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‘The Office’ Actor Kat Ahn Calls Out Show’s Asian Jokes: ‘You’re Told to Shut Up and Be Grateful’

Cast members Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey previously said the show's anti-Asian jokes made them "cringe."

Steve Carell as Michael Scott on "The Office"

Steve Carell as Michael Scott on “The Office”

Paul Drinkwater / © NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection

Kat Ahn is an actress who appeared in the December 2006 episode of “The Office” titled “A Benihana Christmas,” but she tells The Washington Post (via Vanity Fair) nearly 15 years later that her appearance on the show was used for nothing more than punchlines about her Asian identity. The episode centers on Michael Scott (Steve Carell) going to the eponymous restaurant, which he nicknames “Asian Hooters,” and ends with him using a sharpie on one of two Asian waitresses he brings back to his office Christmas party so that he can tell them apart. Ahn starred as one of the two waitresses.

Speaking to The Post, Ahn said her excitement on landing a guest role on the popular NBC sitcom (then in its third season) deflated after she realized she was “just there to be the joke.” The actress added, “You’re told to shut up and be grateful. Actors have no power until they become a star.” Ahn said the offensive “Office” joke bled into her real life, as a co-worker once attempted to draw on her arm with a sharpie as a callback to the episode.

As noted by Vanity Fair, Ahn previously spoke out against “The Office” on Tik Tok at the beginning of the year. In a video post, Ahn called the depiction of Asian women on “The Office” “problematic” and added, “The storyline with myself and the other Asian-American actress is that we were the ‘uglier’ version of the actresses at the Benihana. Also that all Asian people look alike; we’re one big monolith; and we’re just one big, walking stereotype without any personality or individuality, which is problematic.”

“The Office” series regulars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey host a podcast, “Office Ladies,” in which they discuss the NBC sitcom at length. The actresses addressed the “Benihana Christmas” episode during one podcast installment and both agreed the joke of Michael using a sharpie to distinguish the Asian characters made them “cringe.” Kinsey reacted saying, “I just don’t think this storyline would have been written today,” to which Fischer replied, “I don’t think so either.”

Ahn spoke to The Post about her experience on “The Office” as part of a larger profile on Asian and Asian-American actors speaking out on how Hollywood has failed them. Head over to The Post’s website to read the article in its entirety.

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