Interview: Suzanne Whang on herself, images of Asian Americans, and her character Sung Hee Park

Interview: Suzanne Whang on herself, images of Asian Americans, and her character Sung Hee Park

After tackling demanding courses from Yale and Brown University, Suzanne Whang finds that her most challenging role is non-academic but comedic. Playing a socially awkward Korean immigrant pushes Whang farther than she's ever gone before.

By Angela Kang

Interview with Suzanne Whang
December 4, 2003
Interviewed by Angie Kang
Transcribed by Jennifer Chong

Click here to view interview in RealVideo.
Click here for the profile story on Suzanne Whang.

Suzanne Whang is currently the host of House Hunters on HGTV.  She has also hosted such shows as Homes of Our Heritage: Great American Women, Blitz Build 2000, and Homes of Pasadena.  Suzanne appeared as Dick Clark's co-host on TV Censored Bloopers for NBC, while concurrently co-hosting New Attitudes on Lifetime Television. Prior to that, she was a field reporter/fill-in co-host for FOX After Breakfast, and a field reporter for Breakfast Time, Personal FX, and The Pet Department on the FX cable network. She has also appeared in numerous television shows, including co-starring roles on The Practice, Robbery Homicide Division, NYPD Blue, Strong Medicine, Norm, The Chronicle, and 18 Wheels of Justice, and a guest starring role on V.I.P. Her feature film credits include Housesitter with Steve Martin, and the upcoming Twice As Dead and Date or Disaster. Suzanne won the BEST UP & COMING COMEDIAN OF 2002 AWARD at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival, for her outrageous stand-up comedy act, and is currently writing a one-woman show & mockumentary based on the character she created for her stand-up, Sung Hee Park.

APA:  Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background.

Suzanne:  My name is Suzanne Whang and I'm 100% Korean.  Both of my parents were born in Seoul, South Korea.  I was born in Virginia.  I went to high school in Virginia, but before that, I was a navy brat.  I went to probably seven different elementary schools all over the United States.  We moved to San Francisco, then Honolulu, then to Cambridge, Massachusetts where my dad got his Ph.D. at M.I.T., and then back to Virginia for high school.  Then, I went to Yale undergraduate, and Brown for graduate school. I got a B.A. in Psychology and a Masters in Cognitive Psychology.  I was actually in the Ph.D. program at Brown to get a PhD in Cognitive Psychology to be a professor, but I left after my Masters.  I took a leave of absence to find myself.  Then, I became an actress and have been acting and television hosting, and now I'm a stand up comedian.  I've been acting for about 15 years, hosting for seven years, and a stand up comedian for three years.  And now I'm also a writer, director, and a producer, and a dessert topping and a floor wax.

APA:  You graduated from Yale and Brown and you just seem like you'd be this model Asian American minority…you know, so brilliant and intelligent, but then you decided to stray from that educational route and go into entertainment.  I know you said you wanted to go find yourself, but what was it that made you want to go that route?

Suzanne:  I had always acted as a hobby.  I'd sing and dance in musicals in high school and I did “Guys and Dolls” in Yale. It was always a fun thing for me.  When I was 17, one summer in between going to Yale, I did an educational short film that I got the lead in and it was about racism.  It was a 15- minute educational film about me and my best friend.  She was white and she and I were going to double date for the prom, but her date wanted to take her to an exclusive country club that didn't allow minorities. It ends with this sort of unresolved conflict and they'd open it up to discussion in classes, so it was an educational tool.  It ended being shown on PBS and it was nominated for a daytime Emmy award and I think that's when I first got the bug. 

