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Quendrith Johnson

Quendrith Johnson is Los Angeles Correspondent covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
@Quendrith I Facebook I


Judy, Judy, Judy: Comedian Judy Jean Kwon’s 7 Steps to Being Woke

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

One good thing about asking blunt instrument questions is getting surgical replies: meet Judy Jean Kwon known for MILFriend. More about that show later. Meanwhile, the following interview is so good for you that the Surgeon General has listed it for required reading.

Okay, that’s fake news, but what’s real news is that this look-back inside Old Hollywood from new Hollywood is important, even if seems more like an editorial bitch-slap from Ms. Kwon, y’all in a good way. So read on, and marvel at the new universe of breath-catching talent on the rise, well, having been on the rise for some time. 

Here's Judy Jean Kwon, you’re welcome…

Quendrith Johnson: Has Hollywood begun to wake up to Asian talent, not just since Crazy, Rich, Asians did well, but on a normalizing level?

Judy Jean Kwon: Do you feel satisfied by "Eat, Pray, Love" and does that movie represent you and all of White America's demographic? If so then yes, I feel we have been normalized and we will stay humble, quiet and not act up or ask to be represented because all Asians love to watch rom-com. Hollywood is really slow in catching up with the reality that I see and have seen for a long, long time. If it was up to Hollywood, I think they would still be asleep but thanks to social media, hungry audiences, independent media and filmmakers; Hollywood is finally woke ... because it has to be.

There is a new wave in media that is changing how and what we view. Content creators are beginning to include all peoples and I feel fortunate to be part of it.

Quendrith Johnson: Did you get inspired by Ali Wong, Cobra Mom, and her success?

Judy Jean Kwon: It’s really good to see success with other Asian comedians but at the same time, that would still be grouping all 48 Asian countries as one, isn't it? Ali and I have very different backgrounds. She's Chinese. I'm Korean.

She comes from privilege and I come from the barrios of K-Town, from a broken family that couldn't make it in America as immigrants. Yes, we exist. Not all Asians go to UCLA, travel in packs and are good at math. Some of us struggle, don't have family, and need a calculator.

JudyJeanKwon MILFriend

Quendrith Johnson: Beyond Kim Ki-duk, Park Chan-wook, and Bong Joon-ho, the usual men mentioned, who are the women coming up?

Judy Jean Kwon: Let us not divert here, the authentic stories out of Korea do not satisfy the lack of diversity and inclusion here in United States. I have to note, all the men you mention are Korean and not Korean-American. There are major differences between the two. Korean directors you mentioned are telling Korean stories about their Korean experiences to a Korean audience. Those Koreans directors (in Korea) do not need Hollywood money because they are getting funding to be able to tell their stories in Korea. They are included in their industry. Korean-American artists are telling American stories.

Korean-Americans artists are Americans that are not accepted into the mainstream American media so their personal American stories are hardly being recognized in their own home.

The people of #timesup, #inclusionrider & #hollywoodsowhite (all movements started in U.S. not Korea) are demanding to include stories of Americans that are overlooked.

I would like us to please focus on Korean-American emerging artists that are representing America. These names - Michael Kang, Justin Chon, Andrew Ahn, Benson Lee... are few Korean-AMERICAN directors who work on amazing scripted content that they create and have to struggle to fund here in Hollywood.

I believe, if given the same opportunities as Korean directors, the Korean-American directors could make as great a content, if not better as the Korean directors you mentioned.

Even though Korean culture seems to put men on a pedestal, that is, putting the men on the traditional role of director/boss etc... I will have to remind everyone that TV writers in Korea are mostly women and women tell addictive stories.

The phenomenon of “Binge watching TV” has actually been happening in Korea since TV was created there in 1960's and in my personal opinion, women tell better emotionally nuanced and addictive stories than men.

Quendrith Johnson: Sometimes it seems that female bonds are across cultures whereas males have distinct national identities - who are the people who inspired you to become a performer?

Judy Jean Kwon: My Grandma raised me because my mom left me when I was a child so my female bonds skills are not that strong. I never followed the social norms of what it means to be a woman.... where beauty was placed before brain or security was placed before adventure.

I have to say my big-balls can get me in a lot of trouble but so can my mouth.

I have to disappoint here but my influences were not Korean or Korean-American (since there were none).

I grew up in my dad's Korean-American video store where I watched numerous hours of Hollywood films and Korean dramas and worked at the video store "Rocket Video" in LA during my struggling actress years (20's) where I watched independent and art house films. Watching so many films as a filmmaker heavily influenced me. Story of Adele H, Camille Claudel, 400 Blows, Clockwork Orange, Audition, Poetry, Oasis, 8 1/2, Dreams by Kurosawa.

As a performer? Actresses that I am most influenced by are Isabelle Adjani, Lucille Ball and Madeline Kahn.

Quendrith Johnson: How do you come up with material and is there a consideration for *the line* on caricature?

Judy Jean Kwon: Just keeping my eyes and ears open. I live in Venice Beach, Calif., and I am a mom. There are crazy, funny moments happening here everyday if you allow yourself to see it.

My only line when I was creating "MILFriend” was that all jokes had to be in the spirit of fun and love - like your uncle that messes with you about your bad haircut.

If you can't handle the truth about your bad haircut and laugh about it then it's not my problem but yours.

Quendrith Johnson: For those unfamiliar, what is your show about?

Judy Jean Kwon: My show "MILFriend" is about - representing Americans from different backgrounds, gentrification, and social economic classes and bridging the difference with laughter and babies. 
After all, babies are our future and they are cute!

Quendrith Johnson: Has being a mother ruined your life in stand-up, lol, or - reframing that - (given you) unique challenges as a comedian?

Judy Jean Kwon: It's a challenge as a standup comedian to be a mom, and go out to comedy clubs at night, because I actually love spending time with my kid and want to be with him, always. However, as a comedian in general, being a mom has made my life richer and gave me so much fodder for material.

I guess that's where VLOG's as Yo Mamma Rice will come in, at least for few years until he turns a teenager, and doesn't want to be around me anymore. That's when I move on to comedy clubs and stalk my son on social media.

Thanks to Judy Jean Kwon for schooling us on her stand-up life. See for more info. And Hollywood, please cast this woman in something big, now you see her, as in woke.  

"MILFriend" has been selected to screen at the 23rd annual LA Shorts International Film Festival on July 18, 2019.

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About Quendrith Johnson

Johnson Quendrith

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