Advertisement
Sunday Funday

How to have the best Sunday in L.A., according to ‘drop’ mastermind Atsuko Okatsuka

Illustration of Atsuko Okatsuka with fruit, noodles, lipstick, a microphone, and a glass of mezcal around her.
(Scott Anderson / For The Times)
Share

In Sunday Funday, L.A. people give us a play-by-play of their ideal Sunday around town. Find ideas and inspiration on where to go, what to eat and how to enjoy life on the weekends.

When comedian Atsuko Okatsuka makes weird noises with her mouth, booty slaps bananas in an Asian grocery store or invents a TikTok challenge that zigzags across the globe, she’s expressing her emotions in a way that feels natural to her.

She’s a physical performer — whether online, on an L.A. stage or in her HBO special from December — something she attributes to her immigrant experience and early exposure to Lucille Ball, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.

Advertisement

“I’m still not that comfortable expressing myself solely in words, especially English words,” said Okatsuka, who moved to L.A. from Japan when she was 10. “All these people were physical comedians.” And because of that, their comedy transcended language.

One move helped Okatsuka do the same in a big way in 2022. Ever seen someone (or a dog) sensually squatting on TikTok as Beyoncé shouts “Gimme Some”? Okatsuka started the “drop challenge” while in Little Tokyo with her grandma, Ying-Hsi Li. Beyoncé's “Partition” was stuck in Okatsuka’s head, and she thought, “How funny would it be if every time the beat dropped, your body did too?” The “drop challenge” hashtag now has more than 1.4 billion views (and Grandma Li has 17,600 Twitter followers.)

Planning your weekend?

Stay up to date on the best things to do, see and eat in L.A.

Okatsuka and Li often spend weekends together. On her ideal L.A. Sunday, Okatsuka would eat dan dan noodles with her grandma and husband and then savor their fight over the check, before goofing around at the mall and later hosting a show. Okatsuka regularly performs at Largo at the Coronet, Dynasty Typewriter, the Elysian Theater and Hollywood Improv.

Here’s a rundown of what else she’d do on her own Sunday Funday, edited for length and clarity.

11 a.m.: Review Saturday-night hijinks in bed
My husband and I are lying in bed still, and we’re talking about the comedy show that happened last night, the friends that we got to catch up with, the newest jokes by some of our friends, if a joke of mine worked or not. Ryan [Harper Gray], my husband, is someone I love collaborating with because he’s not a comedian, but he’s an artist and very witty. And I’m a workaholic. So, obviously, I’m still trying to write jokes on a Sunday morning right after waking up.

12 p.m.: Rush to Arcadia to see Grandma
Then we get dressed frantically because we always over-talk and run late. We’re rushing because we have plans to see Grandma for lunch. She’s hungry. She’s waiting. I’m trying to find matching socks, but I can’t. I think fashion is embracing your mistakes, so I’m wearing mismatched socks. And they look beautiful because one’s pink and one’s blue and my outfit happens to be yellow, and I think they all go great together.

We always go out to eat for lunch. That’s a favorite pastime for all of us but especially my grandma. Because that’s how she shows love, by making sure that we all eat. We are going to eat our favorite Chinese food in Arcadia — they call it the Chinese Beverly Hills.

We’ll show up to her place, and she’ll have tea and a fruit plate ready for us. There will be pomegranate, guava, persimmon. And we’ll catch up on the latest. The latest is like, the TV isn’t working, your mom broke the remote control. [laughs]

From soup dumplings to gyoza and ravioli: Here’s a guide to Los Angeles’ best dumplings, with many highlighted in video series “The Bucket List: Dumplings.”

1 p.m.: Get hot pots and bicker over who pays
We go to the Santa Anita mall to a nice restaurant, Meizhou Dongpo. People usually go for a special occasion. Maybe someone turned 80. Maybe it’s a wedding rehearsal dinner. But we go there on just a regular Sunday because every day is special. We order the dan dan noodles. They have this hot pot with Spam and quail eggs in it that we really love getting. It’s a shared situation, and we’re acting like we’re at a buffet.

