In 2008, Wong gave the commencement speech for the UCLA English department — a proud moment for her conventional parents, who sat in the audience. Afterward, she overheard actor James Franco, who was one of the graduates, dismissing her performance as "not very good" and angling for an invitation to speak the following year. She tore into him on a blog post that was picked up by the feminist website Jezebel.
Even now, Wong's mother urges her to get a government job.
"The way my mom raised me was so conservative," Wong said. "She even tells me before I do a show — 'Don't talk bad about me.' I can't turn back. I'm not going to play the violin for an hour."
In person, Wong is anything but combative. She uses academic phrases like "heteronormative" to describe the subjects she satirizes. Since the pink Mercedes caught fire on the 405 Freeway, she has gone carless in Los Angeles, relying on a motor scooter and rides from friends. She shares her apartment with Octavia, a gray tabby who is the successor to Oliver, the sprayer featured in "Cat Lady."
In a DVD performance of "Cuckoo's Nest," Wong accosts a white audience member and fingers his hair, exclaiming at how soft it is. Asian women with straight, silky locks and black women with springy curls get the joke — curious strangers have touched their hair without permission.
In her private life, the in-your-face performer was so lonely that she dated almost anyone who came her way. Often, she was one in a long string of Asian girlfriends.
When Wong started writing for XO Jane, her editor suggested a piece about Asian fetishes. But she had been there, done that with Big Bad Chinese Mama. It was not until the Martin verdict and the racially polarized reaction to it that Wong plunged back into the issue of stereotyping.
"We have progressed and yet we haven't. We've just figured out how to hide obvious markers of racism," Wong said. "There are people who think, 'Look at all my diverse friends,' or 'I'm not racist — I've dated all these Asian women,' or 'I'm so nice to everyone.' It's avoiding a very difficult topic."
In an XO Jane piece published last July, Wong responded to the justifications her ex-boyfriends have given for exclusively dating Asian women.
Statement: "I don't see race."
Response: "Then how is it that your dating habits have me feeling like I'm on an assembly line of Asian blow-up dolls?!"
Wong's next show, "The Wong Street Journal," will be about global poverty and her recent trip to Uganda, where she made an impromptu rap album with locals.
The Fusion television segment, which aired in late November, begins with host Alicia Menendez describing a survey of online daters. According to the survey, men prefer Asian women over other races, while women tend to prefer white men.
To Josh Fischer, whose company Are You Interested produced the survey, the results prove that people nowadays are more open to interracial dating.
Actually, Wong responds, what comes to mind is a stereotype of Asians as "submissive, delicate, model-girlfriend types."
On the other hand, she says, why not embrace her own popularity?
That's when she launches into her "I can do anything I want" taunt.
"Kristina's going to talk about that?" said Phil Yu, author of the blog Angry Asian Man. "She's going to come in with something. True to form, it was pretty spectacular."
Yet, judging by the online reaction, not everyone got the message.
"I am a sucker for Asian women ...," one man wrote. "Aside from that exotic trait about her (yes, I said it, I don't know where that exotic trait comes from but it's there) she has a very fun hilariously witty personality ... that any guy would be lucky to date her ... Believe me, it would be awesome to date you, Ms. Wong."