The Arts
February 14-20, 2007

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Courtesy of Asian American Theater Company
Wrestlemania: The action never lets up in the sketch-comedy production 'TeleMongol.'

TV Takeoff

CATS and Asian American Theater Company up-end broadcast cliches in 'TeleMongol'

By Marianne Messina

IN TeleMongol, three fluky TV producers at TV station AHOLE (Asian Home of Language Entertainment) try to come up with successful programming, and the results are a series of silly soap operas, faux-history lessons with an anti-Western slant, bad newscasts and takeoffs on everything from classic films to HBO series. Presented by San Jose's Contemporary Asian Theater Scene with San Francisco's Asian American Theater Company, this production draws from well-known comedy troupes Lodestone Theatre Ensemble, Cold Tofu, 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors and OPM to create a program that is freely raunchy (is this what the year of the pig is all about?).

Among the raunchiest skits, Chino State Pen, a takeoff on the HBO series Oz, features simulated bitch-banging and other crudities. In more than a dozen sketches, each an episode from the producers' pitifully derivative programming, recombinant cast members Asianize the spoofs often by exaggerating stereotypes—The Dr. Pho Show, Desperate Asians of Lotus Lane, Appa Knows Best, Brokeback Gold Mountain (Charles Kim garbling through pursed lips in a great imitation of Ennis, Heath Ledger's character). One of the visually funniest was The Late Night Show, a talk show in which Charles Kim plays Dear Leader (North Korea's Kim Jong-Il) with fly-away hair, Robert Covarrubias plays Osama bin Laden and Denise Iketani plays Condoleezza Rice, with pole-up-her-ass posture and sticky-flip hair seemingly borrowed from a bad production of Beehive. Iketani was also delightful as Dr. Pho ("What You Problem?"). Although Dr. Pho's punch lines weren't all that hilarious, Iketani rocked this skit with her absentee listening skills (filing her nails) and abrupt send-offs.

Generally, the fast pacing saves the less-funny jokes and skits because you don't have time to not laugh before the next really funny bit comes in. And the late-night audience (there's a 10pm show on Fridays) for this performance at Theatre on San Pedro Square ate up the humor with a steady volume of raucous laughter. Charles Kim's scenes were most dependably funny. For example, in Appa Knows Best, a house-coated Kim plays the prejudiced Korean mom who doesn't want her daughter Nancy (Jully Lee) dating a "Mexican" (Covarrubias)—actually Filipino as Nancy tries to correct her. Appa warns her daughter that the offspring of a mixed Korean/Mexican marriage will be confused, wondering, "Do I own the building or do I clean the building?" Probably the driest sketches were the newscasts and the bad history lessons. The show has no shortage of political incorrectness. When Covarrubias plays a Borat-type newscaster interviewing a Japantown couple, he mispronounces Sakura-do as Sakaroka-doo, and he greets the couple's son with "Hey there, yellow fella ... did you just come back from your kung foo lesson?" In addition to portraying lots of mock sex acts and homosexuality, the show includes "drunken skank" Bai-Ling (Corinne Chooey) making tawdry advances: "I've got milk," "I've got eggs," "I've got yeast."

The scenery is fairly sparse and portable, and Ivy Y. Chou's costume design, though primarily functional, showed skill and care. The male dancers wore gaudy bejeweled jocks over the family jewels, Condi Rice's form-fitting skirt and jacket suit looked perfectly anal retentive; the hip-hop dancers got lowriding baggies and the Motown-style dancers got shimmering sequins. As comedy comes and goes, this has a pretty high laugh percentage, though the humor's not for everyone; it's for those who like their humor raunchy, fast and politically incorrect.

TeleMongol, a Contemporary Asian Theatre Scene and Asian American Theater Company production, plays Friday-Saturday at 7 and 10pm and Sunday at 2pm at Theatre on San Pedro Square, 29 N. San Pedro St., San Jose. Tickets are $7.50-$10. (800.838.3006)

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