We will be Instagram Stories-ing our lunch. We’re eating and we’re giggling about being teenagers on our phones. There’s a bit of a language barrier between my grandma and my husband. My grandma speaks Mandarin, and Ryan speaks English. Playing around with social media is how they communicate. He’s putting a new filter on her, and she’s laughing, “Oh my God. I look like Kim Kardashian.”

Grandma and my husband always fight for the check. Grandma will typically get up and be like, “I need to go use the restroom.” And then she’ll shuffle away and pay for lunch. So when Grandma goes, “I need to go use the restroom.” Ryan goes, “Actually I do too.” And he’ll use her old age to his advantage. She walks slower, so he gets to the cash register first and pays for the meal. He’s beat Grandma to it. Now Grandma is sort of faux mad. She’s like, “Oh, how could you? It’s supposed to be on me.” She’s all quote-unquote mad, but she likes being paid for. That’s kind of the physical fun we have together. I love to watch the drama play out.

3 p.m.: Pretend to feel rich and dance on an escalator
We start window shopping. The Nordstrom will sometimes have random events. Sometimes they’re serving Champagne and free snacks. We love looking at all the expensive dresses and being like, “Can you believe this? Oh so pricy.” But then I’ll still try it on. My husband and grandma love picking out clothes for me, and then I’ll do a runway for them. My husband will probably record it for Instagram Stories with a caption like, “This is us, feeling rich for an afternoon.” We love doing that, pretending we’re rich.

Then we’ll go check our points at Sephora just to see what free things I can get. If I have 200 points, I can get a tiny lotion. I’ll buy a lipstick or blush for Grandma. She doesn’t wear that much makeup, but as she gets older, she’s like, “I just want to look like I’m blushing all the time. Like I’m a little warm or shy.” We’ll get more points because of the new pink blush from Rare Beauty, Selena Gomez’s brand.

Reimagining and redefining beauty on your own terms has the power to nourish, heal and unearth the truest version of you.

We will try on some of the makeup too so we look glamorous. And then we’re ready to make a dance video for all the good people out there. We start location scouting around the mall. Oh, Ryan sees an escalator. Oh, that escalator is long and epic, looking over the food court. I’ll have a song stuck in my head, and I’ll choreograph something really fast. And boom, we’re going down that escalator. My husband goes down first so that he can film us. I’m dancing. Maybe Grandma’s just clapping along. We look gorgeous.

4:30 p.m.: Dance to Ed Sheeran with mom
We go back to Grandma’s house. Ryan will start playing a video game on his phone. I want to edit the dance video stat. Grandma is making tea. I’ll have a quick quiet time to gather my thoughts and the strength to go upstairs to see Mom. My mom has schizophrenia, she has seizures, she’s afraid to leave the house.

I’ll sit next to her and gently talk to her about how she’s been doing, try to make her laugh. “Hey, I heard you’re getting accused of breaking the remote control.” And she’ll laugh. I’ll play music from my phone to get her up and dancing with me. She loves this song called “I Don’t Care” by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber. We play that, and she loves it because it’s like an anthem. It’s a way for us to have fun. I get her exercising, get her blood flowing.

5:30 p.m.: Tell jokes to the trees
We say our goodbyes and go home. We ran a summer camp for Mom and Grandma [with all the activities]. And now I have to start thinking about jokes for my show at the Largo at 8 p.m. I don’t have a preshow ritual, but I go over my jokes outside alone in front of the trees while I’m at home. The plants are looking down at me, and I’m saying things out loud to them.

Cheer up at one of these spots for stand-up comedy in L.A.

8 p.m.: Host a show at the Largo (and snack on spicy tuna)
The show is “Atsuko and Friends.” I’ve curated a lineup of comedians I love. During the show, my amazing, supportive husband will run to get us dinner from Kochi, the sushi place. We get the spicy tuna hand rolls. We get the spicy tuna bowl. We’re spicy tuna freaks. I’ll eat it in between introducing the comedians. I know I’m going to be hungry after the show too, so I have him get me mentaiko udon, which is cod roe in this creamy udon mix.

10 p.m.: Dance like it’s the last day on Earth
After the show — the audience loved it, lights out — we’ll go to E.P. & L.P. I drink mezcal on the rocks. My husband will drink a glass of Cabernet. We’ll be dancing with our friends. I don’t know why, but I act like every day is the last day on Earth.


Advertisement