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A Koreatown comic on jokes, gout and K-town secrets

A Koreatown comic on jokes, gout and K-town secrets
Comedian and actor Danny Cho took this selfie at a restaurant in South Korea that specialized in grilled pig skin. (Selfie by Danny Cho)

Comedian and actor Danny Cho, who was raised in East L.A. and has lived in Koreatown for most of his post-college life, met the California section's Victoria Kim at a sleek coffee shop in the heart of Koreatown that sells both kimchi carbonara and quesadillas. They chatted, and then we emailed Cho some questions and crunched the conversation into this:

You were raised in Boyle Heights and live in K-town. Sing us a Korean narcocorrido, please. By email.

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I am surprised that someone who was raised in Korea would ask me this question. There is no such thing, and shame on you for such an ignorant request.

That was my privileged white editor's stupid microaggression. Anyway, your Web series-turned-movie, "Ktown Cowboys": Is it (a) a travel guide, (b) a cautionary tale or (c) an elegy to the Koreatown that once was?

The web series was a collection of stories of what Koreatown was like in the past for me and the director, Daniel "DPD" Park. The feature film reflects closer to what K-town is like now. The feature film is a story about five friends dealing with growing out of all the fun and debauchery that we had in our 20s.

Did you party as hard as the movie trailer suggests?

I partied pretty hard. So much so that I got gout at 28.

Please arrange the following in order of importance to making Koreatown what it is: music, food, booze, a dash of illegality.

Food is at the very top. Some of the best Korean food in the world. And it's perfect for me when I crave my mom's cooking without her nagging about how much fatter and balder I've gotten.

Second on the list would be the drinking. Soju is the most-sold alcohol in the world, according to many studies. Ultimately, it's not how much Koreans drink but the settings and styles that make it special. There are regular dive bars — standard Westernized — to soju cafes, and what I would like to call K-town's speakeasies.

The dash of illegality makes it fun. I won't go into the details.

What Koreatown secret do you wish hadn't gotten out?

Well, I believe you wrote an article about it, Victoria, but I am not pleased about the shutting down of after-hours drinking spots. I am also not happy that most of my favorite Korean restaurants have a line to get in now.

Why aren't there more Asian or Korean American films, TV series or comics?

The lack of real in-depth Asian characters is due to the country and business being ignorant about our particular immigrant upbringing. Things are changing though, with shows like "Fresh Off the Boat" and "Dr. Ken."

You thought Korea would be a giant Koreatown, but discovered it wasn't. Huh?

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I realized that K-town and my Korean upbringing was formed when my parents immigrated to the U.S. in the late '70s. K-town was built with the intention of not forgetting their past and preserving the Korea they left behind. Korea, on the other hand, developed tremendously in the last 50 years. So there is a bit of disconnect.

When someone says a joke offends them, do you hug them or slap them?

I just ignore them. This generation of people seems to be the most offended. People get fired for tweets they put out years ago. It's getting ridiculous. People laugh until whatever cause or topic they feel adamant about is being attacked.

What, if anything, is too touchy to joke about?

I support any comedian's attempt at funny and I do believe that nothing is off limits. Comedy is an art form and it shouldn't be handcuffed by the PC cops. Whether you find it funny or not is all on you, the consumer.

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