I starred in a film and then it was on television.  But, it wasn't until I graduated from Brown with my Masters and moved to Boston that I first started even considering doing it full time.  I was at my day job in Boston, which was at a health care consulting firm and it was a 9 to 5 job doing AIDS research and Planned Parenthood projects and all good-cause stuff.  I was at my desk doing my job and I heard on the radio that they were casting for extras for that show Spenser: For Hire with Robert Urich that was based in Boston.  It was a cop show.  So I took a long lunch and I stood in line with all these people to get my polaroid taken and to fill out my little size card.  About a month later, a casting director called and said he'd like me to do extra work on Spencer: For Hire. So, I called in sick for work and was all ready to go.  Call times tend to be very early and so I think it was something like a 7am call time.  In my apartment the night before, the power went out in my building so my alarm clock and my radio did not go off.  And at about 7:30, I'm awakened by my telephone and it was my casting director going “Suzanne, are you planning to show up this morning?”  I looked at the clock and it was flashing 2am and I said “I'm so sorry.  My power must have gone out in my building.  Can I still come?”  She said, “You'd better get here so fast” and she hangs up on me.  And this is the beginning of my illustrious career.  So I didn't even have time to take a shower.  I just threw on clothing.  Luckily the location was walking distance from where I lived.  So I'm running down the street and I get there and of course they hadn't even started shooting yet because there's a lot of hurry up and wait. 

That day, I was having so much fun just looking around going, wow there's so much going on, checking out what different people were doing, and then this character actor named Ernie Cox approached me.  He was probably in his 50's or 60's and he said, “Who are you?” This is because in Boston it's a small group of actors and they all know each other.  I say, “Hi, I'm Suzanne.”  He says, “How come I haven't seen you around?  Who are you?”  And I say “Oh no, I have a real job,” as if what he did wasn't a real job.  I basically insulted him without realizing it but he was not fazed.  He says, “No, no, no, come here, here's what you should do.”  So he writes down this list of 10 things.  He said, “Do these things and you'll be acting all the time in Boston.”  And that's basically what I did. 

He's my guardian angel because he took me under his wing and I took his advice.  Within a month, I quit my job. I was in Screen Actors Guild and I was making my living as an actor even though I never studied acting, which was very bizarre. I was taught that you get good grades.  I was valedictorian of my high school, then I got into Yale, then Brown, then you get a good job and then you get married and you're happy, you know.  And this was just going [crazy] so I started feeling very paranoid that one day somebody was going to say, “You don't know how to act” so I started taking acting classes.  After being paid to act professionally, I started taking acting classes.  I've been supporting myself with acting for 15 years.  For the first few months, I temped and waitressed, and other than that, I've been doing this for fun.

APA:  What were the suggestions that Ernie Cox gave you?

Suzanne:  Let me see if I can remember.  He gave me basic stuff.  It wasn't anything crazy.  He said you need headshots.  They need to be 8x10.  They need to be black and white.  He said, “Here are some photographers that you can go meet with and see who you like.  You can look through their books and see if you like their work.”  He said, “Here's how you set up your resume” and he showed me what you put on there and I sort of had to pad it with stuff because I hadn't done much – things like what accomplishments you've done on television, film, or theater.  For me, it was mostly theater.  Then, things like what sports do you do? What special abilities do you have?  My educational background sets me apart from a lot of people in the business.  He knew that there were only about four Asian women in Boston who were acting at the time and two of them were models and two of them had thick accents and then there was me.  So anytime there was an industrial corporate video that wanted a mixture of ethnicities, I would always book it because I can read the teleprompter, I don't have an accent, and I sound like I know what I'm talking about.  I'd book a lot of stuff.  Then he said, “Take acting classes, have your picture and resume together, and join AFTRA,” which is one of the unions because you could just join.  You didn't have to book a job to join.  You could just pay the membership fee back then.  I don't know how it is now because that was so long ago.  So I put together my headshots, I got the photos done, I put the resume together, I joined AFTRA, and I started in acting class.  And then he said send your picture to these five casting directors since there were only about five at the time, so I mailed my pictures to these five casting directors.  There were no agents.  Actors just represented themselves, which is so different from New York.  It was just all basic stuff like that and then I was on my way. 


APA:  Do you think that it's rare to find someone who is so willing to help you out to bring up your career because in the entertainment industry, everybody is so competitive because jobs are so rare?

