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August 11, 2003

Dat Phan & The New Dysfunctional Asian

Dat Phan is not funny, but he is Asian.

Anytime an Asian can get on stage and make fun of his parents' accents, you've got a winner. It's about time that Asians got comically bashed in mainstream society. These are the days of Affirmative Action Backlash Blowback. For the many years that stereotypes about Asians were used to beat up stereotypes of blacks and latinos, Asians must have been saying to themselves, one of these days the jig is going to be up. They certainly knew that they were not superhuman.

It has fallen to comics to break out the topic for public discussion. With AABB gaining momentum, Asians are going to have to brake the fall of their honorary whiteness. Margaret Cho will have to devastate the 'me so horny' idea by doing it her fat-assed self, as a bisexual. Dat Phan will have to deconstruct the 'kung fu nobility' idea by doing it himself and then saying WTF like a loser.

Americans, especially younger ones, are needing to see Asians express the same dysfunctions, social perversions and moral disintegration as the trashiest of their trailer park cousins. We're all headed for leaner times, and if Asians are not coming with us, they'll be in for real bashing at the hands of the positive stereotypes they cosigned at the beginning of the age of the Pacific Rim. So these young Americans who grew up on the porno that is television are needing to see their Asian buds portrayed in the contexts they find themselves in. Blacks and latinos are already there, hiphop has assured that the degenerate profile has institutional infrastructure.

Dat Phan will be the man to watch. He will not be able to be Eddie Murphy for another generation. He will have to be Richard Pryor, or even Redd Foxx for the time being. He cannot become outwardly rich and famous, he will have to air all the dirty laundry of his and his parents generation. America won't let him be Jet Li, he will have to be the anti-hero. His confidence in his delivery, his discipline will all be in service of a wack personna. If he doesn't, America will chew him up, spit him out and ignore him, just as we have done to his parents.

Dat Phan, as a Vietnamese, will have to take down Chinese and Japanese. He will have to combat Philipinos and bring the Hmong out of obscurity. If he is to be truly large, this will be his task. He will have to be as Vietnamese as Paul Rodriguez is Mexican, as John Leguizama is Puerto Rican. But in that, Dat Phan has a very large problem, which is that he doesn't appear nearly as talented. This is the crux of the issue.

I was surprised that he won the competition. I didn't think he was that funny. I was much more impressed with Ralphie May's schtick as well as that of the older professional comics. But it was one of those very comics, Vos, who uttered the key phrase. "I didn't know you could get over just by ragging on your mother for five minutes." That's exactly why, if you're Asian. It's what America needs and wants to hear.

This need may pose as a desire for colorblindness, but we are too much the pattern-making creatures for that lame figleaf. The need stems from the desire to pin other kinds of archtypes, stereotypes and associations on Asians. Other meaning, laugh at yourself kind of associations, rather than compete with the ethnic minority kind of associations. That is all good and I think it is honestly reflective of the desires of the young audiences drawn to such venal reality shows.

Let us see whether or not Dat Phan understands all this and holds up his end of the bargain.

UPDATE: Model Minority on Dat Phan.
Flamewars & deleted posts at DatPhan's Blog

Posted by mbowen at August 11, 2003 11:52 AM

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Tracked on August 11, 2003 02:11 PM



Posted by: MBOWENSUX at August 15, 2003 09:48 PM

mbowen, you're fucking racist, get a life and grow up!

Posted by: mdcbowenisgay at August 15, 2003 09:54 PM

I thought that Dat Phan is funny and it doesn't matter what you think is humorous. It's the majority that counts, and obviously Dat Phan was able to please the larger crowd. How can you define what is funny or not when it varies from person to person? You can opinionate, but don't say he's not funny because you think he's not.

Posted by: Johnny at August 16, 2003 01:49 AM

I think you're being very selfish. OPEN your mind dude, there's many talent on this world and that's including DAT PHAN.

Posted by: KKK at August 17, 2003 12:29 PM

Hey, you're such a loser Dat Pahn is filled with money and fame now.....How about you? All you have is those comment? Jelousy, and racism aint good man. People like you disgrace this country.

