Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mixed-race Asian American musicians and comedians

Since this is a blog called "Mixed Race America," I think I'd be remiss in not doing an entry in honor of APA heritage month of some mixed-race Asian Americans--and I've chosen to focus on two female musicians and three male comedians, particularly because I believe that for all but one of these people, their mixed Asian-ness can go overlooked/ignored.

First the musicians: Michelle Branch and Norah Jones

Michelle Branch has Indonesian maternal grandparents and is a contemporary pop musicians. Here is her official website and here is her wikipedia entry. I actually first thought that Branch might be mixed-Asian because she looked like one of my cousins (who is also mixed-race Asian).

Norah Jones is another singer-songwriter (she is, apparently, compared to Michelle Branch, interestingly enough). Her very famous musician father is Ravi Shankar, which makes her half Bengali. Here is her official website and wikipedia entry. This probably says a lot about my musical tastes, but I have all three of Jones's albums, although I wasn't necessarily a fan of the last one in the way that I really loved her first and second records.

Now for the male comedians: Fred Armisen, Rob Schneider, and Steve Byrne.

I've already written about Armisen at the end of a former post (click here) so I'll go straight on to

Rob Schneider--here is his wikipedia entry and official site. Schneider has a maternal grandmother who is Filipina and has portrayed Asian Americans (in pretty obnoxiously racist ways) in some of his films (Ula in Fifty First Dates and a Japanese American minister in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry). Which of course, begs the question: is it racist when a mixed-race Asian American does racist caricatures of Asian Americans? I have an answer, of course, but thought I'd throw that out there.

Finally, we have Steve Byrne--his mother is Korean and his father is Irish, at least according to his official website. I caught Byrne's act on Comedy Central two different times--the stuff I saw didn't seem to concentrate on his ethnic/racial identity but apparently he does use this as comic fodder in his show.

So there we have it--five mixed-race Asian Americans in entertainment--feel free to name anyone else I have missed--I'm sure there are many!


Brian Hunt said...

I like Norah Jones a lot also and I completely agree with your assessment of her last three albums. The first two were pretty good, the last one not so much.

Jennifer said...

Hey Brian,
Thanks for sharing my appreciation of Norah Jones--hopefully her 4th album will be a return to the quirky lyrics and beautiful melodies (some of the absolutely haunting) of her first two records.

Anna Jh Borstam said...

why only famous mixed "white/asian" people? And what do you mean with getting away with it? Like looking more "white" then "asian"? here are a link to other famous "mixed race asian" people. and dont forget sean lennon and tiger woods...wonderings from a european/korean/swedish adoptee

Jennifer said...

Hi UFO Lab,
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

I have to admit I'm a bit confused by your comments.

Let me first say that this particular post was one of a series in honor of Asian Pacific American heritage month.

So the answer to the first part of your question has to do with the 5 people I chose to focus on, which means that they are famous because they are celebrities.

OF course, this does beg the question of why we do choose to focus on famous people when celebrating various heritage months. I suppose part of it is common language/references. In other words, I could talk about my friend Cathy, who I think is one of the FUNNIEST people I know (and who also happens to be a mixed-race Asian American) but unless you know Cathy you won't really understand what I'm talking about.

The next part of your comment because I don't see anywhere where I've written "getting away with it" in this particular post. So I don't know what that is in reference to. Could you clarify?

Finally, I do appreciate the reminder of other musicians and celebrities--which I was hoping people would write in about--which is why I ended the post with acknolwedging that there were a lot of folks I was leaving off and asking commenters, such as yourself, to chime in with other famous mixed-race Asian celebrities.

If you go through the archives you will see that I've written extensively about Tiger Woods and other mixed-race people.

Again, thanks for stopping by!

Jennifer said...

Thanks for stopping by Mabel--I'm on vacation currently and haven't been blogging for the last week but I will try to start up again in the new year!

Feel free to leave a comment whenever the mood strikes you.