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6Qs with Comedian Wonho Chung //

byMarwa Helal

WonHo-10Dubbed “the best Korean import to the Middle East,” comedian Wonho Chung’s talent is no laughing matter. He took audiences by surprise when he first appeared on tour with the Axis of Evil pretending to be the confused North Korean, lost in the Middle East. When he suddenly burst into the most fluent and proper Arabic they had heard in a while, they fell in love and have kept him on stage ever since. FEN got these six questions in with him at the recent Amman Stand-Up Comedy Festival.

Languages: Arabic, English, Vietnamese, French, and Korean
Laces or Velcro: Velcro, retro
Favorite seasoning: Anything that’s fatty

1. Who are you? Really.

I think deep down inside I’m a Jordanian, with a Korean face. I’m your normal everyday guy, who was given the opportunity to do stand-up, and I didn’t know that I had it in me.

The moment I started doing jokes and people took them warmly, I figured maybe I should give this a shot. And I did. And I was just in the right place at the right time, with the right amount of preparation when someone gave me an opportunity.

2. You were chosen by the Axis of Evil team to be the pseudo-North Korean even though you’re South Korean, what was that like?

It was a dream because I was, and still am a huge fan of the Axis of Evil so when I was approached to actually be part of their tour, it was surreal.

Pretending to be North Korean while I’m South Korean wasn’t a big deal to me because I was given an opportunity. Obviously for the Axis guys they couldn’t find a North Korean that was funny, so they settled for a South Korean that was funny (I hope) and who speaks Arabic.

3. There’s no doubt that people get surprised when they find out you speak Arabic. Any particularly funny situations you’ve been through as a result?
This one is not quite a surprise, but I was boarding a plane in Malaysia, heading to Dubai, and at the gate everybody looked Far East Asian. So there was this gentleman in front of me, sitting at the gate with his wife, he had the whole [traditional dress], she was wearing a veil, very, very conservative… They thought nobody understood what they were saying, so they were talking about their honeymoon which they spent in Malaysia, and ALL the details. Use your imagination. And I was sitting there thinking “Oh my God!” This is almost like voyeurism, you know.

4. Do you ever pretend that you don’t understand Arabic?
Many times. It depends. I use it to my advantage. Like if I go to buy a pair of shoes, and if I start speaking in Arabic, I know the guy is gonna stop me and be like, “How do you know Arabic? Where are you from? How?” It’s 15 – 20 minutes lost when I just want to buy shoes, so I would use English then. If I’m in Egypt and kids are running after me and saying [in Arabic] “Buy from me,” I just go, “What? I don’t speak Arabic.” So you just use it to your advantage, the more you have the more you can play with.

5. If you could put together an audience of your favorite people and/or comedians, who would be the top ten people on the list?
Russell Peters has been one of my favorite comedians for a very long time, so I feel very blessed that I get to share a stage with him. I would have loved to have met Ella Fitzgerald. I’m a huge jazz lover. Josh Groban is one of my favorite singers. I’m classically trained, vocally. But for an audience? Because I do stand-up comedy in Arabic…, my audience ideally would be anyone who speaks Arabic.

6. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Facial hair. I’ve always wanted to grow a goatee.

Check out this video of Wonho on the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour >>

(Interviewed by Lina Ejeilat in Amman, Jordan)

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