The Edmonton Sun, Monday, August 17, 1998
by Colin Maclean
Five Suns Out of Five
Byron Yee is a Chinese-American stand-up comic and character actor.
One day, he got a call from Warner Bros. He was to audition for a part in a movie called Grumpier Old Men. The part was an angry Chinese restaurant owner. His big line, delivered in pigeon English, was, "You win some or you Dim Su. Haw! Haw! Haw!"
Panicked, he realized he didn't know how to speak in broken English. He was from Oklahoma. "You know, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain." So he goes into Chinatown to order a meal and to listen to how these Oriental people talk.
Out of that simple act comes a Fringe experience that ranks with the best. Yee is a very funny fellow and you are treated to much of his probably quite-racist early monologues. "The only Chinese I knew were Charlie Chan, Kung Fu and Fu Manchu. Charlie Chan was Sidney Toler, Kung Fu was David Carradine and Fu Manchu was Peter Sellers."
He grew up ashamed and hating his appearance. "Asian guilt is like Catholic guilt," he says with a sigh. "Except there is no God and there is no forgiveness." Later he was to be accusedby fellow Chinese of being a "banana" -- yellow on the outside but white on the inside.
Yee begins to investigate his heritage. He goes to Angel Island, a West Coast Ellis Island in San Francisco Bay where Chinese immigrants were sometimes held by authorities for two years before being accepted. into America or sent back home. H never knew his father except as the distant man who sat in the front room in the evening and read Chinese newspapers. He investigates more. Yee's comic monologue turns into a fascinating detective story about his family's background.
Paper Son is one man's personal odyssey in search of his heritage. And yet it is the story of us all and in telling it Yee touches something universal. "I am no different from anyone else in this room," he observes at one point.
Paper Son has won awards everywhere. It sold out on its first night here and was given a standing ovation. It is destined to be one of the Fringe's big hits. It deserves it. If you can still get a ticket - go see Paper Son.