Having turned standup into a full-time job instead of something to dabble in between waitressing shifts and casting calls, Yumi Nagashima has a couple of small goals moving forward.
“I want to do standup comedy until I’m 88 years old, like Betty White,” the Tokyo-via-Vancouver comedian says, on the line from her apartment in the West End. “I kind of want to go on Ellen, and I also want a 30-minute Netflix special. This year would be amazing, but maybe next year if this year doesn’t work out.”
This ambitiousness is not lost on those who are paid to notice such things. Not that long ago, Nagashima was contacted by the Simon Cowell–created ratings juggernaut America’s Got Talentto see if she was interested in submitting an audition tape. She thought better of it, partly because she was worried she’d have to censor herself, something she did plenty of in tradition-bound Japan.
“I thought, ‘Okay, it’s great that I can get a crazy amount of exposure,’ ” she says. “But I also felt like it would be something where I’d have to ask for permission to do what I do.”
Presumably, that means Nagashima understands mainstream America isn’t totally ready for an adorably accented, deceptively demure Japanese woman announcing “When I am sad, my clitoris gets cold. Like a little frozen edamame.”
Or enraging the politically correct with “It’s actually great working in a Japanese restaurant because you learn a lot about other cultures. So far, I’ve learned that Chinese people are cheap. And Indian people are also cheap.”
More importantly, though, as her career takes off in ways even she might have predicted three years ago, Nagashima has fully embraced the idea that nobody (including the star-makers at America’s Got Talent) is going to tell her what to do.