Suzanne:  I think that Karma is a boomerang and that you get back what you give out. I was raised to be really incredibly giving and helpful to anybody that asks for help because I've been helped a lot in my life personally and professionally.  Anytime anybody comes up to me and says, “I think I want to be an actor,” I do the Ernie Cox-- pay it forward.  Like, sure I'll help you.  I'll do anything I can to help you.  These days I'm so busy I don't have as much time to help people, but I still do.  I might not get to sit down with them for a week, but I will still help them and give them some tips, hook them up with people, and introduce them to people. 

As far as competitiveness goes, I'm really only competitive with myself.  I want to do better than the last time.  I want to constantly improve myself as an actor, or host, or a stand up comic.  I really don't buy into comparing myself to what other people are doing because that just puts you in the mindset of scarcity when there really is abundance.  There's an abundance of everything that is out there and if you believe that, there's really no reason to feel competitive with anybody.  I know that I'm sort of a minority when it comes to that because I remember a female friend of mine who was my age range who wanted a commercial agent in New York, so I introduced her to my commercial agent.  She signed with them and she was ecstatic and my agent was happy to have a new wonderful client.  But, people would say to me, “Why would you do that?  You would go up for the same commercials that she would.”  My answer was, “So, if she gets it, that's great.  She's my friend and if they want her, they want her, and if they want me, they want me.”  I'm not going to live my life all arghhh, you know. 

I have such a funny story to tell you about competitiveness.  You have a sense of what I'm like.  I'm very easy going, friendly, and helpful to people.  Well, I had just moved into New York City from Boston.  I'd been in New York for about three weeks.  It was wild to be in New York because there were all these Asian women, tons of Asian women, acting in New York.  I had an audition for Another World, which is a soap opera.  I go into the casting office and there are literally 20 Asian women.  And, every audition that I had gone to for the previous three weeks, every time I'd walk into a room, people would go, “Hi Christine.”  And I ‘d go, “No, I'm Suzanne.”  They'd go “Sorry.”  Then, that kept happening.  Well, I walk into this audition for “Another World” and I'm looking around the room, you know, saying hi to people and thinking, whoa, there's all these Asian women.  Then there was this one Asian woman who looked just like me, just like me.  I think she looks just like me, not like, “Oh all you Asian women look alike.”  And I see somebody go up to her and call her Christine and I'm like, “That's her!”  So I walk up to her and I say, “Hi, my name is Suzanne Whang and I just moved here from Boston and for three weeks people have been coming up and saying ‘Hi Christine.'  I think that they are confusing us.”  And she goes, “I don't think so.”   I laughed in her face because like it was so caddy and competitive.  I guess what she wanted to do was like make me start crying or psyche me out or something but I just thought that was just so blatantly, ridiculously rude that literally I went “Haha!!” right in her face.  That was not the reaction she wanted from me.  That was my first taste of New York City of what you were talking about; that sort of competitiveness; that, I'm going to look you up and down and degrade you.  Well, I just found it incredibly funny. 

APA:  You say there is an abundance of roles, but it seems like for Asian Americans in the industry, the only role that they seem to be playing are F.O.B. bits that I know Margaret Cho played off of …. F.O.B. bits that are really popular with the audience.  It seems like that's a very prevalent role that we see on TV or in film and theater.  What do you think of these people poking fun at Asian culture? What is your take on that because I know you do a bit with Sung Hee Park.

Suzanne:  Yes.  First of all, I don't know if I agree with what you're saying because if you think about a show like Star Trek which was on like a long time ago, George Takei was in that and they didn't even refer to his ethnicity on that show.  It was a really progressive show.  There were blacks and whites and Asians and men with pointy ears and they were just all on this spaceship together.  Also, I don't know if you know who Mia Korf is but she was on the soap opera One Life to Live.  She played a character named Blair Daimler.  There was never any reference to her being Asian on the show.  She was just a series regular.  You have Ming-Na on ER and she's not doing any F.O.B. thing.  I think that you can say, “Well oh she's Asian and she's playing a doctor.”  Well, they're all doctors on that show.  It's ER. 

