Comic Okatsuka Joins the ‘InvAsian’

Atsuko Okatsuka (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

Asian American standup comics, ranging from newcomers to veterans, will be featured in “Comedy InvAsian,” a live and filmed series of six one-hour performances at the Japanese American National Museum’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum, First and Central in Little Tokyo, from Feb. 10 to 26.

One of the six is Atsuko Okatsuka, who is making her mark not only as a standup on the comedy club circuit but also as an actress, writer, producer and director on the film festival circuit.

Born in Taiwan, she grew up in Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo and moved to West L.A. with her mother and grandmother when she was 10.

“I only spoke Japanese for a while in my life, then I picked up Mandarin and English when I came here because we moved in with my Chinese side of the family,” Okatsuka recalled. “… Now it’s opposite. The language I speak the best is English, then Mandarin, then Japanese.”

Although she doesn’t have close relatives in Japan, she tries to go there at least once a year. She said she has no difficulty communicating in Japanese “for the most part, unless people want to talk politics or history, or talk in slang.”

One of her role models was Margaret Cho, who was the first standup comic Okatsuka had ever seen. “I didn’t know what it was before, at least American standup. So for a while after I saw Margaret … I thought standup comedy was exclusively an Asian female thing. Little did I know … So for a period in my life it was strange to think I had actually normalized Asian women doing comedy.”