Comedian Kristina Wong was trying to go green way before it was cool, as documented in her hilarious 2010 special Going Green the Wong Way. The one-woman show, performed on a stage of entirely recycled materials, is a tour-de-force of self-satire that pokes fun at the green movement as well as her own blunders trying to live sustainably in an urban environment. If you’re a fan of TMI, Wong’s brand of comedy is for you: There’s urine-soaked bus seats, well-intentioned teenage eco-terrorism, and a pep-talk about recycling sanitary pads.
Since Going Green Wong has been busy, making a rap album in Uganda while working with Women’s Global Empowerment Fund, telling off James Franco for being a jerk, crashing the Miss Chinatown pageant, performing a show about depression in the Asian American community, and writing about men with Asian fetishes. This summer she’ll be rolling out new episodes for a reality television show, called I’m Asian American and … as well as giving the commencement speech at UCLA.
Along the way, she’s found herself entangled in a growing web of LOL-worthy green moments.
Wong sat down to share the highlights (er, lowlights?) of her eco-misadventure — from buying used vegetable oil in back-alleys to her DivaCup fiasco to the challenges of living carless in L.A. Here’s an edited and condensed version of what she had to say:
On being tagged an “eco-comedian”:
It’s a nice change of pace. I go by “performance artist,” and that’s just frightening for most people, because they don’t know what that is. Or the associations they have with ‘performance artist’ are like, someone who covers themselves in menstruation or something.
On her vegetable oil-powered 1981 Mercedes:
In 2006, I bought a car that ran on vegetable oil. The car was a pink ’81 Mercedes, a diesel converted to run on vegetable oil. The science behind this system was very faulty. It was like a heater and a pump. I wasn’t even sure about the mileage I was getting on the car because the odometer broke. And the place I bought it from said they would fix it but their repair people were, like, meth addicts. Meth addicts who used to build furniture.
So how did you gas up?
Someone left a note on my car; there was a bumper sticker on the back that said that my car ran on vegetable oil. The note was in serial-killer writing and said “I have WVO” — if you’re in the community, you know WVO is waste vegetable oil — and it left a phone number. So I called the number and he said, come meet me in my alleyway later tonight and I’ll give you some vegetable oil. I told my friends that if I don’t come back within an hour, tell the police that I was here looking for used vegetable oil from a guy who left a note in serial-killer writing on my car. So I’m walking down this alleyway and there’s a man there, with used vegetable oil that he’s collected from a funnel cake place in Long Beach. People have hobbies: This guy’s hobby was collecting vegetable oil, apparently, and filtering it from funnel cake places.
Unfortunately he didn’t have oil every time I needed it. I’d find myself calling him, in this sweet girl voice, and I’d be like “Hey Mark? You got something for me, baby?” I was like a fucking drug addict. Give me my fix. And I would bring him presents. It was so crack-addicty.
And what happened to the car?
Basically the car caught on fire on the freeway and I got out just in the nick of time.
On the DivaCup, a reusable menstrual product:
I’ve used it once. Basically I had to go upside down on a bed to get that thing in me. I don’t know how people just do it in the restroom or whatever. And then it got stuck. It got SO stuck. Like, do I call someone I used to date, and trick them into it being sexy time and then I can kind of just be like, oh look what I found? It was like the worst game of peek-a-boo. Basically, I did not feel like a diva, at all.
On trying to be green in L.A.:
It’s hard! I don’t have recycling in my condo building but my neighbors across the street get blue bins. So basically every Thursday night I go bring my recycling across the street and fill up everyone’s blue bins. I have been threatened by my neighbors who say they are going to call the police.
On being an environmental rabble-rouser since age 13:
I’m Chinese-American — there’s no such thing as vegetarians in my family. And I was raised really competitively. I was being constantly compared to other Chinese-Americans and everybody, basically. So I began to look for things which I could be better at than other people. If I’m not the most beautiful, if I don’t have the best grades, I can be the best at being an environmental fanatic.
On the thin line between dating and ridesharing:
As an Asian woman dating online, it’s like the world is literally my buffet. I get messaged so much, I get people who are ready to buy me off the lot before the test drive, you know what I’m saying? So basically I would do these shameless taxi dates. I would set up the dates like, “Hey, why don’t we just stop and get Jamba on Larchmont on the way up?” They would be about to drop me off and I would be like, “Do you mind if we stop for kitty litter?” If you are a carless woman, who is single, you are at an advantage. You can make that shit work for you.
On finding the funny in environmental despair:
I think my role as a comedian and an artist is about trying to find ways to put people at ease. It’s not about trying to shove the issue in their faces like a dog being punished for peeing on the floor, but trying to find ways to bring attention to these things.
I don’t have as much power as a big CEO, but I would like to think that those people — people who have privilege — are in my audience.