I think that it's too easy.  I remember when I was in college, I was like everything's racist.  “Look, you just looked at me funny, you're racist or you just said that, you're racist.”  I think that it's too easy to point the finger at what's wrong.  What's interesting too is that people come under a lot of attack for playing into stereotypes or with stereotypes and yet I have been a television host for seven years on FX, FOX, NBC, Lifetime, and HGTV.  On FX I did three different shows: Breakfast Time, Personal FX, and The Pet Department.  On FOX I did a morning show called FOX After Breakfast where I traveled the country interviewing people.  I was Dick Clark's host on Bloopers on NBC.  I was the co-host on New Attitudes on Lifetime and I am now the host of House Hunters on HGTV.  In none of those hosting jobs am I doing some stereotypical thing.  It's just me being Suzanne and interviewing people for whatever it is I'm hosting.  You know, I didn't get a lot of fan mail from Asian saying “You Go!  Excellent that you're out there on television and not doing a stereotype.”  You know, not a lot of flowing of love from the Asian people in the country, but if I do something that is pulling into a stereotype in order to make a point, to make a satire, to make fun of, to lighten up about it, to illuminate it through humor, oh boy do I get the letters that say, “You suck, how could you do this, and you're just ruining it for all of us.” And, I'm like, “Where are you when I'm doing all these other things too?”  I think it's too easy to get up on a soapbox and point at what's wrong.         

The thing that doesn't interest me are the people that point and criticize and don't do anything about it.  It's like sitting and whining and complaining, but what are you doing about it?  If you're not writing something or directing something or acting in something or hosting something or producing or editing something yourself that contributes to what you think is a solution, then I'm not really interested in your whining and complaining.  How's that for blunt.

APA:  I love it.  But why do you think it is that Asians aren't responsive to you when you do do all those positive roles?  I mean, you were on Dick Clark's show.  That's a very popular show.  Why do you think they are so quiet about it?

Suzanne:  That was huge exposure.  You know, I think that the whole stereotype of us being the silent minority is true to a certain extent.  We don't get as active and up and arms about stuff positively.   Every once in a while when there's some negative thing, you'll see a couple of people say like, “Hey,” but not at all the way like the African American community responds when something is just wrong. You'll see that people are just out there in force.  I think that we don't tend to speak up enough.  I actually invite the controversy about my stand up act, which we will talk about, because it sparks a debate. 

I've done lectures at UCLA and UCI about my stand up comedy act and even in the classrooms where it's mostly Asians, I'll show a clip of my act and I'll want to promote discussion and even adverse responses.  And most people are just sitting on it.  I know they have opinions.  They're just sitting on it.  They're just being quiet.  They're stuffing it down and that's not going to help anybody.  That's why I really encourage Asian Americans and Asian born Asians to be artists.  I think art changes the worlds.  Art can be revolutionary.  If you're not creating it yourself, don't point the finger at people who are doing something you don't like.  I mean, you might not like my approach to battling racism, but you could do your own thing.  Do your own thing and I can watch, and we can talk about it.  That excites me. 

APA:  Tell us about your stand up act on Sung Hee Park.

Suzanne:  Sung Hee Park was born in my acting class at the Beverly Hills Playhouse where they really encourage you to challenge yourself and take risks, write your own material, do what you would never do because it's a really safe environment.  They really created a community of people who supported each other.  So they created this place where I would feel safe enough to try doing stand up comedy.  Now I had done improv comedy in Boston at the troupe called “The Angry Tuxedos” and that's a whole different craziness because you don't have time to think. 

