“If you’re too pretty it’s a distraction. If you’re too ugly, that’s funny.”
Jennifer Hsiung is a stand-up comic. If you’ve watched Amazon’s ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ you might characterize her as a modern day Midge. Part uptown mom, part Joan Rivers.
A busy mom to three young boys, there are several times a month when she kisses them goodnight and sneaks away to try her material in Toronto’s late-night comedy scene.
Nothing is off the table. Her act runs through cringe-worthy topics like the ugliness of tampons to vaginal birth and impersonating Donald Trump as her husband while he's persuading her to have sex with him.
The crowd’s reaction is mixed with roaring laughter and embarrassment. And it’s these rants that have gained her a following and bookings around the city.
It took one open-mike to get her hooked.
Jennifer began in comedy just over a couple of years ago while living in Beijing, China with her husband.
“A friend suggested that I try stand-up,” says Jennifer. As she put it, “you’d be good at it because you’re funny, smart and vulgar.”
The path to becoming a comic is not easy. She’s performed pregnant and postpartum, missed laughs from a stone-cold audience and been shut-out of bookings.
She mentions the tokenism that occurs because of the mentality that only one Asian can be booked on a line-up. To that she says, “You don’t need to just have one in a group, choose because I’m funny and not because you have to fill your roster.”
And there were times when she bombed.
“I felt so badly, but was going to redeem the shit out of myself,” she says with laser focus. “It’s us against a bar full of noisy patrons, like a scene from Saving Private Ryan where you’re on a mission to make people laugh.”
Her commitment and perseverance has been paying off. She earned a spot as the only woman to make it to the finals of the 2017 Hong Kong International Comedy Competition and in 2018 appeared with Sugar Sammy on Comedy Central Stand-up, Asia!
Jennifer says that comedy is funny when people can relate to an element of truth or suffering. In turn, it has given her an opportunity to be less introverted, as well as feel the love and admiration she missed as a child.
Her parents divorced when she was young and what followed was a horrible period of sexual abuse.
Jennifer admits that, “comedy has been empowering for me, giving me the power and control on-stage that I didn’t have as a child.”
And she’ll continue as long as she keeps enjoying it. Fuelling her fire with the applause and admiration of the audience.
“Its addictive," she says. "And I look at this as a real privilege. These are moments that these people will never get back because they’re watching my show.”
@jennifer_hsiung on Instagram