This week’s Persephone Pioneer is writer, blogger, and the world’s only female Chamorro comedian, Mona Concepcion!
I met Mona last year when I worked with founder, co-producer, and comedian Jenny Yang through her comedy tour, Dis/orient/ed Comedy. The tour spotlights Asian American (mostly) women comedians and is the first of its kind! I was lucky to be able to connect with Mona when the tour came to Portland. The non-profit I work for decided to collaborate on a fundraiser with the tour, and so it was exciting to both co-produce a comedy show and to meet all of the amazing comedians.
I find Mona’s humor captivating because she makes me laugh the deep-resonating-in-my-belly type of laughs. The jokes she has about her mom are probably what sit with me the most. My mom has had language/translation issues at some points, especially during my childhood, due to her immigrant background. I am easily able to find similarities in Mona’s interpretation of her mom and my experience with my own mother. She’s also just an all-around funny gal and I’m honored to know her!
Hi Mona! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions today. Let’s start from the beginning, when did you start doing standup?
I would say I’ve been performing standup since I could talk. I’m the youngest of five kids, so it was my job to be the funny one who wasn’t getting into trouble! I was a big speech and debate nerd in high school, so I used that time to cut down the competition and show them, especially my two ex-boyfriends who are now doctors. Who’s the winner now?! After years of collecting funny moments on my blog, I took a standup comedy class with the final being an actual performance. Then, after the class, I went to open mics and thought, let me give it another week. And I haven’t stopped since, and it’s been 2 and half years.
How would you describe your comedy?
My comedy is really observational and reflects what it’s like to be a mom of two kids, from a Pacific island no one has ever heard of and daughter of a woman who doesn’t speak English very well and forced me to try on clothes outside the dressing room at JC Penney’s.
Can you share any moments where you didn’t get the type of reaction you wanted from a joke, and what that was like?
Whenever a joke doesn’t hit the way I hoped—because it sounded so funny in my head—it’s so crushing. I remember I had a joke about diabetes and how I learned about that before I had the sex talk. It didn’t hit, no one laughed, and I just said the most honest thing, “Well, this isn’t going very well!” and then they laughed. I love moments like that, as painful as they are, because they challenge me to be better, be funnier, be the kind of funny I know I am.
You claim the title of the “World’s Only Female Chamorro Comedian.” What’s it like to be the only one who exists in the comedy world?
I’m a unicorn! I’m the only female Chamorro comedian so it’s like I’m a minority of a minority. I actually like saying that because I hope that someone will prove me wrong, that there will be another female out there making jokes about being from a tiny island in the Pacific. But I love being able to talk about Saipan and what it’s like to be from there because it connects me to a place that is so far away.
You recently visited Los Angeles for the first time during Dis/orient/ed Comedy’s 2 year anniversary, right? How did you like L.A.? And how was the show?
Jenny Yang was very kind to invite and host me for Dis/orient/ed’s anniversary show. LA was super fun! Everyone seemed they were working hard on their art and Jenny was definitely one of those people. Jenny is such an inspiration. I love watching her perform, especially on her home turf. She knows how to handle a crowd, how to move a show, how to keep the energy live. That’s one of many reasons why I love working with her; she’s the real deal. The show was incredible. It was in this gorgeous theater full of people who were ready to laugh at this island lady spouting jokes. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Do you have any projects you’re currently working on that you’d like to share?
I currently co-produce two shows at the Feedback Lounge and another show at the Columbia City Theater. I love hosting and producing. It’s a different side that forces me to grow and figure out how to tap into the comedy scene here in Seattle.
If you could leave a lasting legacy, what would it be?
I want to be remembered as someone who contributed to the world in a meaningful way and of course, I want to be remembered as genuinely funny. It would also be awesome if one of my jokes could be quoted. Right now most people know a joke I have about pancakes. I have time to be more than that!
I didn’t realize that your blog Kirida.com has been around since 1999! That’s dedication! How do you keep it going, and what advice can you give to people like me *cough* or I mean, others that are wanting to make blogging part of their lives?
I’ve owned my blog kirida.com (also available through heymona.com) longer than anything else in my whole life and it’s tracked my life from student to pregnant lady and now a comedian. “Kirida” means favorite girl in my native language and it’s representative of my life and ties to my culture. I’ve never done it primarily to monetize or become a famous blogger. It’s an outlet, just like my comedy, and like comedy, I need it to keep me sane, to know that there’s a space where I have a voice and people are paying attention in a different way. Writing jokes is so similar to blogging: figure out what you want to say, what you like to talk about, what makes you authentic, and then keep going.
Any piece of advice for those aspiring to be a comedian?
Just do it! I hear from a lot of people who say, “I’ve always thought about trying standup!” Write a few jokes, go to an open mic in your area and just try it out. Sometimes it’s awful, sometimes it’s great but you won’t know that until you’re on stage. The feeling I get when someone laughs at my jokes is unlike anything else. It’s a high that I keep seeking out, something that tells me I’m on the right path. This is what I’m meant to do.