Before isolation set in on a global scale, standup comic Aidan Park, an award-winning keynote speaker and the bestselling author of The Art of Being Yay!, made a stop in Prescott while touring the comedy circuit. Openly gay and HIV-positive, Aidan makes a point of checking in on local nonprofit LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS clinics to get the lay of the land, which is how we connected, and while we haven’t yet met in person, through the intervening couple of years of isolation I can say it’s been a joy to get to know Aidan pretty well through phone contacts and social media.
Aidan arrived in San Francisco undocumented from Korea at age nine, lived hand-to-mouth in government housing with his single grandmother, and graduated from high school with no chance of going to college or finding a job due to his immigration status. This led to a period of living on the streets, working in the sex trade and contracting HIV at age 19. Many people would have given up, but with some dedicated community support and a lot of determination, Aidan’s story turned the page from tragedy to inspiration.
Mentors in the nonprofit HIV/AIDS clinics of San Francisco provided a new grounding in self-esteem on which he built a career in standup comedy, concurrent with 15 years of studying empowerment. A long-term committed relationship put him on top of the world. But when the love of his life died, he felt like his own life was coming to its end at age 33.
Having survived his brutal past, however, and with the support of close friends, he decided to take his life of lemons and make a new batch of lemonade.
Building on a strong belief in positive thinking and living a true and honest life, he took to paper and wrote The Art of Being Yay!, leading to development of the wellness brand of the same name. He had struggled with acceptance and self-worth in the religious community he grew up in, ultimately finding empowerment in the LGBTQ community, and through the brand he found a way to inspire that in others.
With renewed focus on honesty about himself in his comedy, he started teaching others to do the same. Through his workshops he met Jonathan Aragon, a professor of health-promotion science at Claremont College, where he and Aidan are now developing a curriculum about health and wellbeing. Through this bond of positive and honest living they work together to teach people how healthy living can be improved through many disciplines, one of them comedy.
Despite the adversity that Aidan has overcome, and largely because of it, he is committed to giving back to communities and supporting local LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS nonprofits to ‘pay it forward,’ convinced that he wouldn’t be the person he is today without their support.
Aidan has two TV comedy specials, both released this year. You can find The Art of Being Gay on NBC’s Peacock/Tubi services, and his special Asian American-eyez'ed is running on the Reel Women’s Network. In them he speaks openly about his HIV-positive status, marking them as the first comedy specials of their kind in 25 years. “I’m thrilled to lend my voice to help fundraise and bring awareness to an organization that helps HIV-positive individuals, because I was so personally and positively affected by the work of such wonderful groups,” he says.
Northland Cares Presents Aidan Park is a pair of standup-comedy events, with all proceeds going to Northland Cares, our local HIV/AIDS and STI clinic, on June 3 at the Davis Learning Center on the ERAU campus, and on June 4 at Main Stage in Cottonwood. For more information or tickets visit northlandcares.org/events.