Posted by: YouRaDumbass at August 17, 2003 12:36 PM

All of my critics on this matter are under thirty, single and without children. Right?

Considering the idiotic yet heartfelt defenses posted here, it may be that I have underestimated said young American's need to have Dat Phan be a star, no matter what the nature of his 'humor'.

That doesn't change the fact that his brand of comedy has no appeal to middle aged married men with school aged children. You'll all grow up sooner or later and then you will realize how unoriginal it is to dis your parents accents.

As for the charge of racism understand that whatever the case, it doesn't rise above third class. In my estimation Dat Phan's racial humor is no more or less serious than Chris Rock's. The one good joke he had was about the date where the white girl's father, a Vietnam vet, asked him his name and he said 'Charlie'. Part of what makes that humor work is dependent on the fact that Dat Phan wrote it himself. If Vos or Ritchie May wrote the joke would it be so funny? Hmmm. So is Dat Phan capable of writing jokes for anyone else, or is it always going to be existential humor about what it means to be Asian in America.

My point is this, put him on Saturday Night Live and make him write sketch comedy for the entire cast. Put him one on one with Dennis Miller and see how he rocks the crowd. I think he'll fall off. He's a rookie with two years in the business. That may be good enough for 3 or 4 five minute bits, but there is no way anyone can say he could shine the shoes of Margaret Cho, or any of the other comics I mentioned.

I don't expect young people who are all hyped up to see Phan succeed to think about stuff like this. I expect them to laugh and say 'yay finally an asian in the spotlight'. My yay ain't all so loud but I recognize the audience's need which is what my post was all about.

Now I'll throw this one thing out even though I don't personally believe it. Imagine that 'Last Comic Standing' is was and always will be the Affirmative Action show of the entertainment industry. Can Dat Phan rise above the stigma?

Let me know in two years. If he's doing as well as say Ray Romano, I think I'll still be right, because Ray Romano is no longer funny. He used to be when he did the real standup circuit, but he fell off when he went mainstream to do sitcoms. I think sitcoms is Dat Phan's ambition. So he'll fall off too.

Posted by: Cobb at August 17, 2003 02:02 PM

I hate asians!!!! I was adopted by an asian man and he beat me everyday i came home from school for not being smart enough. I hate his ass and i hate all asians. Fuck all of you!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Johnny Chang at August 18, 2003 07:00 PM

Hello, Mr Cobb
Im over the age you're predicting, and I have three kids!
Beside the point I seriously think you need help. Crying out loud the guy won because he got talent. Do you think Ralphi can do better than that? You probably change your mind if you find out Ralphie is asian. Just look a your intro- "Dat Phan is not funny but he's asian." Hah! what was that all about. If he's not funny why did he got so many votes? I believe that he can make it big. All he need is someone who discover him. After that he'll prove to people like you are nonesense.
I dont think J-Lo can sing. Her chorus does most of the singing part. But it's chances and people that discover her. Now her fame is bigger than her ass. Everyone think J-Lo rock now. So please sir don't tell me your stupid prediction, because it's lame.
Dat phan is funny or not let the people decide for now we all know he just got crowned to be th funniest person in U.S so there. Your prediction, racism, with him are useless.
You might your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend are hot ass hell. Trust me your friend and everyone else might think she/he are ugly as hell. So until you are right, as for now I think you're a very cold hearted unethical man.

Posted by: liveyour/wurheart at August 18, 2003 11:39 PM


Where some people see funny, I see disrespect.

His parents want him to be a doctor, they send him to college. He doesn't care he wastes their money and makes jokes about it. He wants to be a tv star. Wait until your kids tell you that, see how funny you find it.

Read what I said again and think about it.

Dat Phan is telling the kind of jokes that only Asians can tell about themselves, some of which I simply find offensive. That's what his material is. He is the one making himself a racial and ethnic subject. He's the one going for the cheap laughs with his 'ching chong' routine.

Why did he get all the votes, because that's what those audiences want to hear. Me I don't want to hear it and I don't apologize for that.

If you think that's racist, you have absolutely no idea what racism is, and I challenge you or any other reactionary defender of Dat Phan to prove it.

