18 Mighty Mountain Warriors on how they added a bit of Latin flavor to their new show “Asiatico!”
By Fanny Garcia, Editor
pLAywriting in the city
Los Angeles, CA
What does your name mean? Well it was from the title of one of the very first sketches we wrote back in 1994 called “The 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors.” This sketch was actually a parody of the classic Chinese novel “Water Margin” which was about the heroics of these 108 warriors that live as renegades on this mountain. The sketch actually featured these characters, but since we couldn’t have 108 actors do the sketch, we removed the “zero” to make it 18. It’s as simple as that. The name has been somewhat of a boon and a curse. The boon is that when we’re on a billing with other groups, our name usually is listed first (because of “18”). The curse is that people can’t remember our name and sometimes call us the “18 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”
How long have you all been working together? 18mmw has been together 16 years. We formed in 1994. The unique thing about this group is that there has been very little turnover in terms of personnel in the group and the members NOW are the same people that were members THEN. The demonstrates the loyalty and commitment of the members. And the utter failure of the members to achieve individual success and move on away from the group!
How did you add Latino flavor to your new show, “Asiatico!” Good question! Since all of the members of the group are Asian American and did most of the writing, it’d be hard to add a Latino flavor through actual onstage interaction with Latinos. However, Herb did write some great sketches and was really influential in the sound design (he did all the segue music) of the show which added to the Latino flavor. In addition, there are Latino references here and there. And in our news piece, we do a segment on “What Asians and Latinos have in Common.” I think there may also a very subtle “teatro” influence in the show!
Has there ever been a piece that you’ve performed that caused more than just a little controversy? How do you respond to it? Probably the most recent controversy was over a sketch we did entitled “Thailand” which is about a guy who walks into a travel agency trying to book a ticket to Thailand only to discover that he travel agent assumes he’s there for a sex tour.
Originally it was part of a full-length sketch show and in fact was followed by a sketch about the movie 300 and how rife it was with homo eroticism (like any good gladiator movie).
All was well until we shot the sketch as a video and posted it on the web. We posted it as a video response to some video called, “we love Thai girls” and titled it, “Thailand”. It quickly became our most viewed video, many of the viewers presumably being Thai nationals (almost all the hits came from Thailand and many of the comments were in Thai or in limited-proficiency english).
The Thai’s were not amused, to say the least. Despite the fact that, of the two characters in the sketch, one character insists he’s not visiting Thailand for sex and rails against the travel agent enumerating a litany of positive aspects to Thailand, almost to a person, Thai people insisted we were defaming Thailand. They commented how they’d like to kill us and cut off our heads. (Well, specifically me since I played the travel agent and they assume I wrote the sketch, which I didn’t). I tried to explain that it’s satire and that part of what we do is point out stereotypes that non-asians have about Asian Americans and Asians. They just didn’t see it that way at all.
Normally, we try very hard to take into account feedback we get about controversial subject matter, but having talked about, we felt like the sketch said what we intended to say.
Now, I mentioned the gladiator sketch which followed “Thailand” in the live-show: in think that if those same Thai people who hated the sketch so much could see it in the context of the rest of the show and in fact followed by the parody of ancient Greeks, would see it more for it is. Maybe. I think the lesson I’ve learned is that you can never take context for granted. Especially when you throw something out into the world of youtube.
I get mistaken for being Filipino all the time, do you think I could join your group? Well, we’re actually an LLC with members locked in as corporate officers and we haven’t had a new member join since 1996 so it’s difficult for ANYONE to join the group! Hell, if I wasn’t in the group already myself, I probably couldn’t get in the group! However, we are open to working with everyone so don’t be surprised if you get a phone call, especially if we need someone to play a Filipina!
Do you have a favorite audience? Audiences? We like ’em big. And loving. Yes, giant and overflowing with unconditional love.
What has it been like to be directed by Herbert Siguenza of Culture Clash? Culture Clash are huge heroes to us, so it’s a dream come true to be able to work with Herbert. Sketch comedy is hard because it’s not quite theater; the relationships between the writers and actors and directors is a lot more fluid in sketch. So having Herbert at the helm with all of his stage experience and understanding of the dynamics involved in group collaboration is really amazing. Plus, he’s Latino, so he’s got that going for him.
Will the show travel? What is the next stop? Not that we know of. We’ll probably talk with Herbert about other possible opportunities for this production, possibly the SF Bay Area. For me, I hope this can lead to future projects and collaboration. I feel like there’s a lot of stories out there about the intersection of our communities.
But seriously, can I join your group? The qualifications are not a problem; our standards are quite low. It’s the initiation fee most people balk at.
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