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Tacoma comedy show and New Year celebration spotlights Southeast Asian community

An audience watches someone who is smiling on a stage. Many people have their phones out recording.
Meanroth Ny
A performer takes the stage at the 2023 SEA Comedy New Year Celebration

Meanroth Ny is a comedian who pulls a lot of material from his own life. He and his family are Cambodian refugees, and he grew up in Tacoma. But, on stage, he found his experience could be hard for people to relate to.

"There wasn't a comedy show, or even audience built in for a person like me," Ny said. "I couldn't find any relevance or my references weren't hitting like I wanted them to."

So, Ny started his own comedy showcase and co-founded the Southeast Asian Comedy Collective. The collective is a production company that works with artists across the country to produce culturally relevant and inclusive comedy events. But the flagship event is the SEA Comedy New Year Celebration.

A group of people on a stage pose for a photo together in front of a crowd.
Courtesy of Meanroth Ny
A group photo from the 2nd Annual SEA Comedy New Year Celebration in 2023

The showcase brings Southeast Asian comedians from across the country to Tacoma, and celebrates the Solar New Year, which is observed by Cambodian, Laotian, Thai, and many other Southeast Asian communities this time of year.

The spotlight on Southeast Asian culture is special because it often gets lumped in with the broader "Asian" category.

"For a long time, we've been in the shadows of the limelight and this is, at least for me, our first accurate representation of who we are from the people of the community," Ny said.

This year's show will feature people from different parts of the region, including:

  • Viradeth Xay-Ananh, a Seattle-based comedian originally from Laos
  • Ann Chun, a NY-based comedian and writer from Thailand
  • K. Cheng, a Cambodian comedian, cosplayer, and "needer of attention" based California
  • And Davine Ker, an America/Canadian/Cambodian multidisciplinary artist based in D.C.

"There are different types of identities and voices, and I think everybody can relate to something like this," Ny said.
Ny is just as excited about the setting for the show. The LeMay car museum in Tacoma will serve as the venue and is currently showing an exhibition of iconic Japanese cars, including drift cars that look like the ones in the Fast and Furious movies.

"We get an opportunity to perform with all these legendary Japanese cars around us, and so that's going to be very exciting for us."

A woman performs a traditional Southeast Asian dance on a stage. The performer is centered in the photo and looks down the audience center aisle.
Courtesy of Meanroth Ny
A performer at the 2023 SEA Comedy New Year Celebration

In addition to traditional rituals like sharing food, visiting temples, getting a blessing from the monks, and participating in songs and dances, celebrating the new year with a comedy show is a chance to bring together a multi-generational community.

It will also include the American influences many children of immigrants and refugees grew up around. For Ny, the influence of R&B and hip-hop are entwined with his experience growing up in a city like Tacoma.

"We mix the two cultures together," Ny said. "You get a good blend of tradition and contemporary vibes. Who doesn't like food, Hennessy, and Jodeci?!"

Ny said people are usually familiar with the Cambodian genocide when he talks about his heritage, but he hopes events like these provide another reference point for the unique cultures of Southeast Asia.

"The genocide is factually true, but I don't want to hear that all the time," Ny said. "I want to hear you talk about how 'you guys have fun a lot, you guys did New Year, or your food is great.' This represents who we are, what our style is, and, hey, we've arrived."

The SEA Comedy New Year Celebration takes place Friday, April 26 at the LeMay car museum. Find out more at

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Mayowa Aina covers cost-of-living and affordability issues in Western Washington. She focuses on how people do (or don't) make ends meet, impacts on residents' earning potential and proposed solutions for supporting people living at the margins of our community. Get in touch with her by emailing