Improv performer and teacher Jason R. Chin dies at 46

Jason Chin

Jason Chin during a performance at iO Theater in Chicago on Saturday, July 19, 2014.

Chicago Tribune:

Jason R. Chin, a longtime improv performer, director and instructor at iO Theater, was reported dead late Thursday. He was 46.

His death was announced via Facebook by Charna Halpern, founder and proprietor of iO.

A integral member of the comedy theater for the past 20 years, Chin was a former head of its training center and helped create a number of shows, including “Whirled News Tonight,” which uses current events as a springboard for improvisation and is now a decade into its run.

Chin was scheduled to teach a class at iO Thursday night but did not show up, which was unusual. “He wasn’t the sort of guy to forget or flake out,” Halpern said. “So we were calling him and calling him.”

Two friends went to his Chicago apartment, and when he did not answer, called the police. A Cook County medical examiner’s report Friday said the cause of death was heart disease. “People knew right away something was wrong because he always showed up,” Halpern said.

Chin was born in June 1968 in the Flushing neighborhood of New York City. Like so many others, he moved to Chicago to pursue improv. He was working in marketing for a computer company in Champaign, Ill., and visiting Chicago on the weekends, where a pal was taking classes with Tina Fey. In the documentary “Whether the Weather,” he recalls seeing Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert do an improv set after their Second City show one night and was intimidated. “They were improvising songs that melted my brain, they were that good. Then I went to see a student show and they weren’t that good and I thought, ‘Well, I can do that.’

That planted the seed and he moved to town in 1995, becoming friendly with performers including Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch. He had since gone on to train a number of other performers including “Saturday Night Live’s” Vanessa Bayer.

One thing I loved about Jason,” Halpern said, “was he was always watching the newer students and plucking out the people he thought were good and giving them a chance and throwing them into the iO family.”

A calm, steadying presence at iO, Chin was also something of a pop culture nerd, which led to a “Star Wars” spoof in the mid-90s titled “Jedi: A Musical Tour de Force,” which ran for a number of months before the George Lucas camp sent a cease-and-desist letter.

His ability to improvise a well-packaged story while at the same time providing inspiration for the improvisation that followed was astounding,” said Annoyance Theatre founder Mick Napier. “While watching him you also think, ‘This guy has that many great stories in him?’ He will be so dearly missed.

Chin wrote a book on improv titled “Long-Form Improvisation & The Art Of Zen: A Manual For Advanced Performers” (2009). From 2009 to 2011, he wrote the blog “An Improvised Blog” for ChicagoNow, a Tribune property. More recently he wrote the blog JasonChinFTW.

Since moving into the theater’s new space in the Clybourn Corridor six months ago, Halpern said she’s noticed “little toy dinosaurs scattered around the theater.” Only recently did she learn that Chin was behind that, “just putting them throughout the theater to give the place some character.”

Jason Chin is survived by his mother Rose Marie Chin, father John Chin, brother Jonathan and sister Jennifer.

Here’s a particularly fun clip of Jason Chin performing on stage:

Margaret Cho’s Golden Globes bit accused of racism

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 Huffington Post:

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler didn’t shy away from controversial topics during Sunday’s Golden Globes, but some viewers felt one of their bits went too far. During the broadcast, Fey and Poehler interacted with comedian Margaret Cho, who played the newest member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a North Korean army general. Here she is getting a photo taken with Meryl Streep.

The segments with Cho — which also included the comic speaking with an exaggerated accent — were met with some outrage online. Numerous viewers called the jokes racist, while many critics cited the gags as a show low point.

Oh my gosh, the fake North Korean journalist is back. I’ve decided: This really needs to end,” wrote Emily Orley for BuzzFeed.

That bit with Margaret Cho as the Kim regime’s representative in the Hollywood Foreign Press, which managed a trio of awards-show sins: it was unfunny, racist, and incredibly long,” wrote Vulture’s editors. “Twenty years ago, Cho was the first Asian-American woman to headline her own sitcom — how did we end up here?

Cho has a long relationship with Fey, having played Kim Jong Il on “30 Rock.”

And while online reaction was negative, Fey and Poehler didn’t seem to mind too much during the show. The duo brought Cho back out on stage to end the 72nd annual Golden Globes.

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