people by their ethnic characteristics rather than getting to know each individual as just that, an individual.)

    Quote Originally Posted by aerportman
    and just with the media in general. how much do you think race plays in reality TV in general? did you notice that in the "Married by America" tv show, NONE of the contestants were either black or asian?
    On the other hand, American Idol 2 came down to an overweight African-American versus a homosexual. (Clay IS out, right? I didn't watch the show. I don't mean to out him if he's still claiming to like girls.)

    I watched the last ten minutes of "Dog Eat Dog" the other night and everyone was white...all the guys were buff and all the girls were popping out of their tops... Oh, except for the punk rocker...who might have been Asian-American, I wasn't sure. And one of the girls might have been bi-racial. I really don't keep track of the ethnic make-up of a program (except when it becomes obvious, like "Friends," when ethnic groups are absent from a setting they should be in...AND when they try to balance things back out only to draw attention to their previous absence--the Ming-Na and Aisha Tyler characters, for example.)

    I don't know if DeD is ALWAYS like that, and I don't know if is just a random selection from the people who tried out to be on the show or if some micromanaging stuffed shirt at the corporate office is demanding that only a particular type of person be put on these shows, but at some point in time it should be pointed out that not participating in shows that humiliate and degrade their participants (like most of the dating shows and all of the "Fear Factor" clones) might be a positive thing for an ethnic group to champion themselves for... I would hate to learn that there would be a protest group forming to demand that an Innuit (just to pick a group at random) be allowed to eat a horse's rectum.

    And how come we don't see any Amish people on reality shows? Huh?

    Quote Originally Posted by aerportman
    anyhows, lets see if anyone replies.
    Ding! The pie's done.
    pg--seattle

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    FORT Newbie Scot's Avatar
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    I agree that it is largely driven by racism. I have been saying that for a couple of weeks now. I will copy just of one of my posts, which I originally posted in the spoiler thread.

    I have to comment again on the Cho-Dat comparisons, in relation to imitating their mothers.

    Dat's imitation of his mother is of a Vietnamese woman who is sarcasitic, fast-talking, street-smart, quick witted and jaded, worldly, in a funny way. She is proud, and confrontational, and seemingly self-centered, again in a funny way.

    Margaret Cho's imitation of her mother is of a Korean woman, who is struggling with her words so much that she speaks slowly, and with intense (almost crippling) concentration. She comes across as the opposite of Dat's mother in almost every way. She is philosophical, spacy, not street-smart, not quick witted, etc.

    The accents are different accents, Korean vs. Vietnamese, and the two mothers are presented as having virtually opposite personalities.

    Where is the similarity? In my opinion it is only that they are both Asian. There isn't really much else besides that.

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    pop culture whore pg13's Avatar
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    And one thing from the Spoiler-Las Vegas post.

    (This quote is taken from aerportman's post in a different thread, but it makes more sense to comment on it here.)
    Quote Originally Posted by aerportman
    i think the biggest irony would be if asian comics - who in part do their craft to try and bring asian issues to the mainstream - got pigeonholed as just being all the same, simply because they tried to bring asian issues to the mainstream.
    I wouldn't assume "asian comics-who in part do their craft to try and bring asian issues to the mainstream."

    Maybe the sole reason they do what they do is because they think they're funny and they like the attention? I can't imagine how anyone could say for certain, unless they knew these comics personally, why they do comedy. I don't think you can know that there's some deeper socio-political racial-visibility sentiment behind anything that these comics do...

    This is just a personal opinion, but I find that those comics who DO try to push an agenda often end up losing that careless abandon that made them great in the first place. Ellen DeGeneres' first comedy special after coming out was nowhere near as funny as her earlier work (although, I'm sure, for many people it was "more meaningful and deeper.") I like Margaret Cho's earlier stuff, too...before she became poster girl for her causes. Or Dennis Miller, who is now championing the Bush Administration when he used to be the best at skewering ALL politicians, regardless of affiliations.

    I'm not saying having beliefs or causes is bad...but, in my mind, the end result should always be comedy... Some comics want their comedic performances to "touch people and move people" but if I wanted to be touched and moved, there are "gentlemen's clubs" that I could attend where I would be certain to be "touched and moved."

    One important and final note--I've found that comedy audiences need to acknowledge the obvious. I don't know what it is, but if you're an overweight comic and you never mention that, you often don't get the laughs that your material might deserve...same with if you're short or if you're gay or if blind or if you're a Mexican-American--whatever. Audiences have certain expectations based on your look and you HAVE to address those expectations in some way or you never truly connect with the crowd.

    I think that's the brilliant thing about Dat's opener--the "Asian comic fake-out" bit. It addresses the obvious and uses it to set up the joke. Nicely done, Dat. I should point out that Tess does a good job of acknowledging the obvious with her set openers, too...

    pg--seattle
    Last edited by pg13; 07-27-2003 at 03:17 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pg13
    (This quote is taken from aerportman's post in a different thread, but it makes more sense to comment on it here.)


    I wouldn't assume "asian comics-who in part do their craft to try and bring asian issues to the mainstream."


    pg--seattle
    oh, sorry, call this a mis-placed hyphen. i meant, the asian comics who do try to bring asian issues to the mainstream. not implying that all asian comics try to do this, but just the asian comics who do do (tee hee) this.

    and i'll answer my own damn questions if i want to!! waaa. j/k

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    FORT Fan LaughAtlantis's Avatar
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    I have to say straight out, I know very little about Margaret Cho's comedy, and even less about the difference between Korean and Vietnamese accents. Personally, the problem that I have with Dat's bits about his mother is that they go on for way too long. Even if they are only showing us three minutes of a ten-minute act, we still ONLY saw Mom material in the first set that we were shown.

