'Origin Story' Filmmaker Kulap Vilaysack Brings Lao Culture to Hollywood Hills
The 'Bajillion Dollar Propertie$' creator celebrated the release of her documentary at her home last Friday night.
In the Venn diagram of L.A.'s comedy scene and its Lao community, one person stands at the center.
Comedian Kulap Vilaysack (creator of Seeso's Bajillion Dollar Propertie$, co-host of Earwolf podcast Who Charted?) brought together both worlds last Friday night for an intimate party to celebrate the Amazon Prime release of her documentary Origin Story, which traces her journey from L.A. to Minnesota to Laos to reconnect with the biological father she never knew. In keeping with the highly personal theme, the gathering was hosted at the Hollywood Hills home Vilaysack shares with husband Scott Aukerman (host of Comedy Bang! Bang!) on the eve of her 39th birthday.
Calling the night a "full circle" moment, Vilaysack brought together high-wattage comedy friends including Adam Scott, Sarah Silverman, "Weird" Al Yankovic, Retta, Casey Wilson, Veep's Matt Walsh, Andy Richter, Paul F. Tompkins, Kristen Schaal, Mary Elizabeth Ellis and Andrea Savage with her friends from Laos Angeles, the community of L.A.-based Lao artists and entertainers that she founded in 2017 as a side result of her Origin Story quest. "The elders think we're disengaged, but most of the people in Laos Angeles are creatives and professionals who are so hungry to find a way to be who we are while connecting to our heritage," says Vilaysack, calling her generation "Lao American 2.0."
To that end, the evening – which was sponsored by Tiger Beer, as well as HBO (because of its commitment to Asian Pacific American initiatives, the cabler helped throw the party even though Origin Story is on Amazon), Lyft, Babe Wine and luxury cannabis brand Beboe – included a full spread by personal chef Saeng Douangdara that included Lao cuisine signatures like kua mee rice noodles, nam khao tod crispy rice salad and minced chicken laab salad. Entertainment was provided by singer Lina Luangrath (who performed the song played over Origin Story's closing credits) and traditional dancer Meng Lothi, both Laos Angeles members.
Taking place in the middle of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Origin Story's release party offered a glimpse of the culture of Laos, just as the documentary itself was an eye-opening window on the country's 1960s-era civil war that indelibly impacted Vilaysack's family, as well as that of so many others. The decades-long conflict that received heavy but covert support from the United States – so much so that it was dubbed the "Secret War" by the CIA – created thousands of refugees like Vilaysack's parents, who fled to a Thai camp before finding asylum in Minnesota.
"That entire story of what had happened to Laos, the extent of what had happened, was truly traumatizing to see and hear," says Vilaysack's close friend Wilson, who appears in the film, as does Silverman, Aukerman, Ellis and June Diane Raphael. "It was such an honest story, and she told it with such compassion."
A compassionate tone was also one of the elements that struck Aukerman the most throughout the nearly six-year process of making the documentary. "With all that's going down in our country, this is very resonant right now," he says, adding that he was moved by Vilaysack's sponsor family in Minnesota, "Christians whose response to their blessed life is to help others and give back."
In addition to taking place the day before Vilaysack's birthday, Origin Story also premiered three days before the 20th anniversary of her first date with Aukerman – yet another timely coincidence to make the entire occasion special. "What this documentary has done for me is made me whole," she says. "Tonight was this beautiful [moment] of braiding it together and making it stronger."