Six Asian-American comedians will take the stage this February for "Comedy InvAsian," a live stand-up series slated to be produced for digital video.
Created by producer Koji Steven Sakai and director Quentin Lee in partnership with film production and distribution company Viva Pictures, the series will take place in Los Angeles’ Japanese American National Museum (JANM) and came about partly in response to a lack of Asian Americans on television, Sakai told NBC News.
“I think it’s important to show that we can be funny too,” he said. “So I think that 'Comedy InvAsian' is our opportunity to show that we’re not just studious.”
Sakai notes that the comedians themselves are a diverse group, including Kollaboration founder and Laugh Factory veteran Paul Kim, Filipino-American comedian Joey Guila, Japanese-American comedian Atsuko Okatsuka, transgender Vietnamese-American comedian Robin Tran, gay Chinese-Canadian comedy songwriter Kevin Yee, and Japanese-American actress and comedian Amy Hill.
The comedians will perform one-hour specials at JANM in February, and each segment will be filmed and distributed digitally at a later date.
“We knew the minute they hatched this idea, this was great because these comedians are funny,” Victor Elizade, president of Viva Pictures, told NBC News. “They happen to be Asian, but they’re funny comedians. That’s the core. You have to be funny, and they bring a unique twist.”
Elizalde said he is particularly proud of the diversity of the comedians in the show’s pilot season, an intentional decision to help gauge what clicks well with audiences.
“Some of the comedians are relatively clean, some are much more edgy,” he said. “We’re not sure what’s going to work here and I think that represents the Asian community. It’s very diverse within itself, and so this will showcase that.”
"Comedy InvAsian" is slated to run one season, but Sakai said he hopes to continue the series and provide more opportunities for Asian-American comedians.
The series has yet to be ordered by a television networks or streaming service, but Elizade said Viva Pictures will be able to get "Comedy InvAsian" on platforms like iTunes and Vudu. He added that Viva will also push to get the series into Walmart and will reach out to all its typical customers to expand its distribution.
The company is currently distributing “The Unbidden,” a film directed by Lee. It also co-produced a Spanish stand-up comedy series called “Sigue La Risa.”
“We’ve had urban comedy for a long time and that does well. And now we’ve had Spanish-speaking comedians, and that’s gone mainstream,” Elizade said.“There’s a huge audience for '[Comedy InvAsian]'.”
Ticket prices and dates for the series have yet to be finalized, but will be published on the "Comedy InvAsian" website in the coming weeks, Sakai said.