Paris by Night is watched by most Vietnamese families around the world, often purchased on VHS and DVDs from Vietnamese-based shopping centers, such as San Jose’s Grand Century Mall and Lion Plaza, or Southern California’s Phuoc Loc Tho mall.
The live Vietnamese variety show incorporates singing, dancing and comedy skits into a hours-long event that has become hugely popular. This weekend, an event inspired by the format returns to San Jose’s Tabard Theatre: Embarrassed by Night, a Vietnamese American based comedy show.
The show’s organizers, Andy Van and Fred Le (no relation), are originally from the South Bay. Le is from Sunnyvale, Van from Milpitas. As they told Metro last year, the show’s comedy isn’t just based on being Vietnamese-Americans, it’s just a bunch of comedians coming together to make people laugh.
Since their first Embarrassed by Night at the Tabard Theatre last June, the show has toured around the country visiting Vietnamese enclaves, including Pasadena in Southern California and Houston, Texas.
“The first time was a lot of fun. We had a lot of family and friends coming through,” says Le. “But also at the same time, like how can you gauge your success if half the audience are homies, you know? So, we’re excited to see the second time around, what the turnout is gonna be like.”
As both of the event’s organizers have relocated to Los Angeles, Van says it’s always an honor to perform back in front of his Bay Area home crowd.
“It’s humbling. It’s an honor. It’s all that stuff, right?” Van says. “There’s certainly something beautiful about it… it’s a nostalgic thing.”
He adds that this time around they are more confident in their skills, having already taken the show on the road. The duo poke fun at more than just their Vietnamese upbringing. The comedians say they will also talk about politics and themselves as individual comedians.
Van and Le say the idea for Embarrassed by Night came about when the two realized they were “the only Asians meeting at open mics around Los Angeles.” Le says he feels confident co-hosting with Van.
“I’m making sure that we’re writing good, solid bits, setting up the comedians for success and getting my comedy ideas out. And making sure that I work well with Andy, because he’s my co-host,” Le says. “I’m trying to come up with bits that work well in celebrating Vietnamese American stuff. I’m watching a ton of Paris by Night just to mine comedic inspiration out of those things. Paris by Night bills itself as a comedy show, but I haven’t seen anything really funny [in it] yet.”
Comedian and Embarrassed by Night performer Alex Duong says once he heard the show was based on Paris by Night he hopped on the project immediately.
“He was speaking to me one night about this whole concept of Paris by Night, but comedy. I was like, I’ll do it. I’ll do whatever you need me to do, wherever you need me to go,” Duong says. “I will do it just based on the fact that my family had all the Paris by Night VHS tapes. They loved Paris by Night.”
Duong adds that many of the show’s comics are first-generation Vietnamese Americans.
“We have an interesting perspective where we know about the war, but then we also know about TikTok dances. It’s a nice Swiss Army knife of a person, if that makes sense. We can speak with the accent, with the ao dai,” he says, referring to traditional formal Vietnamese wear.
Stand-up comedian and Embarrassed by Night performer Tony Vinh says Paris by Night inspired him to be an entertainer.
“You know, my parents, it was there. They watched every season.”
Above all else, the performers will be enjoying the wealth of Vietnamese culture available in San Jose while the show’s in town.
“Andy Van and Fred, they’re kick-ass producers,” says Duong. “They take care of us, you know, to make sure we always have a place to stay at the very least, and we have some Vietnamese food as soon as we arrive. Which is pretty damn nice, because you can’t get good Vietnamese food in LA.”
Sat, 8pm, $25+
Tabard Theatre, San Jose