In the summer of 2013, I was walking down the street near my apartment in Beijing when I saw a man on the side of the road selling a bizarre collection of goods.
I stooped over his street-side carpet of goods and spied an old canteen, some strange desert warfare goggles, and an actual grenade.
“All my old war stuff!” he said happily.
I was tempted to buy the grenade—proof of this bizarre encounter!—but then decided the last thing I wanted anyone to find in my apartment was a weapon of indiscriminate destruction. But the old brown desert warfare goggles were too good to pass up. I scooped up a pair of them.
For the next week, every time friends came over to visit, I would show them the goggles. They were so goofy-looking that people would laugh when I put them on. It was comedy 101 from there on to envision a comedy sketch with the goggles—the key being that nobody would talk about the goggles.
When the Asia Society approached me last year to put together a sketch program, the goggles sketch was right at the top of the list of pieces I wanted to perform. Now, hours of filming, writing, and editing later, the goggles sketch and the standup routine I wrote for it is the first episode of my very own webseries, The Great LOL of China.
My hope is that the goggles are a funny way to get at a real social issue attached to interracial dating—but even if the sketch is just funny for funny’s sake, I was glad that I could turn a bizarre street vendor’s old war swag into something that brings laughter to people around the world.