Got a minute? Paper Heart star and comedian Charlyne Yi opens up about playing AA meetings, how pity has worked in her favor, and the weirdness of stardom.
Q: One thing that made an impression on me when I saw Paper Heart is that your glasses are really distinctive. How long have you worn them?
A: I think since junior high? The same ones. I bought, like, four of the same ones, because they kept breaking. I was playing basketball, and they broke. I hate finding new glasses. The pair before I had from fourth grade, so I went from fourth grade to junior high school and junior high to this.
Q: I've read that you used to play AA meetings. What does it mean to play an AA meeting?
A: Well, there aren't that many comedy clubs in Fontana, [California,] and when I first started I was, like, 18¿, so I couldn't really get into bars or clubs. So comedians were being inventive and holding comedy shows at AA meetings. The first time it went really well. The second time I got heckled by a woman, and she kept saying "Boo, you suck!" Very awkward.
Q: You've said you don't know how to interview people. What was it like doing a documentary if you didn't feel confident about that?
A: It was scary. I felt like a little child with a notebook. Sometimes I would just blank out and awkwardly just go, "Ahhhhh"—and I think they felt so bad for me, kind of like a parent seeing this poor child—they would chime in and kind of drive the train of conversation.
Q: So maybe it worked as a sort of accidental technique.
A: Yeah, I think so! It definitely helped, them feeling sorry for me.
Q: The documentary segments interspersed with the narrative story line are very similar to When Harry Met Sally. How do you feel about that comparison?
A: I still haven't seen the movie, but I YouTubed it recently and saw the ending. I got kind of teary-eyed when she's like, "I hate you—I hate you so much!" And I was like, "Oh, I think I'd like this movie."
Q: You've had cameo appearances in things like Knocked Up, but how do you feel about being a star? Is it weird to be in gossip columns?
A: Yeah, it's very weird. I feel like sometimes journalism isn't the art it used to be. It's a shame that it's become so invested in tabloids and personal things. I think it takes away from the art of the film when people are trying to figure out another person's life, which I think is pretty impossible unless you know them.
Trailer for Paper Heart