Asian-Americans Create Coronavirus Comedy to Take Back Narrative and Dispel Myths Around the Disease

Comedians Esther Chen and Kyle said the show was their way to discuss the racism around COVID-19 while also making an audience laugh.

Coronavirus is no joke, except for these Asian-American comedians who have turned it into a comedy show.

Comedians Esther Chen and Kyle Marian wanted to take back the narrative and dispel myths surrounding the fast-spreading disease, so they created “Asians Strike Back: A Coronavirus Comedy and Science Show,” performed last weekend in New York City.

They explained that the variety show, which is performed by comedians, scientists and musicians, was an opportunity for them to speak out about COVID-19 in a way that was approachable.

“There are so many diseases that get racialized and politicized. Especially if it comes from brown, black communities, Asian communities,” Marian told “We just wanted to be able to tackle both the social issues around epidemics like this that are constantly racialized, but also just make people laugh and myth bust at the same time.”

Marian’s background is in science, and she said she was troubled by all the misinformation and myths spread in the early days of the coronavirus, particularly when they led to racist sentiments. “We were just really feeling the pressures and the pain of our community worldwide, of people blaming Asians in general for this new outbreak of something we don’t know," she said. 

For example, in a sketch that tackled the purposelessness of face masks against COVID-19, Marian and Chen walked out on stage at different times sporting different face coverings, including the beauty treatment type of face mask and even a bra over their mouths.

For Chen, the problem was more personal. Originally from Taiwan, Chen said she saw firsthand an exacerbation of prejudices she already experienced in everyday life. Even sneezing in public, as an Asian woman, was something she no longer wanted to do.

“It’s a way of taking power back. Rather than playing the victim, I get to speak up about my perspective and my narrative shared through laughter and story to other audiences who can experience what I'm experiencing,” she said.

“Fight the fear with laughter and song,” Marian concluded.