I spent most of my life existing from here up in the world of academia, and in the world of improv comedy they say, “Don't think, just go; go from your gut, just go.”  I was like, “What, how do you do that?”  I'm trying to figure out what they mean.  So that was really liberating because it's sort of like skydiving, but when you're doing stand up you're up there alone. If you're doing improv, there are four other people on stage at least to sort of catch you if you're lost at any given moment.  But with stand up, it's just you up there and you know immediately if you're successful or not.  It's different from drama where you can get up and do a dramatic monologue and you have no idea the impact you're having but if you get up and do stand up and nobody's laughing, that's really painful.  So, I decided I wanted to try it in class because I have huge balls.  I have a lot of courage and it takes a lot of courage to do that but I'm going to get up and try.  So in my class I basically wrote material about what it was like to travel all over United States as a roaming reporter for this morning show FOX After Breakfast.

I've been to almost every one of the fifty states, meeting people, interviewing them, doing human interest segments and it amazes me what stupid things people would say to me because I look like this, yet was born in Virginia and was raised in the United States and I am an American because of that.  But, people would look at me and would say the most remarkably stupid and ignorant things and so that was what my comedy act was based on when I brought it to class.  They gave me a standing ovation and they went crazy for it.  My teacher said, “So now here's the deal, you have to now do this in comedy clubs because it's your responsibility.  You have a voice and it needs to be heard.”  And I thought, “No, I'm not going to do this where people are drunk and they pay.”  But then he also said, “I would suggest that you try embracing the stereotype of Asian women that you hate so much.”  And I looked at him and was like, “What?! Are you on crack?”  I spent my whole life making sure that people know that I'm not like that and resisting it.  And he said, “Exactly.  You're spending a lot of energy resisting it when if you just embraced that as part of your artistic palette, just see what you might find.”  And I hated him.  I wanted to kill him.  I was like, “You have got to be crazy.  That's a terrible idea.”  I thought I couldn't even do the accent because I would go to auditions and people would say, “Could you do that more Oriental?”  What does that mean?  I'm 100% Korean.  What do you mean do that more Oriental?  I would have such a bad attitude about being asked to do things more Oriental.  But, what I realized was that when it was on my terms, I created this act, I wrote it, I performed it, suddenly I could do the accent flawlessly because it was just my attitude about it.  You know, nobody's going to tell me how to do it or what to do.  If I created it, it's a different story.

So the day after that class I went to Koreatown and I bought a Hanbok, a fan, and the shoes.  I didn't know where I was going with this but he said, “Try embracing the stereotype,” so this is the first thing I thought of.  So, I put on the this whole outfit and I'm standing in my house going, “Now, what can I do?  I don't know.” But I stood there long enough and I was patient enough to think, “What if she were a stand up comedian?  What if she just got here from Seoul, South Korea?  She came to Hollywood and she's going to make it as a stand up comic. And, what if she's terrible.  What if she tells old hacked jokes.  What if she doesn't even write her own material.  What if she doesn't even understand what the jokes mean.  She just sort of wrote them out phonetically but she really wants to do good and she's so nervous that she's like shaking and crying behind the fan.”  I started to like the idea of this.  And she would tell these horrific, racist, politically incorrect, inappropriate, sexual, anything goes jokes to the point where she's a fish out of water and she's an underdog and there's something endearing about the character that people really root for her, even though she's saying these horrible things.  So people end up being uncomfortable but then laughing and then really wanting her to do well. 

I think people could all  relate to being outcasts in some way or feeling out of place or just trying to do their best.  I think Americans are really big into the underdog and that's the character I've created.  What happens is I make fun of all races: my own race, other races, racism, and ignorance.  I'm just making fun of it.  It's a satire in the same way that Carroll O' Connor who played Archie Bunker on All in the Family played this bigoted character that was also multi-dimensional and endearing.  People would be horrified by what he said but they'd laugh and they also cared about him.  It made people laugh and it made them think.  I'm excited by comedy that rattles people up, disturbs them, gets them all churning and it makes them laugh and makes them go home and think, “Hmm, am I racist? I wonder if I'm racist.  What does she mean by that? What's the point of that thing that she's doing.”  And what I like about laughter is that I feel like it levels the playing field because what happens is people of all races are laughing because it sort of breaks down people's defenses and we can all laugh about what's such a tense subject, which is racism. 

