An Interview with Comedian Amy Anderson
updated 7:04 PM, Monday 4th of March 2013
Amy Anderson was raised in Minnesota after being adopted from South Korea by Swedish parents. A singer, pianist, and guitarist, she’s no stranger to performing, and her comedic career got its start in the Twin Cities, with improv groups, commercial work, sketch writing, and local theater.
Since leaving the Cities, Amy has established herself as a first-class comedian, appearing on Comedy Central, Showtime, GSN, Sitv, Mun2, AZN, VH1, QTN, and The Tom Joyner Show. In addition, she has appeared in several national television commercials (including a very funny one for Southwest Airlines) and created and hosted the first Asian-American stand- up showcase - Chop-SHTICK. She was kind enough to sit down between gigs and running her famous daughter around to answer some questions about her background, work, and future plans.
MXDWELL: You have a background as a musician, including a bachelor's degree in classical music. What made you leave the music world to become a comedian?
Amy Anderson: I knew by my junior year at conservatory that it wasn't my career calling. I still LOVE music though, and it will always be a big part of my life. I just couldn't picture myself teaching in a school, which is where I was probably headed. Making people laugh was always a natural for me. Even as a young kid.
M: As the youngest of four kids and the only girl, was comedy something you used as a defense (or a weapon) growing up?
AA: Absolutely. It was a defense mechanism overall, and I wasn't all that funny at home, but at school it was a great way to get attention. When you're the youngest of four kids, you'll do whatever it takes to get some attention.
M: Where do you look for inspiration or material?
AA: Every-day life. Right now, my 5-year old daughter comes in pretty handy. Everything she says is hilarious. Or naughty. Or adorable.
M: How would you describe your comedy?
AA: It's just me in a nutshell. Comedians get asked this all the time, so you think I'd have a better answer, but I don't. It's funny and likable with an unexpected edge. Ah... there. I did it.
M: Your background - born in Korea, adopted by Swedish parents, raised in Minnesota – is mentioned fairly often in your comedy. Did you experience any difficulties growing up with such a culturally-diverse background? If so, how did you address these?
AA: Correction to your question: it WASN'T a culturally diverse background. I was a kid adopted from Korea. Period. Everyone else was the same, I was different. NO diversity. Well, very little. We had like four or five Jewish kids in my school and a few more Asian kids. That was it. Yeah, I got teased a lot as a kid. I got called "nigger chink" on the school bus. Nice, huh? I got called chink and flat face and Chinaman... a LOT. I'm just going to say it, but people in the suburbs of Minnesota were quite racist back then. That's usually what you get in a highly homogenous community or any ethnicity. Xenophobia. Having traveled the country many times over, I've seen it again and again. How did I deal with it? Just tried to ignore it and move on. I had really nice friends, so they were my refuge. But I hated being different when I was a kid. I hated the way I looked. It took me a long time to be comfortable with who I am.
M: Do you see some benefits to your cultural diversity?
AA: I don’t know. Honestly, a long time ago I would have given a typical answer, saying that it has provided a lot of material. But life provides material, no matter who you are. Like, no one asked Steve Martin if he thought being white was beneficial to his comedy. Not that you asked in regards to comedy specifically, but I guess that's what I naturally went to. But life experience and telling about it - that's what being a comedian is all about. I don't think it's easier for me being a comedian as a Korean adoptee. The jokes don't actually write themselves. I still have to do that. But it has been an interesting and exciting life so far, for sure. Benefits as a person in general? I don't know... less body hair? No. We're all given a life we don't get to choose and it's up to you to make the most of it. I'd like to think I would have done the same if I had been born into any other situation.
M: Your blog is very serious and frank, which somewhat surprised me, as I was expecting it to be more light-hearted and comedic. Was that a conscious choice for you?
AA: No. Honestly, I'm not a very prolific blogger, but when I take the time to write about something, it's usually something I feel pretty strongly about. I'm a very funny person with my friends and family and I see humor in lots of things, but my serious side is pretty dominant. I think many successful comedians are fairly serious because you have to be very self-disciplined to achieve any kind of success and you have to be able to handle business.
M: You've had a lot of success as a stand-up comedian, notably creating and hosting the first Asian-American stand-up showcase, "Chop-SHTICK", and you've been on numerous comedy shows and even in some commercials. Would you like to branch out into TV or movie acting someday?
AA: Why yes. That's the whole reason I came to Los Angeles was to get on screen. Before I moved out here, I did a ton of theater and improv performance in the Twin Cities and I have done some small TV and film roles, but no big breaks yet. It has been a long career of many auditions. A lot of the game out here is having the right agent and/or management in order to get the decent auditions. The other reason is because I've spent a large amount of my career on the road and when you're in Indiana or Massachusetts, you're not in L.A. Duh, I know, but this is where the auditions are. This year is a big transition year for me, getting off the road a bit so I can re-focus my career on acting. I'm very excited about it and I already booked a guest-star part on "Modern Family" which is so fun because I get to do a scene with my daughter, Aubrey. She plays "Lily" on "Modern Family".
M: Do you have any plans to come back and perform in the Twin Cities?
AA: I hope so! I try to get back there and do something at least once a year. No matter how hard I try to stay away, I just keep coming back for the mosquitoes.
To find out more about this rising star, check out her website here
Matt Beamer appreciates the question of identity and has traveled to countries as far-ranging as
Rwanda and France to explore it further.