Atsuko Okatsuka Talks HBO Comedy Special, Her Grandmother and Her Love for Kewpie
Atsuko Okatsuka, one of Variety’s “10 Comics to Watch for 2022,” graces the latest cover of Contrast Magazine, wearing the first inclusive jewelry collection by Kewpie® x ONCH. Airing this December, fans will be able to watch Atsuko’s standup comedy special on HBO Max. “After a year of touring, I’ve finally shot my HBO special, and it’s coming out in December! I’m excited for everyone to see it. It’s dedicated to all the lovers, all the beautiful weirdos.”
Thanks to TikTok, Atsuko soared to viral heights after posting a video with her grandmother doing what’s now known as “The Drop Challenge” to Beyonce’s track “Yoncé.” It’s been under one year since the video “dropped,” and the audio has already been recreated more than 440,000+ times on TikTok alone, including celebrities like Chelsea Handler, Camila Cabello, Tia Mowry, Heidi Klum, SNL, Bella Dose, Shaq, and even J-Pop boy band STRAY KIDS and viral cosplayer Twisted Pennywise.
Atsuko credits Kewpie for playing such a significant role in her early childhood. “My Grandma would put Kewpie mayo on asparagus, salmon, rice; you name it. It literally nurtured my childhood!”
Illustrated 113 years ago as “a goodwill ambassador to spread love, laughter, and philanthropy,” Kewpie’s beloved character was originally illustrated by famed cartoonist Rose O’Neill, whose work was to fight for women’s right to vote, support racial equality, and advocacy for the poor. Rolling Stone credited the Kewpie brand for illustrating “pop culture cuteness.” The impact made by O’Neill’s work landed her an induction into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 2019, alongside Jane Fonda and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and more recently at San Diego Comic Con into the Eisner Hall of Fame.
Keep an eye out for Atsuko’s standup comedy special this December, exclusively on HBO Max. “I really took the time during the pandemic to put together my hour of standup. Stuff I’d never talked about.”
Read the full interview with Atsuko Okatsuka below and learn more about the new Kewpie collection here: www.onch.us. Follow Atsuko on Instagram and TikTok to stay in the loop as we watch her grow and flourish along her journey.
Your comedy always has a personal touch to it. For example, you love to incorporate your grandmother in a lot of your videos. Tell me more about the bond between you and Grandma Li! My Grandma’s always been a caretaker. She raised me after raising three kids of her own and still takes care of my mother. So, when I found comedy and started acting a fool and making silly videos, she took interest in partaking and we really started letting loose. It was a big part of us having fun together and decompressing, and it was a huge plus that it was making other folks so happy to watch too!
You have your comedy special coming out on HBO Max this fall! How did this all come together? I really took the time during the pandemic to put together my hour of standup. Stuff I’d never talked about, that was maybe difficult to find the comedy in (like talking about my mother’s schizophrenia). Then as I garnered more fans online, I decided to tour with it. After a year of touring, I’ve finally shot my HBO special and it’s coming out in December! I’m excited for everyone to see it. It’s dedicated to all the lovers, all the beautiful weirdos.
What’s your philosophy in life? My philosophy in life is giving yourself a break and allowing your true self to be the guiding light. Not judging yourself because you’re not mainstream “cool” or what popular standards say you should be like. My Grandma lives her life unapologetically, and that really spoke with me enough to continue living in that philosophy.
Kewpie has been a staple brand for 113 years. Can you share the first time you felt a connection with the Kewpie brand? Oh my gosh, 113 years?! I am just a tiny part of its history! Growing up in Japan I ate a TON of mayo. And it was always Kewpie. Might be silly but that’s literally my first connection to it: My Grandma would put Kewpie mayo on asparagus, salmon, rice, you name it. It literally nurtured my childhood!
How have you been able to navigate in such a male-dominated industry as comedy? Finding your own people. Online platforms really help with this because you just speak your truth and others who feel the same or feel seen from what you stand for will come find you. Then you can build an empire from there, not needing to go through traditional doors to get in.
The definition of Contrast is “to be strikingly different.” What makes Atsuko Okatsuka strikingly different? I am unapologetically fun and artful and full of love!
Talent: Atsuko Okatsuka.
Photographer: Anthony Vanity.
Stylist: Andrew Philip Nguyen.
Makeup: Natalie Wertheim.
Behind-the-Scenes: Jason Xanon.
Production Assistant: Betsy Zanjani.
Delectable cakes by Puffect Bakery Cafe.
Interview: Michael D. Monroe.
Contrast Magazine would love to extend a huge thank you to Lady Gaga’s Haus Labs for bringing this editorial to life but supplying the makeup for each look. Shop Haus Labs now by clicking here!
The definition of Contrast is to be strikingly different. What makes you strikingly different?