Ali Wong is methodical when it comes to the choice of words. He’ll work on a joke over and over again until he’s satisfied with a full sentence turn or finds the sharpest synonym. Wong told viewers on the Netflix special Hard Knock Wife, “That’s when you know you made it. When you eat mangoes sliced by a man named Noah. I want Noah Mango.”
“There’s one thing that’s really funny about the name Noah, but it took me maybe 10 tries before I got to it,” Wong said. “I tried Jeffrey Mango [but Jeffrey is a little more shapeless.’ Noah is creating a very special face.”
What makes Wong so wary of writing books is this extreme attention to his craft. The comedian tried to return his advance after signing an agreement to write his letter collection Dear Girls to his daughters. An avid reader, Wong continued to predict his literary heroes – people like Zadie Smith and Ta-Nehisi Coates – and his own works for a second time. Eventually, he learned to love the rhythm of writing for a reader rather than a live audience. “What I appreciated about the book was that I had this room to breathe in. There wasn’t that much pressure on me to get that much laughter per minute,” Wong says. “He gave me real estate for more exploration than I could do on stage. He was very, very free in a way I didn’t expect.”
Wong’s childhood, loss of virginity, Asian culture and thoughtful (and sensual) letters about working women resonated among readers, and Dear Girls earned a place on the New York Times bestseller list. Since the book is now available paper hardcot, Wong was pleasantly surprised to watch the collection find a second life among fans. “I get all these messages, especially during [quarantine], from people who seemingly find comfort and joy,” he says. “People find it worth it because every [parent] is much closer to their children, whether they like it or not. Including me.”
Below, Wong gives an idea of THC gums, Craigslist and The Vanishing Half.
Ali Wong – While reading in the toilet:
I just finished The Vanishing Half, which was beautiful. When I started one morning, I didn’t leave the bathroom for about an hour and a half. There was a ring around my butt that was full, just like the toilet seat marks because I couldn’t get out of the bathroom. Then I sat in the living room until 3:00 in the morning because I was glued to the pages.
When taking hula hoop breaks without writing:
I have this giant weighted [rainbow] hula circle and I’m going to go into my backyard and hula circle for about 10 minutes. It’s very thought-provoking and the rainbow [colors] bring me joy. I think she’s like the little girl in me. Besides, it’s kind of ribbed like a condom for his taste. That’s why he’s giving me this mini-massage on my back, which is really nice. It also helps my posture because I like to crash when I’m at the computer all day.
I bought it [hula hoop] on Craigslist. I’d buy everything on Craigslist before I became half famous. I remember once bought a bicycle helmet and negotiated with this Japanese woman, and she said, “I’m sorry, you’re Ali Wong?” I’ve never been asked this before during a transaction on Craigslist. And I’m like, “Uh…” I said, “Are you Ali Wong and you’re negotiating vigorously with me for a bicycle helmet on my door right now?” I think he’s really a little pleased and a little disgusted.
Ali Wong – On dressing a diary to write:
I like to wear a big, wavy dress. I like Natalie Martin dresses or Szeki’s dresses from 7115. It’s a big, gorgeous dress that I can easily lift to go to the bathroom or sit in different positions at my desk. I love dresses that are very airy and wide, where I can take my guts out and relax from sweating. Sometimes when I’m disappointed, I really sweat. That’s why I want so much ventilation.
Snacks in the gas article:
I go straight to my kitchen and eat like 10 little bowls of cereal. I’ll tell myself this is the last one … and then continue to eat a small bowl of Puffins or chia granola. I love pork peel, too, and I’ll put it in vinegar. I’m a kombucha fan, too. It’s very gaseous[happens]. It’s too gassy.
After a long day, relaxation’s favorite way:
Read More By Alann R