Awkwafina Is an Uproarious Fictional Version of Herself in ‘Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens’
Fresh off a Golden Globe win for her luminous performance in “The Farewell,” Awkwafina continues to explore the Asian-American experience, albeit this time with jokes about queefs and getting high, in her semi-autobiographical Comedy Central series “Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens.” Awkwafina goes by her real name here, Nora Lum, but instead of a movie star on the rise, she’s a 27-year-old part time rideshare driver who lives at home with her grandmother (Lori Tan Chinn) and her widowed father, Wally (BD Wong). This hilarious series showcases Awkwafina doing what she does best, as Nora finds herself in a series of offbeat situations in her search for purpose and fulfillment.
“Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens” will no doubt garner comparisons from the last major sitcom with a single Asian-American woman as its protagonist, Margaret Cho’s “All-American Girl,” which also happened to co-star Wong. Like that show, this one features a kooky grandmother who serves as the family’s connection to China and their culture, and there are clashes in the Lum household, although the character of Wally breaks the mold by not being a “tiger dad,” as Nora puts it, but an understanding parent who is still figuring a lot of things out himself. However, a lot of Nora’s experience’s are unique to her being a millennial. She’s more than just a fun-loving young woman trying to find herself, as the realities of a tough economy and sky-high rent prices have kept the ITT grad at home longer than she would have liked, although some of her personal choices, such as her penchant for smoking weed in the morning, haven’t helped her situation. Despite her slacker status, Nora is endearing and even admirable at times, constantly encouraging and sticking her neck out for other people, including Edmund (Bowen Yang), her sometimes smug Ivy League-educated cousin who gets in over his head with some Silicon Valley investors.
But what really makes “Nora From Queens” fresh is Awkwafina’s willingness to keep pushing the envelope, and Nora finds herself in a variety of hilarious predicaments that vary from the realistic, such as when she’s trying to carve out time to masturbate in peace, to the absurd, such as when a Soundcloud rapper turns her aforementioned queefs into a hit song. The show is far from formulaic, which is especially apparent in a standout episode late in the season that parodies the Korean drama format in telling the story of how Grandma met her husband. Awkwafina also does an excellent job of skewering the world of app development and marketing, as Nora and Edmund’s initial attempt at marketing their own app results in the Fyre Festival of launch parties. Eventually, Nora goes completely out of her comfort zone when she ends up in China in a season finale that sees Awkwafina using more of her idiosyncratic humor to explore how the differences between Chinese and American cultures.
While Awkwafina and the rest of the cast are funny enough on their own, it doesn’t hurt that a series of impressive guest stars pop up throughout the season, including Laverne Cox as God, trailblazing Asian-American actress Ming-Na Wen as Nora’s free-spirited aunt, Jennifer Esposito as Wally’s new age love interest, David Krumholtz as an unhinged marketing guru, Stephanie Hsu as the younger version of Grandma’s best friend, and Natasha Lyonne as a woman Nora meets in a salon.
“Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens” premieres Jan. 22 and airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.