Fil-Am comedian says he’s caught in middle of political feud

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LOS ANGELES – Filipino-American comedian Edwin San Juan said he believes he’s been caught in the middle of a political feud between opponents of Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s department is embroiled in controversy, after the 44-year-old comedian’s performance at the Sheriff’s Day Luncheon on Wednesday.

Some of the estimated 700 people in attendance at the formal luncheon described San Juan’s stand up routine (one he’s been doing for years) as offensive, racist, and sexually explicit.

“[San Juan] managed to insult every ethnic group,” one attendee told Los Angeles Times. “There was a lot of cringing and nervous laughter … I was sitting there thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’”

San Juan said he believes the people that spoke out against his performance. Blaming the Sheriff department and Sheriff Baca was a small crowd, who “probably had it in (problems) with the Sheriff.”

“I think this is all politics and I’m caught in the middle of it,” San Juan told the Asian Journal. “Everyone was having a good time. They were laughing at my jokes. They gave me a plaque. People approached me afterwards and were taking pictures with me. I even brought my mom to the event.”

San Juan said that ten minutes before the show, he approached the woman who booked him and asked if there was any language restrictions or protocols he should abide by during his performance.

“She told me, ‘we’re all adults here. Go ahead,’” recalls San Juan. San Juan did not remember the woman’s name.

But once San Juan began his 30-minute performance, he noticed a tense crowd. Most, if not all, in attendance were wearing their Sheriff’s uniforms or other formal wear, he said.

So he lightened them up.

“I think this is the first time I’ve performed where half of the audience was carrying a gun,” San Juan said. “I told them, if they like my jokes, they can shoot their guns in the air.”

San Juan has been a comedian for more than a decade. He said he always does variations of the same routine, one where he makes fun of himself as an Asian and Filipino, before moving on to other races.

“My whole skit is based on the notion that everyone makes fun of Asians,” San Juan said. “Society accepts it when people make fun of Asians but once you make fun of someone else’s race, it’s not okay. So I poke fun at myself then move on to other races.”

San Juan said at first, the audience was apprehensive to laugh but after few minutes they began to warm up and by the end of the show, everyone was laughing.

Sheriff Baca thanked San Juan and gave him a plaque of appreciation after the performance.

But San Juan noticed something was off when he came home and checked his Twitter feed, email and text messages.

“People were blowing me up, saying that I was in the news,” San Juan said. “A news van came to my house, and reporters have been calling me asking for interviews.”

He said he decided to speak up because he doesn’t want to be labeled as a racist.

“I love everyone,” he said. “I’m a comedian. This is what I do.”

While some messages lambasted him for his performance, others still praised his comedy routine.

“I’m getting more fans,” he said. “People have been really supportive. I’ve also received calls from people who want to represent me as a manager, agent and other booking gigs.”

He said he believes this performance has given him more motivation and clout in the comic industry.

“It’s given me a burst of energy,” San Juan said. “I created a monster. Now people won’t just think of me as a Filipino comic or international comic, I’ve joined the ranks of ‘controversial comedians.’”

And San Juan loves it.

(LA Weekend July 27-30, 2013 Sec A pg.7) 

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