Now I am giving Dat Phan's audience the benefit of the doubt. I have not called them racist. I say, constructively, that Dat Phan is very much like Richard Pryor or Redd Fox, someone who breaks down barriers by being purposefully crude and then doing the whitefolks / blackfolks routine. But I also say he isn't as good as Margaret Cho, or Paul Rodriguez who have both done that schtick already.

As for J-Lo, I have no idea nor an inkling of what song she sings, and I couldn't care less.

As for your insults and the rest of the insults here, I will simply leave them here for you and everyone else to reflect on for as long as I own the domain with my name on it.

Did you ever consider why all of the other comics on the show tried to get rid of him, twice? Are they all racists too? Was it a racist conspiracy? Are there only racist reasons to think Dat Phan is not a great symbol of the art of comedy? Dat Phan has talent like the winners of Survivor. But I guess for some folks, that's all it takes.

Posted by: Cobb at August 19, 2003 12:07 AM

OK let me clear this up. We are all losers with nothing better to do than comment about a show that has been off the air for weeks. Dat won. So his is a winner. The others lost. So they are all losers like us. Every jerky on that show did the same thing as Dat--they all talked, exagerated, and made themselves caricature of what they are (see dictionary, where caricature = A representation, especially pictorial or literary, in which the subject's distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect). FatAss Ralphie--morbidly obese wanna-be-black-from-da-hood white suburbia boy. Kahaney--yankee redheaded bizatch. Vos--guido/guilt-ridden yankee sterotype. Mordel--Fargo-esque midwesterner making jokes about sandbags. Tess--obese black sista with take-nuttin attitude. Cancer-Dude-From-Texas--cowby hat wearing hick making jokes about eggs. Pointed-Hair-Blonde--free spirited hippie descendant from California. Rob--schizotypal freak stereotype that probably has a human head collection. That's enough--I cannot remember any of the others. Wait, one more--Jay Mohr--caricture of boring not funny dude that got extremely lucky somehow since he is less funny than Rob's human head collection. Dat will be rich and he should do a sitcom--he is the only one of that group that has the discpline and work attitude to pull it off--the others would oversleep and not know their lines or some such BS, get the show cancelled and cost a lot of peeps their jobs. Vos needs a beating with that stupid iron.

Posted by: Mordelandvosaregay at August 19, 2003 09:37 PM

I actually agree with Cobb on this viewpoint, if Eminem proved anything about America and his success is dat we like humor at the expense of sterotypes, well Margret Cho proved it as well. Except MArgret Cho as popular as she may be among her asian audience, she is still relativly unknown amongst White America, and what better when it comes to pure stand up comedy to exhibit your "style"( and I use that term in the loosest definition ) then on the latest television trend, which are reality based TV shows, and compeitions. Phan knew that this would work, since it worked so well for Margret Cho, but this sterotype was never projected through a medium that has been exposed to so many people. Im not going to be overly critical of Phan though, even if do technically steal another person's style of art, you still need to put in degree of effort and work or it just won't work. Im not expecting anything to really come from phan though, until I see a rock, hard, solid production, I suppose he could get through a few productions using the same act, and I suppose he can get through a season or two of a sitcom using a style of comedy that corresponds with his act, but people will get tired of it, like people got tired of Eminem talking about his mother and family problems of growing up poor, white, and quite frankly a "wigger". I do see Eminem creating a songs outside that "white trash want to be black" persona, I just hope Phan can evolve his style as well.

Posted by: JL at August 20, 2003 03:20 AM

I actually agree with Cobb. When Dat turned on that accent, I was thinking, "Oh my goodness, why???!!!" When he didn't make jokes about his mother or being Vietnamese/Asian, he was pretty funny. I think he can do non-Asian related humor, but that isn't what the public is looking for. If he DOES do Asianness-related humor, he should at least drop the accent and deliver something edgy about race relations in a humorous way. Perhaps he will grow into a "break the barrier" type. On the show though, he pandered to the average American's perception of what the "Asian" is. I hope he finds something to be funny about.

