Yee of Little (Then Lots of) Faith: Byron Yee Denies and Discovers his Heritage in Paper Son

Byron Yee’s one-man show Paper Son opened August 13. For an hour and a half, Yee takes the audience on a funny yet touching journey. From his childhood as an outcast in Oklahoma, to his decision to move to San Francisco to become a stand-up comedian, to his quest to discover how his family came to America, Yee weaves his stories together with a delightfully entertaining and moving narrative thread. The show opens with Yee recreating an audition for a role in a film in which he would have to play a stereotypical Chinese restaurant owner, Pidgin-English and all. Yee reveals that he does not know how to do a Chinese accent, nor does he wish to learn. This audition experience triggers a desire in Yee to seek out his Chinese heritage and ask questions of his parents and family that he never had any previous interest in asking. The show is divided into five different segments, opening with the audition that beautifully lays the foundation for the rest of the show. Throughout the show, the audience is introduced to an endearing cast of characters while accompanying Yee on his sojourn. Most effective is a meeting Yee has with a tour guide at San Francisco Bay’s Angel Island (the West Coast equivalent of Ellis Island, where Chinese immigrants were interrogated and forced to stay until they were cleared for citizenship). The tour guide tells Yee the fable of how the rat and the cat became enemies, which becomes a poignant metaphor for the Chinese people’s plight in their new homeland.

Yee, who is currently a successful Los Angeles based actor and comedian, presents a fantastic performance, portraying every character from clueless Hollywood casting directors to his parents with humor, sympathy and pathos. Paper Son strives to emphasize that no matter how a person may deny his own past, it is always a part of him. Deeply entertaining and informative, is a delightfully moving lesson that any audience should be grateful to learn.

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