In North America, I’m Asian. In Asia, I’m North American. On stage, I am human.
I immigrated to Canada from Taiwan at the age of 10 on November 10th, 1994. That very first night, my brother and I slept on a mattress on the ground in front of a gas fireplace. All of our belongings, I was told, were still on a shipping crate somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Outside, a snowstorm raged on. Inside, my dad’s words echoed throughout the cold, empty house, and over and over in my head:
“If you are going to do something, do it till the very end,” he said.
The first letter I wrote back to Taiwan was a Christmas card I sent to my friends. I told them how cold it was in Canada. I told them how everybody spoke English. I told them l had sandwiches for the very first time for lunch. I signed the card, with a side note, saying I missed them dearly.
They never wrote back to me. Not even once.
During my first week of school, on the playground, I was told I was no longer in China and I should go back to where I came from. I was confused because I wasn’t even Chinese. I was bullied by the other Asian kids in the class because there were so few of us. The teacher made us sit together because we looked alike, despite the fact our home nations were thousands of miles apart. The teacher instructed them to give me a hand.
They never helped me. Not even once.
My first time returning to Taiwan was during my great-grandmother’s funeral. Everyone thought I spoke English. Everyone thought I ate steaks for dinner every night. Everyone thought I had forgotten everything about Taipei. I told them I still remembered everything.
They never believed me. Not even once.
But through all these years I continued on because I believed what my dad told me. That if you are going to do something, you do it till the very end. What he meant, however, was not the fact that you should never quit. Sometimes in life, you just simply have to let go. What he understood, is that if you are going to do something, you participate. You participate fully. You participate with every inch of your soul. You allow yourself to feel every smile, endure every struggle, and treasure every moment. My parents embodied those words. They left everything they had ever known in pursuit of hope. They changed their names. They gave up their roots. They feared for their children. They did everything till the very end with every ounce of faith that they had left.
This is why I became a comedian. For a very long time, I was nobody to everybody. In North America, I’m Asian. In Asia, I’m North American. On stage, I am human. With every joke, I’m no longer Asian, North American, a cultural stereotype, or even a newly developed virus. My story is a human story. Becoming a comedian is my all the way.
And I will not give up. Not even once.
The article was written by Ed Hill
Ed Hill is a Taiwanese-Canadian Stand Up Comedian recording his first full-length one-hour comedy special titled Candy & Smiley at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on March 28th, 2020. Tickets are available at candyandsmiley.com. For more info about Ed Hill visit kingedhill.com.