Posted by: Anniemal at August 20, 2003 07:26 AM

I'm glad Dat won. Dat's not funny at all and his humor does nothing for Asian Americans (though I doubt his schtick really hurts Asian Americans because most non-Asians couldn't really give a damn about what a million Asian Americans say -- they'll still continue to stereotype Asians).
Why I am glad Dat won has a lot more to do with the dynamics of the house. The other comics, even the ones who had been eliminated, consistently ganged up on him. Maybe it was because they were so shocked that he had not been eliminated, but I think it actually ran quite a bit deeper than that. There was a lot of hostility towards Dat and in my opinion, it was because he was Asian.
No one will remember the show and Dat, given his skills, unless something changes, will fade into obscurity rapidly. But at least he will always be able to say he won and those racist bastards will always have to remember they lost. And that makes me happy.

Posted by: Cog at August 20, 2003 09:50 AM

Such a typical white persons' response to ONE Asian man's experience that he has to relate Dat Phan's COMEDY bit to the rest of Asian Americans.

I was at one of the premirings of "Better Luck Tomorrow" and at the end of the movie one of the actors from the movie fielded questions. And of course a white guy gets up and asks..."so do you think this movie will give Asian people a bad reputation?" Would he of asked that if the actors of the movie were white?!

You've got to get over your idea that all Asian people think the same, act the same, or have the same values. Its obvious you have no clue what is is to be Asian like I have no clue what it is like to be white in America.

Dat Phan has had 15 minutes of fame and already you're jumping down his throat because you expect him to be the "Asian Malcolm X" Let him live his life and become successful and maybe sometime down the line he'll open some eyes.

And the jab that he's not funny...so you think Ralphie May's bit about bombing the hell out of the MiddleEast and killing innocent people for cheap gas is funny? I don't find that particularly funny. And why do you think the other comedics on that show have been in the "comedy" field for so long. BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT FUNNY!. Think about it, if you're so mature and your "married with children" view of the world is the correct one.

Posted by: NaturalMystic at August 20, 2003 11:27 AM

Holy Crap,
I'm 1/4 asian and i gotta put it bluntly... there are some racist bitches on this forum. To respond to Phan's 'Charlie' comment... african american comics frequent the use of the n-word. Holy crap... all u racist fuckers need to grow-up or move to a trailer-park(if u don't live there already) and join the KKK- cuz the rest of America is sick of you; especially the imbred MBowen and his homo lover Johnny Chang.

Posted by: Jack Ryan at August 21, 2003 08:54 AM

The only reason why Dat phan won is because he was the underdog. The U.S. public loves the underdog and if you watched the show, DAT PHAN WAS THE UNDERDOG. You cannot honestly tell me that Dat Phan is funnier than Ralphie. Dat did the same jokes 3 times on the show and then performed then again on The Tonight Show and on The Late Late Show.

I can't wait to see the Comedy Central special. I guarantee we will all see the same jokes again. We will see him do:

The Asian guy taking a leek in the bathroom

White guys mimicking asian sounds and why Asians don't go around saying "airplane" "car" etc..

The same jokes about his mom

And many more jokes that we all heard before.

He has no material. Ralphie and the rest of the house were real comics. Dat himself admitted that he is using comedy to get into acting. The rest of the house were all about comedy. There is nothing racial about it, DAT PHAN is NOT FUNNY.

Posted by: cinque14 at August 21, 2003 09:18 AM

Wow You know what i aint gonna take none of ur fukin bs! im sorry but im proud to be a freakin asianim a mather of fact i aint fukin chinese japenese nor vietnamese. Just to let u no u dont know shit about asian pple so u can stop predicting that all asians are like this and that so please racist man stop ur shiet. its too bad that ralphie didnt win but iguess other pple like dat phan better and u cant do anything about it. It doesnt matter about what race u are..WE all should jus be proud to live here and i can honestly say i am proud to be here because i love the diversity and i guess ur rasict ass cant take asain pple doing better than u perhaps??? well thas about it think before u talk ur shiet!!

