Monday, May 29, 2006

In Japan, I'm a black man

[Here's the first draft of the rest of my set. I'm gonna have to cut a bunch of stuff somewhere, because with "It's not easy being big" and "Big in Japan," the whole thing is probably 20 minutes long and I'm only supposed to do about 12. But we'll see -- maybe if I go last I can just do the whole thing. It's been moved to Saturday night, BTW, which should mean a better crowd.]

But it's not all fun and games living overseas. Because when you live in a foreign country, people can stereotype you in the strangest ways. And the weird thing about Japan is that Japanese people have the same stereotypes for white American men that we have for black men in America.

For example, You've heard of "driving while black" right, the way cops in America pull over black men all the time because they think they must be doing something illegal? Well, I didn't have a car in Tokyo, because I'd just ride my bike to the subway station, but the Tokyo cops used to stop me on my bike all the time. They'd say, "Stop, stop."

So of course I'd say, "What seems to be the problem, Officer?"

"See some ID?"

"Uh, OK." [hands over ID]

"Is this your bicycle?"


"We've been having a lot of bicycle thefts in the area. We're checking serial numbers against our list of stolen bikes."

"Oh, OK."

"What are you doing in Japan? Are you an English teacher?" See, there are basically two qualifications for being an English teacher in Japan, one being that you're white and two being that you're ambulatory. So it's sort of the default job for white guys in Japan.

"Um, no, I'm a translator."

"All right. [Hands back ID] Have a nice evening."

Now, the first couple of times this happened, I thought, "Wow, the Tokyo cops really work hard on stolen bicycles." But then I noticed that they kept stopping me, and they kept letting Japanese people pass right by on their bikes. And I realized, I'm being racially profiled, dammit.

So I decided from now on, I'm just gonna to be a smartass with these cops. When they ask me what I'm doing in Japan, I'm gonna say, "I'm a professional bike thief. We don't have bicycles in America, so I flew 5,000 miles across the Pacific so I could steal this one." No, this'll be even better: "I'm a newspaper reporter. I'm doing a story on racial profiling by the Japanese police. What's your badge number?"

So the next time I got stopped, "What are you doing in Japan? Are you an English teacher?"

"Um, no, I'm a translator." Yeah, I'm a wimp.

But not all stereotypes are negative. Like, Japanese people think all Americans are good dancers. And not only that, they think if you're an American and you're dancing, whatever you're doing must be very cool. Like this one time I was at a club, not showing off or anything, [start doing two-step] just relaxing, looking around, and there are lots of mirrors in the club, and I notice in a mirror this Japanese guy behind me is dancing just like me. And I think, "Huh. Is he copying me? Nah. That would just be too weird." But just in case, I throw in a couple of these [moves]. And sure enough, he goes [moves].

So now I'm pretty creeped out, because I've never had a disco stalker before. And I decide that if he wants to copy me, then by golly, I'm gonna give him something to copy. So I start dancing like a white guy [demonstrates]. And then he starts dancing like a white guy [demonstrates].

This is working pretty good, so I decide to throw in a little disco ballet fever [demonstrates]. And there he goes, disco ballet fever [demonstrates]. By then I'm laughing too hard to dance anyway, so I go home.

So about two weeks later, I go back to the same club, and there're about a hundred Japanese people all dancing like this [dancing like a white guy + disco ballet fever]. And about ten people from other countries all going like this [blank slack-jawed stare]. So I decide not to go back to that club for awhile. And then my work gets busy, so I don't go to any clubs at all for about two months, and I'm home watching the news, and the announcer says, "There's a new dance craze sweeping the nation," and they cut to a series of clubs across the country, and there they are, thousands of Japanese people dancing like white guys with disco ballet fever [demonstrates]. (You just can't win.)

Anyway… what's another stereotype we have about black men? (You all have dirty minds.) Now, I'm just an average man [hold hands about 18 inches apart] (and that's width), but Japanese condoms are really small. No, I'm just kidding, in America, it's not like I have to wear Dr. Porkenheimer's Jumbo Size or anything, I just wear ordinary ultra-thin-mint-tingle-vibrating-ring-warm-sensations-ribbed-for-her-pleasure-
Trojans-with-spermicidal-Nonoxydol-9 like everybody else. But Japanese condos just don't fit.

And the time you don't want to find out your condom is too small is when you need one. Because you're going, [Barry White voice and opens package] "Yeah, Baby, just a second," and Mr. Happy is saying [stand at attention], "Yeah, yeah, this is gonna be good -- what?! A condo?! Aw, man, I hate those things! Oh, well. Better than not getting any. C'mon, c'mon, hurry up! [puts it on] Yeah, ye -- Owww! Ow! That hurts! Too tight… [starts shrinking] can't breathe… can't stand this much longer… but wait… condom's too small… that means I'm too big… [starts standing up straight again] yeah… too big… [at attention] YEAH! WOOOO! WHO'S THE MAN! Get this thing off me! [rips free] Yeah! Grrrrrwwwwowl!" And then you say [Barry White voice], "Sorry, Baby, I'm just too big for a condom," and she says [coquettishly], "Wow."

Right now every guy in here is wondering if he can get Japanese condoms over the internet or something. (You know you are.) But then the next day I went back to the drugstore, and I said [sophisticated voice], "Yes, I'd like to return the rest of these condoms."

"What seems to be the trouble?"

[sophisticated voice] "They're too small."

"Gosh, you must have a really large penis."

(Good night. Thanks for coming.)


  1. I loved that portion of your routine. Having lived in Singapore for awhile I can relate to the racial profiling you were joking about

  2. I was in Tokyo a few years ago and I just could not get those girls out of my hair. Everyone had to pull my curls. They could not believe that my hair just comes out of my head in ringlets.

    I learned very little Japanese, but I taught many the word, "boing."

  3. That's funny about the hair. When my dad was working in Thailand he was told that his bald head was considered a symbol of high intelligence and worthy of respect

  4. Kuri,

    Added you to my links. I'm addicted to your blog.

  5. "Addicted"? Wow, thanks.

    (Oh, the pressure...)

  6. "Addicted" sounded better than saying that I'm "obsessive/compulsive."

    You make me laugh. I like that. I hope you work well under pressure.


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