There are different styles of dealing with racism.  We can get up on a soapbox and speak eloquently and preach at people and you can be really angry and you could also make people laugh.  I happen to be angry and I'm channeling it through my humor.  I'm also making fun of stand up comedy by doing it all wrong.  You never do stand up comedy the way I do it.  I come on stage and I don't even say anything for like two minutes because I'm so nervous.  And, you would never do that.  I work the crowd like, “Hey, how are you doing” in the middle of the set, not at the beginning.  It's very exciting for me because I think we've become so politically correct that we're not talking about anything.  Everybody is trying to sanitize everything and act like everything is fine and keep it all in a little box.  There's something about the political incorrectness of this that just sort of takes the box and put dynamites in it and it explodes and there's just this carnage everywhere and people have a response to it.  I like the idea of blasting through people's defenses and getting people talking. 

APA:  Where do you perform and how often? 

Suzanne:  Before I answer that, I want say to that I think sometimes we give words power by not saying them.  For example, the word “nigger” is given more power by being whispered.  You know, you whisper it and don't say it like it's a bad word and I think that's why black people have turned that around by changing it to “nigga” and calling each other that and making it into a word of endearment.  They're changing the power of the word for them and that's what I'm trying to do with the word “gook.”  I say, “Don't judge a gook by her cover” or “I'm America's favorite gook,” or “Gooks R US,” or “Gook power,” or that kind of thing because that word used to hurt me a lot, but that's just because I let it.  If I turn that around by putting it out there everywhere and saying it all the time and putting it in a different context of humor, then when people say that, it just doesn't faze me anymore because they can't hurt me because I'm not hurting myself with it anymore.  A lot of people say I say these awful words but I just think how its very interesting with language and how we can give certain words power by whispering them or saying them in private and saying them maliciously instead of just putting it out there in the open. 

So, I actually entered the Las Vegas Comedy Festival in 2002.  It was a nationwide contest called “Laugh Across America.” They gave us two minutes in Los Angeles to audition, which is hard for my character because usually I don't even say anything for the two minutes.  But, I was one of ten finalists in Los Angeles and there were people from all over the United States.  So I went to Las Vegas and the show Life Moments on NBC came and followed me there because the production company that does Life Moments also does House Hunters, which is the show I host on HGTV.  When they heard that I was going to do stand up in Las Vegas for the first time, they thought it would be a good segment for Life Moments so they sent a film crew to interview me in Los Angeles before I left and to follow me to Las Vegas behind the scenes. 

My parents, who live in Virginia, flew to Las Vegas for the festival because they wanted to support me and they're the most loving and supportive parents ever.  I performed in four different showcases.  I ended up winning “Best Up and Coming Comedian” of 2002.  I had a trophy and an awards ceremony where George Carlin, Norm Crosby and Debbie Reynolds were there.  It was just like, whoa.  I had never gotten a trophy for anything in my life because I was never a jock.  You know, I have a trophy for stand up comedy which is something I never thought I would do.  Because of that, about a month later I got a phone call from Ken Kragen.  Ken represents “The Smothers Brothers.”  He's been a manager for 40 years.  He represented Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Travis Tritt, and Burt Reynolds.  He's like an icon in the managing business and he also created and produced We are the World and Hands Across America so he's a visionary.  So, I got a call from him and he said, “Hello Suzanne.  This is Ken Kragen.” Then he ran through a list of his credits.  He said, “I saw a tape of you from the Las Vegas Comedy Festival and I saw all the comedians from the festival, but you really leaped off the screen.  I think you're brilliant.  I think you're a genius.  I don't really have to manage anymore because I don't need the money so I only represent people when I'm really excited about them. I want to meet with you and I want to sign you.” And I'm on the phone on the other line going [crazy].  So he's been representing me now for about a year, and because of that, I feel like I'm just on the brink of just skyrocketing with this character that I sort of see as becoming sort of like an Austin Powers. 

