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Former ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Writer Responds to ‘Roseanne’ Jab

Did Roseanne cross a line during the Tuesday, April 3, episode? That is the question! After falling asleep in front of the TV, Dan (John Goodman) tells his wife, “We missed all the shows about black and Asian families.” Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) answers: “They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.”

It was a joke that seemingly took a jab at Fresh Off the Boat and Black-ish, two ABC sitcoms. The revival’s showrunner Bruce Helford defended the joke to The Hollywood Reporter, saying it was just “commenting on the fact that all sitcoms really want everybody to feel included of all diversities and it’s kind of a funny thing.”

Now, former Fresh Off the Boat writer Kourtney Kang is opening up about her reaction to the episode’s controversial joke, admitting she thought the line was “petty,” but first she brushed it off.

“I was a writer and co-executive producer on Fresh Off the Boat for its first three seasons, and though I’ve moved on to write features, the show holds a special place in my heart. When I grew up there were no Asian families on TV. Then Margaret Cho got a show on the air and I was obsessed. It meant so much to me to see an Asian family on TV, and then it got canceled,” Kang wrote in an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter Friday, April 6. “Twenty-some years passed and finally another show about an Asian family came along, and it was good … really good. That same year Black-ish premiered, and that show was good too.”

After hearing the joke on Roseanne, she couldn’t stop thinking about it so she wanted to figure out why it was bothering her so much. She then revealed that when she was doing a play in fourth grade, a kid “slanted his eyes and sang, ‘Ching-Chong-Chinese-People’” in her direction. She told him, “I’m not Chinese. My dad is Korean. And I was born in Hawaii.” According to King, he answered, “It’s all the same.”

“His message was clear. All that ‘Asian-y’ stuff is the same, but it’s not the same as him,” Kang, who was also an executive producer for How I Met Your Mother, revealed. “He was saying, ‘You’re different. You may be here doing Wizard of Oz with a bunch of white suburban kids, but you are not one of us.’”

She then recalled another instance she experienced as a teenager in which her friends saw two Asian women walking slowly and speaking Chinese. Her friend said, “Ugh, why don’t they just go back to where they came from?” When her friend noticed what she said, she told Kang, “I don’t mean you. I mean them.”

“In these jokes, and in the others like these, at the heart of them, whether the joke-teller means it or not, is a divisive spirit. ‘Us.’ ‘Them.’ It’s always drawing lines. Separating,” Kang continued. “Whenever these jokes have been said to me, the thing that is the most hurtful is not the insensitive dullard who said it. There’s always going to be people like that. What hurts the most is when everyone else in the room laughs.”

Roseanne airs on ABC Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET.



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