Posted by: LISa at August 21, 2003 01:48 PM

Dat Phan won because the viewers votes were in his favor. Plain and simple. People thought he was the funniest out of the whole bunch. I think he is a smart guy. I hope he makes it big!!! Stop hating on him because he made jokes about his Asain mother...Ralphie constantly gabs about being the fat guy... and yes... he is fat...and funny and only a fat person could make fat jokes sound funny without getting booed off the stage. Asain jokes are funny when an Asian is telling them... Fat jokes are funny if a fat person is talking about their fat issues...just as black jokes are funny if a black person is doing the talking. Lighten up...haven't you ever watched SNL or Mad TV? Dat Phan is the Man!!! Go Dat Phan! We love you!

Posted by: Lina at August 21, 2003 03:22 PM

well, i'm asian and i've talked to one of my asian friends about Dat before. We both agreed that he really isn't that funny either.
His jokes are unoriginal, uncreative, and his material needs a lot of work. The only reason why America voted him to be the winner is because the American society believes it's okay and funny to make fun of Asians. For example, Jay Leno makes fun of Koreans eating dogs on his show. Would he make such an offensive joke about blacks or hispanics? Shaq made fun of Yao, spitting out "ching-chong" and doing kung-fu moves. I'm not calling either of them a racist, but it's just that Asians get the least respect out of any racial groups in America in that people think that Asians can be made fun of and gotten away with. Look at Abercrombie and Fitch and their "stylish" Asian t-shirts that were protested against. Any more examples needed? American society just doesn't give enough respect to Asians. Dat played up the typical stereotypes and made fun of his Asian culture (and did a heck of a job at it) and that's why Dat won. Period. I believed the other comedians on the show saw this and that's why they wanted him gone, because he's not a true comedian. Like the owner of this URL said, Dat didn't really have any funny material that didn't have to do w/ his being asian. I do however agree that Magaret Cho is a good Asian comic, because not only can she make jokes about her race, she can joke on a wide variety of topics.

Posted by: blah at August 21, 2003 06:53 PM

I think Cobb is off base. I really don't see the Asian factor being the issue. I think it is more of him being just funny enough to win the majority of viewer while the others were viewed as being really funny but only to the minority of viewers. I was shocked when Dat beat Dave Mordal. Dave was the reason I tuned in to the show after seeing him win a previous challenge. In the Dat and Dave face-off I thought Dat was ok but Dave was fantastic. The funniest comedian I'd seen in years. I like many others are struggling to figure out why. So here's my theory. Dat has carefully scripted (statistically as he showed his detailed records on the show) a routine that appeals to a broad range of people. He kept with it through all his performances by basically using the same material. Before Dat's last couple of shows, I turned to my wife and said "I bet he just going to use his same routine about his mom." Yep. So enough people thought Dave was funnier, but I would bet that they weren't laughing as hard as the minority that liked the other comedians. However the demographic that votes on these shows is supposedly very young. So I must just be getting old. Dat could end up doing very well on a sitcom if he gets on a show with good writers because he's a very likable guy. Dave Mordal reminds of the first time I saw Sam Kinison doing standup in Hollywood when nobody including me knew who he was. I knew I was seeing a special talent.

Posted by: Felix at August 21, 2003 10:27 PM

I'm an Indian and have watched the show with interest. To me, Dat had me laughing my guts out in his face-off against Geoff Brown. Those were high-energy, well-executed, well-thought out and funny pieces. That, to me, showed that he's capable of coming up with original, funny stuff; and can improve with more time in the field. However, most of his other performances were focussed on his mother's idiosyncracies, and failed to make me laugh. He also seemed a tad bit nervous at time, fighting for words. This stood out in contrast to the vets like Mordal, who appeared razor sharp.

However, among the other good reasons that this forum has discussed abt why he won, I would put forward this...This was a remarkably uninspiring group of comics overall!! To those complaining about Phan repeating his jokes, Cahaney kept doing the same, and hers were not funny in the first place. They might bring a smile to your face, occasionally, but that's it. Tess was horrible..she had no material at all. Voss scooted thru the whole thing without ever being challenged. Ralphie's wanna-be black act wore thin pretty quickly, and his finals performance plain irritated me..Leave out the fact that it was insensitive, illiterate war-mongering, but it also had no place in a comedy show!

