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Breakout comedy star Ali Wong returns to Las Vegas

Updated August 31, 2019 - 10:55 am

Sometimes it takes a pregnant woman in an animal-print dress to explain the allure of the animal-print dress.

Eyes widening behind horn-rimmed glasses like flowers blooming beneath the sun, Ali Wong breaks down one of life’s great mysteries — right up there with the meaning of existence and whether your cat really likes you.

“I used to hate on other moms for the clothes that they wore. You know these clothes moms wear, all that cheesy animal print and … loud, metallic shiny shoes,” the comedian says in her 2018 Netflix special “Hard Knock Wife. “And now I see something that’s bedazzled in rhinestones and I’m like, ‘Oh, that looks nice, I think I’mma get that.’ The more glitter the better, because when you’re a mom you need sparkle, to compensate for the light inside of you that has died.”

Oh, but motherhood isn’t all that bad, right?

What about that precious bond formed during breastfeeding?

“By the end, I felt like ‘The Giving Tree,’ ” Wong says on “Wife.” “I used to not understand what that depressing book

was about. And now I know it’s about breastfeeding! It’s about a mom who used to have all of these beautiful branches and apples, and then this little freeloader comes into her life, takes all of her (stuff), and then she just becomes a sad tree stump.”

Hitting the mother lode

No, being a mom doesn’t completely define Wong’s act — she’s got some choice Urban Outfitters material, and there’s something wrong with your face if you’re not smiling when Wong shares tales of her hoarder mother, who won’t part with the instruction manual to an antiquated calculator she no longer owns.

But Wong’s stand-up has become one of the definitive pressure valves for many a mother.

With an acerbic wit and dagger-sharp tongue, Wong has fashioned a booming career out of shrewdly, candidly, often uproariously commenting on what a woman faces daily as a wife, mom and professional.

It’s made her one of comedy’s biggest breakout acts in recent years, from her hit stand-up specials to her acclaimed romantic comedy “Always Be My Maybe,” released in May, which Wong wrote and stars in.

Now she’s even getting recognized at neighborhood cake shops.

“At one of my local bakeries, a customer kept making small talk and when he left said, ‘Have a great day Ms. Wong. I’m a huge fan,’ ” Wong says of a recent encounter. “The cashier, a wonderful woman who always helps me out, said to me, ‘Oh, he thinks you’re that comedian. You do kind of look like her.’ And I laughed and said, ‘I am her.’

“She couldn’t believe it,” Wong continues. “She came from behind the register, hugged me and went on to confess that her daughter has three kids and has been having the hardest time. But when her daughter watched my stand-up specials, that was the first time (the cashier) saw her laugh like that in years. She thanked me for all the joy I brought to her daughter and we took a nice selfie together. It was a very authentic, personal interaction. I was so touched by the whole thing.”

“Authentic” and “personal” are also good keywords for Wong’s act, which has taken off lately. Though she made numerous TV appearances and wrote for the sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat” for several seasons, it was her 2016 Netflix special “Baby Cobra” that propelled Wong to stardom.

Becoming the breadwinner

Onstage, Wong can be laceratingly self-deprecating (“My dream, my goal, for the longest time, was to be a trophy wife,” she acknowledges on “Wife.” “But then I found out that in order to be a trophy wife, you’ve got to be a trophy. I am more of a commemorative plaque.”)

But she’s also a commanding, woman-in-control presence, remaining relatable despite her success, which she also lampoons on “Wife” (“I’m not even that famous and already I hate it. … Occasionally now, I will be eating at a fancy restaurant and will get recognized by both the wait staff and the chef and think to myself, ‘Oh great, now I have to tip more.’ ”)

Through it all, Wong spares no one — not herself, her husband, her kids, even her mom.

Nevertheless, waves aren’t being made on the home front, she says.

“My family is really progressive, so it doesn’t really shock them,” Wong says. “They’ve always been so supportive, which I know is unusual.”

Besides, the family gets to share in the fruits of her labors, though as Wong recounts on “Wife,” her mother has expressed concern about her earning more than her husband.

“I had to explain to her that the only kind of man that would leave a woman who makes more money is the kind of man that doesn’t like free money,” Wong quips. “ ‘Oh, but Ali, he doesn’t feel small?’ He’s too busy living large on my new salary!”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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