‘Are You Proud of Me Yet?’: Second City’s Latest Show Features Up-and-Coming Asian American Cast

The Victor Wong fellowship at Second City offers training and mentorship for AAPI comedic talent. From left to right, the fellows chosen this year are Ian Voltaire Deanes, Esther Oh, Becca Nix Tham, Robert Kalia Kapaku, Devin Jeong-Wright, Grace Goze, Frederic Powers, Brian Park, Ateeq Rehman and Johanna Medrano. (Courtesy of Timothy Schmidt)The Victor Wong fellowship at Second City offers training and mentorship for AAPI comedic talent. From left to right, the fellows chosen this year are Ian Voltaire Deanes, Esther Oh, Becca Nix Tham, Robert Kalia Kapaku, Devin Jeong-Wright, Grace Goze, Frederic Powers, Brian Park, Ateeq Rehman and Johanna Medrano. (Courtesy of Timothy Schmidt)

A budding Asian American cast stars in one of the latest comedy shows playing at Second City, arriving just in time for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

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Weaving together sketch comedy and improv, the show “Youth in Asia (Are You Proud of Me Yet?)” offers heartfelt moments while leaning into the absurd. Whether it’s highlighting the pressures of being the eldest immigrant daughter or the awkwardness of matching with a vampire on Hinge — there’s a little something for everyone.

The entire show is written and performed by Second City’s latest crew of Victor Wong fellows.

“We’re all very silly people, but we also put a lot of heart in our work,” said Grace Goze, one of this year’s fellows. “The best part is, when you’re funny, being surrounded by people who are funnier than you, it inspires you to be better and you get to laugh a lot.”

Named after Second City’s first Asian American performer, the Victor Wong fellowship offers training and mentorship for AAPI comedic talent. The fellows chosen this year are Ian Voltaire Deanes, Grace Goze, Robert Kalia Kapaku, Devin Jeong-Wright, Johanna Medrano, Esther Oh, Brian Park, Frederic Powers, Ateeq Rehman and Becca Nix Tham.

Currently in its second year, the fellowship involves three months of intensive training in sketch comedy writing, performing and improv. The fellowship culminates in the “Youth of Asia” showcase, directed by Evan Mills, a recent alum of Second City’s Mainstage.

“Youth in Asia (Are You Proud of Me Yet?)” is playing at 8 p.m. every Tuesday this month at Second City’s UP Comedy Club. (Courtesy of Timothy Schmidt)“Youth in Asia (Are You Proud of Me Yet?)” is playing at 8 p.m. every Tuesday this month at Second City’s UP Comedy Club. (Courtesy of Timothy Schmidt)

Mills, who is Filipino and White, said it’s beautiful seeing more Asian comedians coming up in the scene and getting leading roles (he named Joel Kim Booster, Bowen Yang and Maya Erskine as examples). It’s a far cry from the the ‘90s and 2000s when Asians were always cast as the best friend or the comic relief, he said.

“When I was coming up at Second City, my first show that I ever saw there, Mary Sohn was on Mainstage and I remember being like, this is incredible,” Mills said. “This strong, powerful Asian woman is on the Mainstage of Second City making this mostly White crowd laugh, not because she’s Asian, just because she’s funny.”

While there have been improvements in AAPI representation in comedy, there still could be more representation, Mills said. It’s the reason he’s proud the Victor Wong fellowship exists, and why he wants to be a voice to advocate for AAPI comedians and keep opening doors for them.

“They’ve been here this whole time,” Mills said. “So now, give them the platform that they deserve.”

In addition to building a sense of community and collaboration with the fellows, Goze, who is White, Filipino and Native American, said being in the fellowship program has allowed her to discover parts of her own identity.

“It was interesting to pick up on small things that I had in common with other Filipinos in the cast and other AAPI people in the cast, putting parts of my identity into perspective,” Goze said.

Goze, who works a full-time job outside of comedy, said her dream is to work on “Saturday Night Live” or “Late Night With Seth Meyers.” In the meantime, she said she plans on continuing to perform around Chicago.

“Youth in Asia (Are You Proud of Me Yet?)” is playing at 8 p.m. every Tuesday this month at Second City’s UP Comedy Club. The next performances are slated for May 21 and May 28. Click here for tickets.


Meet the Team: Quick Questions With Evan Mills and Grace Goze

Left: Evan Mills, Second City Mainstage alum and “Youth in Asia” director (Courtesy of Alex Hazel) Right: Grace Goze, Victor Wong fellow (Courtesy of Timothy Schmidt)Left: Evan Mills, Second City Mainstage alum and “Youth in Asia” director (Courtesy of Alex Hazel) Right: Grace Goze, Victor Wong fellow (Courtesy of Timothy Schmidt)

Evan Mills, Second City Mainstage alum and “Youth in Asia” director

  • Grew up in: Midland, Michigan
  • Go-to place to get food in the city: Parson’s
  • Favorite comedy TV show: “Only Murders in the Building” (at the moment), “Pen15” (all-time)
  • Favorite memory while doing comedy: Performing at a small town in West Virginia and being approached by a younger gay kid who brought his dad to the show, saying the show helped introduce his dad to what his interests were, plus getting a hand-drawn picture of him.
  • Best piece of advice: “Don’t do anything to cater to someone, do it because you find it enjoyable and you find it fun, and eventually that will lead to the people who find your content relatable and funny as well.”

Grace Goze, Victor Wong fellow

  • Grew up in: Crystal Lake, Illinois
  • Go-to place to get food in the city: Raising Cane’s (“Cane’s for short, if you’re there as often as I am”)
  • Favorite comedy TV show: “Broad City”
  • Favorite memory while doing comedy: Her first improv show at the collegiate level when she realized her love for comedy beyond just a hobby and that she wanted to do it forever.
  • Best piece of advice: “If you think it’s funny, then it’s funny; Believing in the things that you think are funny as opposed to chasing what you think other people will laugh at.”

Contact Eunice Alpasan: @eunicealpasan | 773-509-5362 | [email protected]


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