Korean comic headed to 'Showtime at the Apollo' NB resident pursues dream
by Jim Hague Reporter staff writer
Apr 04, 2003 | 383 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
John Shin remembers the first time he was bitten by the comedy bug. More than 12 years ago, the North Bergen resident was a student at Rutgers University and he competed in a stand-up comedy contest, which also featured a fledgling comic by the name of Adam Sandler.

Shin's first foray into comedy wasn't exactly successful.

"I got booed off the stage," Shin said. "I was horrible. It was a good learning experience. But I didn't give up. I wanted to be a stand-up comic."

That contest was won by a group called Red Johnny and the Round Guys, who eventually had their own show on MTV. Shin, a native of Korea, came away with a sense of determination.

"I couldn't believe that there weren't that many Asian comics," Shin said. "Other than Margaret Cho, who was there? I mean, there are a ton of Jewish comics. But Asian? There aren't any. It's not a popular field for Asians. Even if I had a bad first outing, I felt I had a niche. I felt I could make a difference."

Shin said that he was undaunted by his first performance and stuck with his dream, although it took a while to get his feet on the ground - like 12 years.

"I got caught up trying to make a living, instead of doing what I wanted to do," said Shin, who graduated from Rutgers with a degree in journalism and held a variety of jobs before starting his own computer business a year ago. "Comedy was always the big thing for me."

About seven months ago, Shin embarked on reviving his comedy career by performing at open mikes at comedy clubs in the area.

"I had to do it for my own piece of mind," Shin said. "I'd be watching TV and saying, 'I should be doing that.' I knew I could do it. I looked up places on the Internet that had open mikes. I went to a lot of them in New York. It took a while before I was even decent."

Shin said that through his comedy, he wants to be able to break all ethnic stereotypes.

"Asians are not all computer geeks or math geniuses," Shin said. "We're not all meek. My comedy is not to insult Asians. Some use ethnic and racial stereotypes to get cheap laughs, but that's not me. I hate that."

Shin said that through the open mikes, he was recognized enough to get some professional gigs. He performs regularly on WBAI-AM radio and has lined up some performances at area colleges.

He also believes that his comedy can be enjoyed by all audiences, but has found a place with African-American audiences.

"I went to a place to perform in Plainfield, and someone there mentioned that I would be good with African-Americans," Shin said. "So I've been accepted by those audiences."

Last week, Shin attended an audition to perform on the popular late-night talent television program, "Showtime at the Apollo," as one of 800 talent acts that auditioned.

"Of the 800, about 790 were African-American," Shin said. "I was in line for about eight hours. It was freezing. I finally gave a two-minute audition, but I knew I was going to be able to make it."

Sure enough, the 34-year-old Shin was recognized by the Showtime producers and he will perform on the show June 4.

"It's amazing," said Shin, who was born in Korea and lived in Jersey City, Belleville and Livingston, before settling in North Bergen five years ago. "Some comics take five to 10 years to get a sniff of being recognized. I'm getting recognized in five months. I truly think of comedy as a business. It's not just fun. It's what I do."

Shin said that he has high hopes and expectations with his comedy career.

"I want to become the Asian Al Sharpton," Shin said. "I want to be that voice for Asian-Americans. Someone has to step up to the plate and pick up the ball. We have to break down those ethnic stereotypes. Everyone says that Jackie Chan is great. But he's not promoting Asian people. I think we can all make a difference."
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