To sum it up, the reasons Phan won was:
-even though he wasn't great, neither were most of the others. It was a highly uninspiring field. Mordal was the only strong candidate, but he got eliminated.
-He was smart, he analyzed the techniques for success and worked hard towards his goals in an organized fashion. He might not have been funny all the time, but he found a way to woo audiences.
-The audience demographic, IMO, was skewed against 'traditional' stand-up routine guys like Mordal.

Posted by: Free Clarrett Now!! at August 22, 2003 12:17 PM

I think this whole article on dat phan not being funny is pointless. Was I dreaming when dat phan won the last comic standing? Was i drunk when i heard jay more announce the last comic standing as dat phan. The only reason i could possibly see why dat phan won was because america saw him to be funny. After all he did make people laugh and when people laugh its because someone says something funny(its that simple, unless your ticlking the person's foot with a feather) this is not hard math here cobbs. Here take a look at something i read from a book called "The comic's guide to being funny". It's called funny theorom 2.11(ill even put it in capital letters so you can see it better)


you can even take the inverse of it and youll still get the same theorom see

LAUGHS == FUNNY which means --> DAT == FUNNY

Is it me or am i the only one that understood the whole point of the show "Last comic standing". Wasn't the show last comic standing made to find the funniest comic out there. I dont believe it was made to find the most talented comic standing or the best writter comic standing. I admit dat is not the greatest writter, and he does need to change his act a bit and not just trash his mother for every stand up act he does. But the point is he's funny at what he does, and america saw that and thats why he won. The bottom line is he made me laugh and certainly made many others laugh as well. If he wasnt funny then how did he defeat dave mordal in a one on one stand off, or most importantly be crowned the last comic standing.
Lastly you mentioned in your article that you found it to be disrespectfull for dat to make fun of his own mom on stage, well dont you find it disrespectfull for ralphie to make fun of fat people on stage. C'mon its comedy, laugh for crying out loud.

Posted by: corn on the cobb at August 22, 2003 08:37 PM

oh and one more thing corn on the cobb,

the only reason why you wrote this article on dat phan was because you kinda got upset that your your favorite, eeemmmm... ralphie may flower didnt win. And more over lost to dat phan who only has 2 years of experience under his belt. cmon admit it, lets say,just for fun purposes, that ralphie won the last comic standing and dat came in second i dont even believe you would have wrote this very angry but yet very thought out article.
well looks like i have to get going, for some reason i'm having a strong cravin for some corn.

Posted by: corn on the cobb at August 22, 2003 08:50 PM

I thought I had shut down comments on this item, so I see something is broken. Believe me, I've posted at least 40 items since this and I don't really care.

There is only one reason that I was even marginally interested in that show. I never followed it during its original airing, and only happened to watch three or four episodes back to back on a very very lazy afternoon. So the very idea that I had a favorite is ridiculous. I don't watch that much television anyway, much less reality shows, much less this one which is almost completely retarded. I find it a chore to even respond here. I don't care that much.

The one reason this is marginally interesting has everything to do with asians and multuculturalism and very little to do with Dat Phan or Last Comic Standing. So everybody who is pissing about Dat Phan being funny.. so what. I say he's not. You say he is. BFD.

Some of the asian folks who have posted here, and more over at modelminority.com understand the larger point, which is stereotyped representations of asians on television and what the emergence of Dat Phan might mean - considering there are only about half a dozen ntationally recognizeable asians in television anyway.

I may not be interested in Dat Phan, per se, but since this has turned into Dat Phan Central - getting a higher ranking at Google than Dat Phan's own fan site - I am interested in being a good host. That's the reason I've kept comments open for 12 days now. Nevertheless, a cursory view at the general subject matter of this blog should be enough to show anyone that it's not a high priority. Quite frankly, I'd rather those who are pissing and moaning at me go hang out at Dat Phan's fansite or modelminority.com. So I'm fed up, not because of the juvenile insults or disagreements, just because I refuse to feed this Dat Phan monster any longer. I JUST DON'T CARE.

There aren't any more points to be made, at least not with this group. If you want to talk about asian stereotypes and media representation, fine. It'll come up and I'll talk about it sooner or later. If you want to talk about Dat Phan or Last Comic Standing, go find somebody who gives a damn.

Posted by: Cobb at August 22, 2003 11:04 PM