Event uses comedy to tackle stereotypes

Troupe explores impact of racial epithets through envelope-pushing envelope.

Published in the Daily Trojan, April 24, 2007

The words in their provocative show title would normally generate tension, but the comedic trio behind “N*gger W*tback Ch*nk” seemed to provoke only laughter as they performed in Bovard Auditorium Monday night.

The event began with three actors chiming in with their respective derogatory terms, creating a repetitive jingle.

“Ch*nk Ch*nk! W*tback! N*gger!” elicited loud laughter from the audience, but the tune ended more solemnly as the comedians looked at each other, seeming to think more deeply about the words they were nonchalantly repeating.

The show humorously explored the controversial issues of race and stereotypes; but in the end, the trio’s main message was that “the only race that matters (is) the human race.”

The troupe – Allan Axibal, Rafael Augustin and Miles Gregly – played Asian-American, Latino and black roles, respectively, all trying to fit into a society in which they felt inferior.

In the “List Game” scene, the actors called out one trait after another that pertained to their specific ethnicity as the audience tried to catch its breath from laughter.

“Rice,” said the Asian. “Bean-eater,” said the Latino. “Watermelon,” said the black American, all trying to poke fun at what others have typically characterized them as.

“The whole show is putting those stereotypes out there and laughing at them, but at the same time realizing that they are serious, and that you are in fact debunking those stereotypes,” Axibal said before the show.

While the first half of the show dealt with each member laughing condescendingly toward one another, the group began to name identical characteristics of being a middle-class, hard-working minority with strong family ethics.

“It goes to show that there are differences between us that are really superficial, but the similarities brings us together in a much more important way,” Axibal said.

While using humor to entertain, the actors also revisited the racial insecurities of their childhoods.

Axibal, who is Filipino-American, was called “too Chink to look American.”

“When you’re 8 or 9, you don’t know how to hate who you are … but you can certainly learn,” he recited in a monologue.

While Gregly felt singled out with the word “nigger,” Augustin was forced to stop speaking Spanish in fear of being caught by immigration workers.

“I wanted to be like Ronald Reagan … but when he said, ‘My fellow Americans,’ I knew he wasn’t talking to me,” Augustin said in the performance.

The comedic group, which is finishing the last leg of its national tour, started about three years ago when the members were students at UCLA and wanted to create a dialogue about racial controversy, Augustin said.

“When we first wrote the show, no one was talking about ‘who can say what.’… (There weren’t issues with) Don Imus, Michael Richards, the midterm elections with the immigration debate,” Augustin said. “I wanted to get it started because nobody was talking about (issues) like this. We’re so happy that we were riding the wave, right before the wave of this dialogue came about the nation.”

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