In one her routines, Vancouver comedian Andrea Jin says she’s skeptical when a girl tells her that she’s “in a really good place now”. Jin automatically assumes that she’s in the throes of depression.
“You know girls like that…two months later, they’re pregnant,” Jin quips in a video on her website. “I know a few.”
In the same routine, she reveals how, on a recent Tuesday, she was also “in a really good place”. She wasn’t sure why. “The next morning, I wasn’t drunk anymore,” she jokes.
It elicits enormous laughter from the audience.
The reality is that the 25-year-old Shanghai-born funnywoman is, indeed, in a really good place after having what might be the best pandemic that any rising comic could experience.
She recorded her debut album, Grandma’s Girl, this year at Little Mountain Gallery, featuring her maternal grandmother on the cover. NOW magazine’s Glenn Sumi recently described it as the top Canadian comedy album of the year.
In addition, Jin was chosen as one of the “new faces” by the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. She played Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the Seattle International Comedy Competition, and was awarded SiriusXM’s top-comic prize.
“Every single one of my career milestones have been in COVID,” Jin tells the Straight by phone. “It’s very interesting going through all of this, ’cause it’s very different from how I imagined.”
Plus, she’s writing scripts in the hopes of creating a new TV series. And the hit CBC comedy show The Debaters invited her to tape an episode at the Cultch.
“[Host] Steve Patterson is so quick and funny and sharp—and doing it is obviously so different from standup,” she says.
Jin was 10 years old when she moved with her family from Shanghai to Canada. When she first started doing standup, she tried to fit in because, for her, being unique—i.e., a comedian born in mainland China—translated to “unrelatable” for audiences.
“So I wasn’t super inclined to really be myself,” Jin says. “I know that most comedians starting out feel that way—they feel that they need to blend in instead of standing out, for some reason, even though the point is to stand out.”
It’s a surprising admission, given how totally at ease Jin appears in front of a crowd today.
A turning point came when she saw Malaysian-born and Singapore-raised comedian Ronny Chieng do a Just for Laughs show at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver. To this day, Jin describes it as “one of the best performances I had ever seen”.
Chieng was “unapologetically Asian” and very funny at the same time.
“He was very inspirational to my kind of accepting myself as a comedian who has a very Chinese background and wants to talk about it,” Jin says. “And I don’t have to fit in to be great, basically.”
She now cracks jokes about the 37 huge cloth bags of rice that her family keeps in the home. She also tells audiences that white people can learn what it’s like to feel discrimination by bringing their bicycles onto the SkyTrain and experiencing hateful glares from other passengers.
In another routine, she jokes about being an immigrant. “They let me in,” she acknowledges.
The truth is that her grandparents suffered enormously during the Cultural Revolution. And by making quips about her ancestry, the rising comedian hopes to generate more empathy for those like them.
“People don’t realize that there is so much trauma in Asian culture,” Jin says. “It’s evident in every culture, but I think Asian people are very good at burying it.”