I can see me doing character driven feature films.  I'm writing a screenplay right now featuring Sung Hee Park.  I have a one-woman show that I've done called “I Make You Laughing” that stars Sung Hee Park. I have two great television series ideas for the character.  This is not all I want to do.  I just did a movie with Keanu Reeves called Constantine.  I just did a movie with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston called Along Came Polly that's going to be released in January.  I've done NYPD Blue and The Practice.  I've done all that acting.  I love acting and doing straight roles, not as a “fresh off the boat” Korean.  But what I realized is that that “fresh off the boat” Korean girl is also a part of me – the vulnerability of that and the feeling outcast.  And then people accuse me and say, “Look what you're doing, you're just playing right into the stereotype.”  What's interesting to me is how is it stereotypical for an Asian woman to have the balls to get on stage and make a room full of people laugh. How is that stereotypical?  To me, the stereotypical Asian woman would be the woman hiding in the corner in the back of the comedy club and being afraid to even laugh at the jokes, not the woman on stage going, “Oh yeah, I'm going to make you laugh because I'm really ballsy.”  To me, that's not the stereotype.  And it's also more stereotypical to me when people are like, “That's not funny” because I think one of the stereotypes of Asians is that we take ourselves too seriously and can't laugh at ourselves.  And so, I think their response to my act is more stereotypical than my act.

APA:  I've heard such rave reviews about your show.  Congratulations.  I also did research and did see that you also got Best Upcoming Comedian of 2002.  Congratulations on that too.  But, besides this Sung Hee Park act, what do you have coming up? 

Suzanne:  I'm going to be performing at the Comedy Union in January.  I have a lot of plans.  Bud Friedman from the Improv likes my comedy act and he has something in the works.  Alan Zweibel, who is a producer on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and who is good friends with Gilda Radner, who used to write for Saturday Night Live and is a genius, is interested in showing my tape to Larry David, who is the star of Curb Your Enthusiasm. 

My dream is to end up on HBO because it's a network that really encourages artists to not hold back and to just do your thing and put it out there. Six Feet Under is a show that I love.  It's not my dream to be on network television and have people say, “Don't say that.  Don't do that. Pull it back.  Pull it back.” The whole point of my comedy act is that there's this incongruity between the woman who comes out and the stuff that she says and that's where the humor comes from. 

I was nervous the first time that I ever did stand up, that I was going to get beaten up in the parking lot possibly afterwards because people wouldn't get it.  But, it was the minorities who came up to me first.  It was the black people, the Asian people, and the Hispanic people who came up to me and said, “Oh my God, that was so funny.  Thank you.”  I've had people tell me it's the funniest thing they've ever seen in their lives.  I've been acting for 15 years and I've never had such a huge response to anything besides my stand up.  So, what I see for my future is I will continue to write.  I'm going to finish my first screenplay, which I've written the whole outline for, which is just wild to think of myself as a writer.  I'm very interested in directing.  I'm going to start directing scenes in my acting class.  I've produced theater and a series of one-act plays.  I will continue to do my one- woman show.  I will work on how to write up a treatment to pitch my TV show ideas and take meetings with studio executives about getting Sung Hee Park on the air in a different way and continuing my path acting and stretching myself.  In my class, I barely even work on the stand up act anymore because it's sort of become this well-oiled thing.  She really lives in my bone marrow now. 

I would love to be an Asian female romantic comedy star where there's no reference to the fact that I'm Asian.   So instead of Meg Ryan, it's me with Brad Pitt and there's no reference to being Asian, whereas the Sung Hee Park character is all about being Asian and me battling racism in that way.  There are different ways to battle racism.  You can flash a light on and get people to laugh at it, be disturbing, be controversial, or you could also do your own thing, like I am doing on House Hunters.  Every night of the week it's on HGTV and it's just me being me and that battles racism because someone could look at me who lives in Alabama and go, “Oh, I didn't know an Asian women could just talk regular English.”  I mean, that helps. 

 APA:  Great.  Thank you very much. 

image for printer

Published: Friday, February 20, 2004