Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Seattle comedian releases debut music video

Share this Post:
Image courtesy of Bernice Ye
Image courtesy of Bernice Ye

Comedian Bernice Ye first found success on Seattle's comedy circuit, honing her craft performing in shows such as Model Minority and Men Aren't Funny. One of her favorite sets was a story about Asian chicken salad.

"This Asian chicken salad joke I've been telling, I feel like it works everywhere. It's universal," she said. "I've been telling it so many times that some part of me was like, 'How can I make it more interesting for everybody and more interesting for me? How can somebody come to my show once, and the second time they [attend], they're still enjoying it?"

Ye found her inspiration in another Seattle star. "I was listening to 'Downtown' by Macklemore, and he's just rapping. I was thinking, 'You know what, I don't have anything to sing, but I'm just going to put my Asian chicken salad joke in it, because I can remember that as lyrics. I started to sing it, and I didn't know if it worked, but I had a lot of fun."

Although Ye doesn't have a background in musical performance, she enjoyed putting her joke to a beat and shared the song with her friend Junan Wang, who encouraged Ye to explore creating a comedy rap video.

Crowdfunding a passion project
In 2022, Ye moved to LA, where she met aspiring rapper and actor Cole Connor. "We met up for New Year's, and Cole said, 'What's your New Year's resolution? What do you want in the new year?'" Ye related.

"And I said, 'Maybe we should make a short film together to show off our acting, and I have this joke I want to make into a rap.' He had an open mind, and one thing led to another, and we had the comedy rap."

The production started small but eventually became a professionally shot and choreographed video, with Wang directing. At first, Ye and Connor sat down and agreed on a modest $3,000 budget. As they brought on more team members, the production costs grew. Some team members even offered to take a pay cut, as long as Ye would invest money in professional hair and makeup for the final shoot.

After tweaking the budget, they arrived at a goal of $5,000 and started crowdfunding. "I had to work very hard to get the word out, but when people were willing to jump in and support, we passed our goals little by little," Ye said.

"Sometimes I would post a story and say, 'We're almost at 70% goal', and someone would donate and help us. The love and support were the fuel to help me keep going."

Chinese American roots
Ye and Wang were surprised that their project resonated with many first-generation Chinese American immigrants. While Ye's video is funny and visually stunning on the surface, at its core it's a story about the American immigrant experience and how Chinese Americans, in particular, are treated.

"It's not only Asian American, its first-generation Asian American, Chinese American. I've never been able to say, 'Okay, I'm going to just send Chinese characters,' and we're making art."

The video features references to modern Chinese culture and authentic calligraphy that feels like fun Easter eggs for Chinese American viewers. "We talk about cultural references. Junan and I would debate, like, 'Hey, we can't go too deep into just Chinese,' because from my experience performing comedy in America, you also need to find a way that people can feel it is familiar and new. This is a group of people where we can all discuss, brainstorm, and figure out how to present that to a broader audience."

As the production evolved, Ye pulled in multitalented performers into the mix. Wang insisted on professional choreography, so the video was choreographed by Sophia LaVonne, an LA-based dancer who has previously worked with BET and Nike.

"As a Gay person, I cannot see a music video without good dancing. This needed to have choreography," Wang said with a laugh.

Wang believes so many talented people were willing to throw themselves into the project because of Ye's dedication and ability to create such raw humor in a second language.

"The reason I found working on this music video for Bernice so inspirational ... is because it's so rare to see, as Chinese immigrants, someone able to do comedy in a second language and be able to bridge the culture," Wang said.

"And since the pandemic, especially when [it] started, there has been so much miscommunication in America. Communication is needed to make the world a better place. Jokes like this make it so much less serious and showcase that we're more similar than different."

Influenced by Queer culture
The video brings together many beautiful elements and pulls inspiration from contemporary American and Chinese performances. Ye believes having a Queer perspective was essential in bringing her story to life.

"After going through this project, I cannot imagine if my director was a straight man," she said. "The relationship Junan and I have, sleeping in the same bed for a bit, talking about ideas, I just feel so comfortable, and he has that style... I just can't imagine any straight man can have that."

Wang's identity as a Gay man influenced the style he puts into his work and also helped him find bridges between Chinese and American culture. "I came out of the closet in China, and it was a bit tough," he said. "My parents are traditional, and it took a while for them to accept it. Eventually, they were okay.

"After I came here, I met my partner, and I realized even though we're from different countries — he's from the Midwest — our experiences are not that much different. In a way, it connected us."

Wang's partner introduced him to American Gay culture, particularly Drag Race. He loved the high camp, colors, and movement of Queer performances. "A lot of things I feel have subconsciously influenced how we make decisions in our music videos. I feel like there were a lot of Queer vibes on set. It was very creative, and I love that," he added.

Wang is currently working on developing a start-up clothing brand in New York City, while Ye is performing weekly shows in LA and plans on returning to Seattle's stand-up scene eventually.

"Seattle will always be home," she said.

"Asian Chicken Salad" is now out on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music.