Monica Ogden on Good Morning, Viet Mom.
By Monica Ogden / February 25, 2019
FRANCO NGUYEN IN GOOD MORNING, VIET MOM / PHOTO BY DAHLIA KATZ
As part of his 2019 tour, Franco Nguyen opens Good Morning, Viet Mom at the Belfry’s SPARK Festival. Originally produced by the Soaring Skies Collective, Good Morning, Viet Mom is part stand up comedy, part storytelling, part documentary film, and for me, huge part relatable.
I’m a big fan of Asian moms. Partly because I have one, and partly because they have so much experience and wisdom to share with the younger generations. Of course not all Asian moms are the same (despite our commonality of being cast as white actors in movies) but sometimes, we share similarities of experience when it comes to (im)migration stories. Such is evident in Good Morning Vietmom, where playwright and performer Franco Nguyen describes truly getting to know his mother by taking a trip to Vietnam, where she grew up.
Franco really doesn’t miss a beat. He’s hilarious, he’s honest, he’s imperfect. Marginalized people and people of color tend to be experts in comedy, because some of us use humor to survive the violence that white supremacy brings upon our communities. Franco is a great example of this, bringing levity to the lack of Asian representation in media and Hollywood (by calling himself Matt Damon, which if you get it, you get it), as well as challenging people who think all Asian people are the same.
“The comedy in a way is to ease us through the intensely dramatic moments of the show” he explains. “I think there is something very universal about my show. I’ve had people from Bangladesh, Portugal, China, New Brunswick, (all exotic places) connect with it. It’s shown me that it’s not just children of immigrants who mourn the idea that they’ll never have an honest conversation with their parents.”
Franco and I also spoke about intergenerational trauma as a source for show material. Intergenerational trauma refers to trauma held in the body by survivors, and passed down to their second and subsequent generations. Franco’s mother’s trauma becomes apparent as Franco travels back to Vietnam, and begins to unravel both his and his mothers emotions associated with their ancestral homelands.
“Vietnam is a very emotional place for me, and for a long time, just an idea to me. It was the place my mom would call all the time. When she would pick up the phone she would be laughing or crying, but I could always feel she was more at home when she was on the phone with people from Vietnam. She felt at home with us too. But there was a different joy, a playfulness that I think came out more when she was on the phone. All my relatives are in Vietnam so I always had an idea that there was another ‘home’ aside from home”
While he’s based in Toronto, our own city could use more storytellers along the lines of Franco Nguyen. While Asian-Canadian stories continue to be underrepresented in this country, they are even more underrepresented in Victoria, alongside the struggles of Black, Indigenous, Performers of Color and their voices. Our stories are vital, and in this case, damn funny.
Good Morning Viet Mom is a powerful story that you don’t want to miss at this years Spark Festival. If you need to laugh, and find better ways to connect with your parents, siblings, family members, this is a show for you. I certainly can’t wait to bring my mom.