The first annual Very Big Very Asian Comedy Festival is hitting New York this week! Founded by comedian and SNL Scholarship recipient Christine Kim, this 4-day festival aims to showcase AAPI voices from all around the world, while connecting with the local Asian community. Though still in its first year, VBVA is already making a name for itself, being featured in TimeOut and on NBC, and almost being sold out before the festival has even begun. We had a chance to catch up with Christine to hear how she created and produced this first of its kind comedy festival.
Tell us a little about the Very Big Very Asian Comedy Festival, how it came to be and what audience members can expect.
Very Big Very Asian Comedy Festival came out of need. In comedy shows, there is often a token Asian on a lineup and if there are two it’s a big deal. But it doesn’t have to be. VBVA Comedy sought to change it up. First by having our biweekly all AAPI comedy show at a NYC comedy club showcasing some of the best AAPI comedians you already know and up-and-coming gems you didn’t know about, then by having a huge festival in May in addition to celebrate APAHM. We wanted to amplify year-round support for AAPI comedians, but also celebrate big in May. Members can expect to see a curated diverse lineup within the AAPI community that is inclusive of South Asian, Southeast Asian, West Asian and more than the East Asian that comes to mind for many when people think “Asian.” They can also expect to see our dedication to serving our community in different ways – like working with APICHA community health center to provide free Covid take home test kits to any folks who come to Broadway Comedy Club for a show on Friday May 13 6pm-10pm. We are also working with Soar Over Hate to better serve the safety of our comedians who are always out late at night doing multiple spots, along with donating part of the festival proceeds to organizations like Safewalks NYC and more. We will also be having giveaways at every in person show full of products from our sponsors who are Asian-owned businesses or supportive allies. What can also be expected is that our festival will sell out before it officially begins! There is an opportunity to watch our online benefit show on Sunday May 15th at 8pm EST from anywhere in the world. This show will be donation based and all the proceeds from this online show will be donated.
How have your experiences as an Asian woman in comedy impacted the creation of this festival?
Often I have been at mics and shows where I am the only female or POC, or female POC comedian in the room. But this doesn’t have to be the case. I decided to create the spaces and establish the environment I wanted to be in. As a comedian and producer who has created other shows like Nice To Meet You Comedy and Street Cred Comedy, the emphasis has always been on curating a diverse lineup – and when I say diverse it’s inclusive of where you are from sure, but also where you are in your comedy journey, style of comedy, your perspective, your delivery and more. Being a producer, just means doing it – whatever it is. You have an idea, you make it happen and if you don’t know the answer, you figure it out. That’s what I did.
What have been the hardest parts and the most rewarding parts of putting together a comedy festival?
The hardest parts of creating a festival are probably building from scratch and having people believe in an idea and then you’re tasked with bringing it to life – creating something “official” and worthy. Many times my imposter syndrome has kicked in and I’ve had this impending feeling, the only way I can coin it is, “I felt like I was trying to make Fyre Festival happen.” Which is so funny and strange, but you get the feeling. It’s daunting to create something big with a lot of people flying in and you just want it to be the best festival they’ve ever been to in every way; which is ambitious. But I think this is the feeling you get when you are doing something that means something, right?
The most rewarding part of putting together this festival is the opportunity and environment I know it offers. For comedians it offers the chance to be passed at a NYC Comedy Club without a bringer, industry watching, and the opportunity to connect with other comedians from all over at our afterparty/networking event. It’s been an honor to review hundreds of submissions and get to know so many AAPI comedians, and I am so proud to showcase everyone in this festival — all the countless hours staying up and losing sleep will be worth it. Other rewarding parts include the milestones – our first year we were able to secure 15 sponsorships! We’re so excited to highlight Asian-owned businesses and supportive allies with this festival and serve our community in the ways mentioned above. Comedy, community, connections – we’re delivering them all.
Creating this festival is a huge step in fostering a more diverse comedy industry. What are your goals for Very Big Very Asian in the future?
My goals for Very Big Very Asian (VBVA Comedy) is to grow it and evolve it. We want this brand to mean something to people and I’m so proud to say it already does to many folks who have come up to me after shows, saying thank you and that it was one of the best shows they’ve ever seen. People notice our attention to curating strong diverse lineups and we’re thankful. They feel the love, they feel represented, and they discovered some new favorite comedians. We would love to travel with VBVA at some point, maybe do pop up shows outside of NYC and more. The sky’s the limit.
And finally, what advice do you have for women looking to take on their own comedy ventures?
I would say, take a deep breath. If you’re going to perform, perform multiple times a week. Hustle hard. If you’re going to produce, produce the heck out of your show. Remember, it’s just about doing it and sometimes it’s just you keeping yourself from greatness. Not every room you perform in will be for you, find your community and your people – if you haven’t, you will don’t worry. Remember, you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing, do what you want to do – carve your own path. No two stories are alike. Believe in you, YOU ARE ENOUGH. And when you don’t believe in yourself, I’ll believe in you. Just reach out @livingwithchriss or @verybigveryasiancomedy on Instagram.
To learn more about the Very Big Very Asian Comedy Festival and snag one of their few remaining tickets, please visit: https://www.verybigveryasiancomedy.com/