Scrolling through Netflix a few days ago, I stumbled across the “Because you watched John Mulaney’s New in Town” section. I often use comedy specials to relax after doing mountains of schoolwork, and after finishing the last batch of work for college EVER, I thought, “Why not?” I passed a few potential options going through the section, but then I saw one that surprised me. The Netflix special was titled Ali Wong: Baby Cobra and depicted a young Asian woman on the cover with red glasses and a tight print dress, accentuating a pretty big baby bump.
Alexandra “Ali” Wong grew up on the west coast in California. She grew up in a Chinese household, though she herself is half-Chinese and half-Vietnamese. After graduating from college in 2005 when she was 23, she tried her hand at stand up and moved to New York to pursue a career in comedy. For a while she did pretty well, doing up to nine shows a night sometimes and even getting major roles on shows like Are You There, Chelsea, and the ABC drama Black Box. Ten years later, at age 33, Ali is now a staff writer for the show Fresh Off the Boat, as well as married and over seven months pregnant with her first child. And apparently strong willed enough to do a comedy special for Netflix.
Right away I was intrigued, not just because she was pregnant but because it there was a new female comedian I hadn’t yet heard of. I started right away and an hour later I immediately wanted to watch it again.
I’m sad to say I’d never heard of Ali Wong before finding Baby Cobra, but five minutes in I couldn’t stop myself from cracking up. Not only does Ali do a great job of creating material out of her life, like family and relationships, but she also tackles the difficult tasks of discussing controversial topics, such as race, sexism, feminism and pregnancy.
Her best talent had to be how she makes light of really tense or taboo topics. For example, one of her main focus points had to be race, specifically Asians, and blatantly pointing out stereotypes about their race, like Asian women being terrible drivers or living long lives. She didn’t try to recognize that these stereotypes were degrading or that people should try to debunk them. What she demonstrated, through the stories that she told, was that we live in a society that tends to be judgmental. However, instead of focusing on these harsh judgments, she embraced them in a dark kind of way that only accentuated her own style of comedy.
One of Ali’s best traits she showed through her special is how real she is. She doesn’t have to really come up with material because a lot of it is based on her life. Many of the storylines or side-notes she gave were based on her marriage and her pregnancy. She could go from topic to topic to topic without skipping a beat and without having to create some kind of segues, which was nice. But what was most important was how honest she was, a trait that is sometimes hard to convey to an audience. One of my favorite jokes of hers was how she admitted that her marriage was based on her “trapping” her husband so she didn’t have to work anymore. She jokes,
“Since I got married last year, I’ve been eating fried chicken skin every day since. That’s right. And just fulfilling my destiny. Which is to turn into a circle with eyelashes. Like Mrs. Pac-Man.”
Talking about her marriage, again, led to some tricky points of conversation, like feminism and the role of women in the workplace. Even though she is clearly a working woman who makes a good amount of money, she kept saying how she was jealous of the common housewife. She even joked by saying, “I think feminism is the worst thing that ever happened to women. Our job used to be no job…we had it so good.”
Apart from being real about issues like gender and race, she was also open about pregnancy and all the intimate, personal, albeit gross, details about what her body was going through. She even made light out of going through a miscarriage, which she made clear is “very common” for women entering their 30s. And though she could describe how often and in what ways she had sex and give physical descriptions of her lady-parts, it was funny to see her sometimes only refer to excrement as “doo doo.”
Though some of her honesty might seem off-putting, to me that is the best thing about her comedy. In a way, Ali Wong’s “realness” with audiences gives her an added edge in the comedy business. This edge makes her a great performer and I highly recommend anyone looking for something funny to watch to seek out Ali Wong: Baby Cobra on Netflix.
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