‘We love free sh*t’: Comedian Irene Tu is unafraid of poking fun at her Chinese background in new album

‘We love free sh*t’: Comedian Irene Tu is unafraid of poking fun at her Chinese background in new album‘We love free sh*t’: Comedian Irene Tu is unafraid of poking fun at her Chinese background in new album
Image: Irene Tu
Full of material compiled over the span of a decade, stand-up comedian Irene Tu’s new 15-track album is nothing short of hilarious.
A Chicago native, Tu has performed on big platforms such as “The Drew Barrymore Talk Show” and Comedy Central’s “Clusterfest.” She released her first album, titled “We’re Done Now,” late last month on her website.
“I wanted to name it something from the album that kind of encapsulated me,” Tu tells NextShark. “And my humor in general, and my outlook on life. It is named after something I say in the album, but… that’s kind of me as a person. Kind of a little raunchy and grumpy. I’ve been described as Larry David before.”
Comedy legend Larry David, who is bald, white and typically dressed down in a neutral outfit, is the last person to come to mind when looking at Tu, who is seemingly the complete opposite: Chinese American and rocking a bright red jacket for our interview.
As Tu’s sense of humor becomes more apparent during our sit-down, the analogy makes more sense – she is hilariously dark and quick-witted, and no topic is off-limits.
One of her favorite topics is how she dresses, which is often in a pair of slacks with a collared shirt or dark jacket.
“I am gay, and I look like this, so people will come up to me and ask, ‘Hey, if I’m into your look does that make me gay?’” starts Tu in one of her stand-up gigs. “If you’re a girl, then yes, that makes you gay. And if you’re a guy… that also makes you gay?”

Crowned one of Vulture’s “Comedians You Should and Will Know in 2019” prior to the pandemic, Tu has since opened for big names in comedy such as fellow stand-up and close friend Taylor Tomlinson, who has two Netflix specials and a fan base of nearly a million followers on her Instagram. Tomlinson has frequently posted about Tu, sharing funny moments from their time together on tour.
Tu’s album humorously covers a wide range of topics: everything from “Coming Out” as gay to her mom — whom Tu strongly recommends on Track 4 of her album that other people come out to also — to liking “Boring Sex,” to being a “Single Juggler,” all with a fresh twist.
In addition to topics related to coming out and being gay, Tu is also unafraid to poke fun at her Chinese American background. 
“That’s the crazy thing to me, that people are still not getting the vaccine, because it’s free.” Tu starts. “And as a Chinese person, I’m very offended. We love free sh*t. I’m showing up to these vaccine centers with Tupperware, like fill it up. I’m going to eat it for lunch all of next week.”
Asked to describe her comedy style in one sentence, she replies: “I hate describing my own comedy, but… I would say in general it’s like if Larry David was a millennial and very dark.”
Tu never imagined herself becoming a comedian, having come from a family of doctors. She says both a crush and former stand-up comedian-turned-talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres were the beginning points for her.
“I just didn’t think you could be a comedian, as like a job… Most of my family went to [medical] school. It was kind of expected that I would do college and then do more schooling after,” Tu says.
“But when I was in high school, I got really into Ellen, like I loved her talk show. And then I was like, maybe I should start doing stand-up. And then I was like, I want to be funny. And a girl that I liked told me I was funny, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, maybe I’ll try comedy.’” 
Asked why she turned to stand-up specifically, she says, “Stand-up is like a solo activity [where] you say what you want to say and people laugh…. And you know, I was an only child, I worked better solo. Here we are, 10 years later, still doing stand-up!”
When asked about how her parents reacted to her deciding to do comedy for a career, she laughs and states, “I never really made an announcement, I just kind of did it. And I kept doing it. And they’ve always just kind of been like, ‘Yeah, whatever you want to do is cool.’ I’m sure they [would] prefer I [were] a doctor, but that’s fine.”
In addition to stand-up, Tu has also taken stabs at acting and writing, featuring on “Take My Wife” Season 2 and Viceland’s “Funny How?”
Tu is currently on tour and is next scheduled to perform in Boulder on April 11 and Chicago soon after from April 12 through 16.
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