Stage & Screen

The Work That Made Me: Comedian Ed Pokropski

This June, comedian, executive producer and Korean-American adoptee Edward Pokropski debuts his brand new show, Case 84: Adopted in the U.S.A, an eye-opening show that uses comedy to explore how the media shapes our misconceptions about adoption. He takes us through some of his greatest artistic inspirations below.
Ed Pokropski. Photo: Janet S Kim.
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The Work That Made Me: Comedian Ed Pokropski

Approved for Adoption / Couleur De Peau: Miel

This is the first and arguably only film about adoption that has truly spoken to me as an adoptee. This short film is one part documentary and one part narrative animation. The filmmaker is a Korean adoptee who was adopted in France. He chronicles his return to Seoul for the first time while telling his story of growing up through beautifully animated vignettes that he has produced. I love this mix of mediums and jumps from present to past and back again.

You get this feeling you are really in the artist’s headspace. It’s incredibly intimate and almost dreamlike at times.This film taught me that when you break convention a little and mix art forms together, you can engage an audience on a whole other level.

Comedian Ronny Chieng

When I was just getting started with stand up comedy in NYC, Ronny was already a popular correspondent on the Daily Show. I saw him at a friend’s comedy show that he dropped in on to perform a 10 minute set. Compared to his current status of Marvel movies and other big screen roles, he was still somewhat an up and comer. He came into the room and the energy shifted. It was the first time I saw a comedian electrify and take over a space. I reached out soon after to ask him to be on an all-Asian comedy show I was trying to get off the ground. I partially expected no response or a flat out no but Ronny was incredibly gracious and supportive.

He let me open for him multiple times and he’s supported me and other AAPI comics of all levels consistently throughout his career. When you get used to the grind of NYC and media in general, it floors you when you come across someone truly willing to help at such a high level.Ronny is someone who has shown me when you are prepared, relaxed and confident, a crowd instantly feels that from you. There may be no better feeling than stepping on stage and sensing that in yourself and in the crowd.

Jerrod Carmichael’s Rothaniel

Rothaniel is one of those comedy specials that isn’t really a comedy special in the traditional definition of the term. No big stage, bright lights, or pacing back and forth. I had always been a fan of Jerrod but this special felt like he was finally getting to be himself and speak on his own terms. He performs to a small room even by NYC small room standards. He sits on a stage and just talks to the audience. He tells stories. He does crack a few jokes. He bares his soul.

The most talked about moment of the special is that he comes out as gay which is significant but it’s the moments leading up to that, the long painful pauses and the seconds where it seems like he either forgets where he is or may just walk off stage that really stuck with me. It felt dangerous but it felt like he was keeping himself and the audience safe the whole time. It made me want to slow things down in my own show and not be afraid of those silences.

The Shopping Cart Scene in The Sixth Sense

I’ve always been a sucker for three things in a movie:

1. A strong parent-child relationship

2. A scene that builds character but not necessarily plot.

3. A scene taking place in Philly.

This scene from The Sixth Sense has all three. The twist from this movie has been analyzed to death but my favorite scene from the movie and perhaps of all time takes place in the middle. Haley Joel Osment is struggling. He’s been seeing dead people and Bruce Willis hasn’t figured it out yet. Haley’s Mom, played by Toni Collette, is leaving Acme (a well known Philly staple supermarket) with Haley sitting in the shopping cart. Haley is clearly sad and stuck in his head. Collette looks at him, and it’s clear she doesn’t have an answer to his troubles.

All of a sudden, she starts running with the shopping cart. Haley looks back realizing she is taking him for a ride.There is no score, no dialogue, it’s just the sound of the shopping cart rattle. Haley smiles, raises his arms and looks like he’s on the best roller coaster ride of his life. Colette slows down when they arrive at their car. Haley smiles back at her, and she takes almost a mini bow as she smiles. The scene ends.

The connection that is created makes all the emotional scenes to come hit that much harder. This scene not only inspires me to show strong connections between people but to also talk about things that may not seem relevant to the overall plot. Subconsciously, I think an audience knows those moments are important even if they don’t initially know why.

Prince's Halftime Superbowl XLI Performance

During this performance, Prince performed Purple Rain in the middle of pouring rain, live.

Enough said.

Case 84: Adopted in the U.S.A. can be seen on June 23rd at Caveat in New York. Tickets can be found here.

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