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NAME: SJ Son
HOMETOWN: Great Neck, New York
How do you introduce yourself?
I’m SJ. I act, write, and produce funny videos with my comedy duo SJ&GINNY. Cuz you probably want to know, SJ stands for Samuel Johnson, my white male alter ego who works in futures trading and juggles one real family and one secret family.
What inspires you?
Fearless Asian-Americans who work to change the world and give few f**ks. Artists like Mindy Kaling and Margaret Cho, activists like Amanda Nguyen and Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man. Superheroes like Ash Ketchum of the Chronicles of Pokemon.
What challenges you?
I’m challenged whenever I meet another Asian-American woman who is really versed in Asian-American history and has exciting points of view on our place in society today. Each day, I am learning more and more about our history, our oppression, and the reasons why Asians are depicted the way they are today. But I know I have a ways to go. I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting a bunch of super smart, talented, woke Asian Americans through the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWA), as well as in the Asian theater community in New York City. I like surrounding myself with people who make me feel challenged (but never judged).
Tell us about the biggest risk you ever took.
Three years ago, I quit my job as an advertising account executive/punching bag to become an actor and perform comedy. I had been working a typical full-time schedule, with a typical full-time salary (approved by my parents, mind you!) but I was super depressed. My only solace was going to improv practice and doing comedy shows at night. Completely changing my job and life was a big risk, but my Type A personality kicked into gear and I craftily planned my escape for, like, nine months before finally leaving. I used grant money I received from AmeriCorps (I had done Teach For America) to pay for acting school at Stella Adler and then got a job as an after school dance teacher and babysitter. After quitting, I made my first comedy video ever with my cousin, called Quittin Da Biz. It’s the best. When I die, I’ll order my distraught husband to play it on repeat on an iPad affixed to my tombstone.
What are you reading/watching/listening to these days?
I’m reading "The Making Of Asian America" by Erika Lee and just finished "Difficult Women" by Roxane Gay.
I’m watching: "Girls," "Homeland," and Rick Bayliss’ "Mexico: One Plate At A Time."
I’m listening to the podcast Another Round With Heben & Tracy and the original Broadway cast recording of "Waitress" the musical, duh.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what job would you want to have?
I would run a supper club out of my future home in New Orleans which will be fully decorated in folk art. We would serve dinner to one communal table of 16 every night and feature Louisiana cuisine and some Korean stuff too. All the food would be sourced from local Louisiana farmers and fisherman. People would take a bite of my strawberry pie, say it’s the best they’ve ever had, and insist on eating the whole slice even though they are allergic to strawberries! (Inspired by www.mosquitosupperclub.com)
What’s your motto?
Punch a racist. (Saw this on a protest poster at the NYC Women’s March.)
I celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month because…
...Asian experiences are real and they matter.