We had the good fortune of connecting with Ai Yoshihara and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ai, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I asked my agent “What do I need to do for you to pitch me and send me on TV and Movie auditions.” He said, “You have an accent. It’s hard to send you out. BE FAMOUS FIRST, SO I CAN PITCH YOU.” Be famous first…isn’t he supposed to help me to be famous? He meant he wanted me to be famous on social media or become a YouTube star, but I’m not a young beautiful influencer type. I want to get acting jobs that don’t require me to be pretty, sexy or sleep with someone. I was brainstorming then I remembered Amy Poehler said in an interview that she didn’t need to rely on being pretty to do comedy. That’s it! I have to be a comedian. I had 9 years of improv experience, but you can’t make money doing that. I didn’t know enough American references to write sketches with American people. What I am good at is making fun of myself. Stand up is perfect! So, my goal changed to become famous by becoming a stand up comedian. This is how I would get my agent the leverage he needed to pitch me for acting gigs. Now, I’m managing myself as a stand-up comedian, and I’ve set my next goal to perform on Conan and to say hello to America.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a stand-up comedian, so I specialize in making fun of what I know. I’m originally from Japan. Even though I’ve lived in this country more than half of my life, many don’t consider me American. Society often sets me apart by calling me an outsider…I don’t accept that. Do I care what they think? No. I just love being Ai Yoshihara. I’ve been told, “Go back to where you came from”, “We don’t need your kind here.” “Speak English” (Even though I was speaking to her in English), and called “JAP.” I used to get mad, but I’ve met so many wonderful Americans who are nothing like them. Now, when I see the obvious signs of insecurity in racists, their fear, lack of confidence, and narcissistic behaviors of bullying people who are not like them to feel superior…I TRY to see them with compassion. Once at a comedy show, I told off a white male comic who made a poor Asian joke. Later, I calmed down and explained to him why the joke was upsetting. Immigrant Asian women, even Asian American women are stereotyped by old white men as hookers. They randomly say to us, “Can you give me a massage?” or “You’re my Asian Fantasy” as a compliment. It’s gross! I have never felt so objectified. This comedian took a pause and to my surprise, he apologized and told me he would never say that joke again. You see, I still have faith in people. What I learned from that experience is that I need to explain more and get angry less to ultimately achieve my desired goals. I used to struggle. Now, if I feel like I’m struggling I immediately realize that I can’t feel happy at that moment. I noticed a cycle that when I struggle to get what I want and get it, I’m super happy for a very short period of time, then I go back into struggle mode to reach even bigger goals. I can’t maintain happiness with this mindset. My career is not where I want it to be yet. I’ve been told my English is not good enough to be successful and need to get rid of my accent. However, I laugh every day. My English is good enough to make fun of American people, as well as, myself to make audiences laugh. I know that people remember me mainly because of my accent. I believe in myself and I know I’ll get where I want to be if I put in the hard work. Meantime, when shit (obstacle/challenge) happens I say, “Thank you Universe for another joke.”
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
My friend has to come to see all my shows while she’s here. We go to the Getty Center, the beach, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame because they are free. We’ll spend money on good food like Sushi, Sushi, and Sushi.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to give a shout out to all my teachers, my joke writing partner, and Flappers Comedy Club for giving me the opportunity to host and perform. (Dan Telfer, Jolene Kim, Barbara Holidays, Dave Reinitz, Rene Percy, Dana Eagle, Josh Snyder, Corey Craig, Matthew Moore, Amanda Cohen, Meegan Kelleher, Amber Lawson.)