    Quote Originally Posted by pg13
    One important and final note--I've found that comedy audiences need to acknowledge the obvious. I don't know what it is, but if you're an overweight comic and you never mention that, you often don't get the laughs that your material might deserve...same with if you're short or if you're gay or if blind or if you're a Mexican-American--whatever. Audiences have certain expectations based on your look and you HAVE to address those expectations in some way or you never truly connect with the crowd.
    You're right, Dat does have to recognize the fact that he's Asian, fine. But, from what we've seen, his entire act appears to be based upon the fact that he's Asian. Even the bits that NBC has shown that were NOT mom-related were related to his being VIetnamese- the kung fu bit, the rice ball bit - both funny, but he could move on from showing us that he's Asian to showing us more of him.

    Quote Originally Posted by pg13
    I think that's the brilliant thing about Dat's opener--the "Asian comic fake-out" bit. It addresses the obvious and uses it to set up the joke. Nicely done, Dat.
    Yes, but as far as stealing material goes, this bit is VERY similar to a scene in the movie Keeping the Faith where Eddie Huang starts out his pitch to sell karoke machines in an over-the-top Asian accent but "reveals" himself to get chummy with the buyers.

    Quote Originally Posted by pg13
    And how come we don't see any Amish people on reality shows? Huh?
    Well, that's just a silly, silly question, in that they don't believe in technology. MENNONITES, on the other hand, do, and they are just woefully under-represented.
    Joy
    Blogging away in my LaughAtlantis world...

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    YOUUUUUUUUUKKK! GingerLVNV's Avatar
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    I agree that I would expect comedians to acknowledge themselves whether it be old, fat, short, etc. Because the audience is ALREADY laughing about it in anticipation before you even speak. If a midget ran out on stage and stood there for a second, the audience would start to snicker in anticipation of what wonderful truth he will tell us about his life.

    I'd be sorely disappointed if he didn't tell one joke about himself, I think its easier to laugh at jokes when the teller puts you at ease first.

    I think its easier for comedians to joke about what they know, and that's what he knows. I do have to say I enjoyed Dat's jokes about being stereotyped MUCH better than his 'mama' jokes

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    Combat Missions Fan Wolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scot
    The accents are different accents, Korean vs. Vietnamese, and the two mothers are presented as having virtually opposite personalities.

    Where is the similarity? In my opinion it is only that they are both Asian. There isn't really much else besides that.
    Very-well said, Scot. I've seen Margaret Cho's act, and her mother's accent is no where near as Dat's accent of his mother.

    It's true that what we have seen so far of Dat's sets consist mostly of his mother's accent and his exepriences as an Asian man. So what? He's Asian after all, so his comedy will revolve around that. Since he's still a somewhat of an inexperienced comic, I'm sure he'll branch out into different bits as he continues to grown in this business.

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    Fool... but no pity. Krom's Avatar
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    {Voluntarily moved from Vegas show topic to here. Note that I am responding in this somewhat to a post there which details specifics of the "mom" voices and, in my opinion, reduces every possible comparison between these two comics to that... Note my Jewish/Italian comic reference was before I'd read this thread, but certainly still makes sense.}

    I love how the Margaret Cho vs. Dat Phan issue has been reduced by people who simply want to win an argument down to curt little analysis of the differences between Korean and Vietnamese women.

    My points on the issue (I didn't first bring the issue up but was part of the original discussion on it)--available some huge distance back in the Dat Phan thread--was that Phan had a similar APPROACH to Cho but his implementation was less funny. See? Nothing about theft. Cho used her mother as a launching point to go onto other things and talk and make fun of herself, and Dat (at least at the time of his first standoff performance) used his mother--in my opinion--simply to make his mother sound funny and quaint and riff on asian stereotypes and segue into the "people are so racist" material. The point being that Cho's act is more universal and appealed to more people, and Phan's wasn't.

    If we were dealing with one comic who did impressions of his or her old jewish mother and another who had an asian mom, and it was the lynchpin of both acts like with Phan and Cho, I'd likely still point out that the one where the act opened up and led to more universal stuff was the better act. that's why I hated it when I was a kid (see, I'm old) and my parents dragged me to the Catskill mountains in midstate New York and we saw endless horrible comics who did half their act in Yiddish or if they were Italian with a put-on accent, and it didn't much appeal to me seeing as how it seemed so trite and narrow focused.

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    FORT Fan zapata's Avatar
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    AS I just said in another post before seeing this one, I totally agree. Many comics mimic their mother or father- if they are african-american, it is sometimes in heavy black slang, or if they are white, it is sometimes in a nerdy midwestern uptight accent- it's totally a common thing. Cory mimicked her daughter in an accent- if she was asian and did a heavy asian accent, would she be accused of copying a "Margaret Cho" act- Cho does do alot of mother- I think that is how she initially got noticed- her bits of her mother on her "answering machine" are now comedy classics- funny stuff- but stand-ups have made careers on talking about their mothers- I think a little bit of it is that people dislike Dat so much, they want everyone to think he just steals material and therefore no one should vote for him. It's like, "Agghhh.... here, we'll use this." But like everything that seems to be thrown against Dat- it looks like it is backfiring.

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