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Getting in front of the camera was never a thing I actively volunteered for. It came down to a simple decision that we need more diversity on screen. I never seriously considered myself as an actor. I realized there was more impact with my face in the scene, than strictly being a director. Which was a hard pill to swallow for someone who was very serious about filmmaking for very long time.
But now I get to control the voice of the piece, while being the face of the piece. I get that a lot.Korean Men Answer Commonly Googled Questions About Themselves
I was always the ugly kid. You want to create something that people can share for a very long time. The conversation sort of stops for filmmakers once the product is out.
With an internet video, you instead conceive them to be part of an ongoing conversation. I did a video: Awkward Moments Only Asians Understand. It dawned on me that this was an issue for the Asian community at large. A mission of mine is to start yelling at people who laugh at those things.
A lot of times I go to a comedy show, I sit there and wait for the comedian to run out of ideas and look at me and make an Asian joke. I tell my friends still, constantly, to shut up when they make Asian jokes. Now you get people who have this colorblind perspective, which is equally harmful. So all of this media like the Try Guys and Ashley and everyone, we all came from different backgrounds — not necessarily in front of the camera. Most of us thought we were coming just to produce videos.
And then you never have people around so you grab your friends to throw them on camera. People like crass Asians, I guess.
Every Asian I know is kind of evil inside. And then every Asian woman retweeted it. Oh yeah, I guess that plays into it. That does play into the reason, I guess, why I became so much more resonant with the Asian community. Because I get a lot of people who talk to me about the model minority myth. I always say the diversification of us on-screen is even more important than just the opposite of what we are currently seeing.
I mean for example, we talk about the emasculation of Asian men often. Like we have to have the wide swatch of it, otherwise everyone is going to have that issue.
I actually wish I could wear skirts more. I really want to wear skirts. I tell this to every stylist I meet. I was covering it for ISAtv.
You were at the end right?
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Were you wearing a navy suit? I was in the corner. You were the only one with a bluer suit than me. And mine was pretty blue.
Oh, mine was annoyingly blue. I looked like a big gay blueberry. Bringing it back to Willy Wonka. That was a compliment by the way, totally complimenting myself. And the biggest answer was: I feel like we are under this pressure, especially as young Asian men in media, to swing very hard in the opposite direction of this stereotype. I appreciate that people respond to it in a way that feels constructive. Do you come across that when people watch your videos? Yeah, they — E: And people, you know, latch onto it.
I remember I heard of you before I heard of the Try Guys, for instance. Did the Try Guys come first or was it you? Oh no, it was like we were individual producers and are still producing our own content as a sort of multi-hyphenate.
So we are working on our own projects as well, and the Try Guys is one of our joint projects. But all of us are kind of like mini-production companies within ourselves. But Try Guys came later, about a year after we had all joined BuzzFeed when we just started reiterating our cast in a number of videos. It started to resonate really well with the audience. And so we were like, we might as well just serialize it and see how it goes.
But they are like brothers for me now. How does that feel? I try to separate — again, we are talking about perceptions of Asians in new media vs. You know, I think being an influential viral producer and personality, especially when we are people of color, we have to navigate really carefully.
So I am not saying that I purposefully act a certain way to make a point, but if I have an opportunity to curse, I will curse. So any time that I am allowed to express that on camera, I make sure that I do it with gusto. If anything, that is where we start seeing [that] the audience actually wants to watch it. Photo Jack Blizzard E: Yeah, if we went straight in as actors in the traditional film industry.
It allowed us to bring our true personality up a notch. Well, for me, the best example is before being on BuzzFeed or the internet, I would have cast myself or thought of myself as a very serious individual and I would have thought that my greatest strengths were probably playing into things that I thought were darker.
And you know, that is still part of me, but really the internet and the international audience and the comment sections helped me realize that sometimes you are funnier than you think you are. And sometimes thoughts that are maybe too out there, maybe even too ethnic in certain ways, actually resonate with tons of people. Do you find that people say you are the same on camera and in person? We first and only put our own producers on screen.
So there is really no way for me to act or hide now because I do have acting experience and I do love the craft, but it is not what I think is most valuable necessarily with what we do in the online space. Because they really just want to see real people being as authentic to their experience as possible. And yeah it just turned out that I was, I guess, the right type of person for this environment because of how unfiltered I am as a personality.
Every terrible thing you heard on the internet about me is probably true. So [how about] a tolerance video? The Try Guys have had two drinking videos.
East Asians drink a lot of liquor. Koreans are the worst. Yeah they have highest drinking per capita in the world, twice as much as Russians.
And if you go to Korea after they work, they just do shots of soju until they are completely blacked out. It was interesting because we were testing our legal alcohol limit and my resistance was higher through most of it. But at one point I was in the illegal area. But I still felt sober in my brain. That was what was the most sobering experience, right? So it is not how drunk you actually are. Because some people will feel really drunk and they are not actually drunk, which is better because then they could incapacitate themselves.
And for me that was a huge learning experience for life because I actually stopped drinking as much after that because I knew that maybe I was more — M: So that was actually really good for me in general.
But then of course we followed that up with testing which type of alcohol f—ks you up the most. And that was just us running around trying different liquors and beers. But do you get Asian glow? As in, Korean rage? Korean rage is when Koreans drink a little more than they should and they just get really angry about stuff, you know?
Yeah, Korean jungle juice! I should do that at a party. Korean jungle juice party. We should have brought a bottle here. Everyone should try makgeolli even if you are not Korean. In Korea they put in a literal giant bowl in the middle of the table and you take smaller bowls and you scoop it and chug it.
So you will be drunk by the end because people order like 12 giant bowls. Yeah see, my Korean is terrible, which is awful. My Korean drinking and eating habits are excellent.
So when I go to Korea all of my relatives are so angered that I am not fluent and then they watch me eat and drink. So I will purposefully eat and drink as much as possible. And one thing Asian people like across the continent is if you are skinny and if you can eat a lot. Oh, I have to be impressive in some way. I wonder if someone has ever realized that and used that to their advantage, you know what I mean?
Like to get that toy when they were a kid.
Eugene Lee Yang: “That Asian Guy” On Buzzfeed | Kore Asian Media
Do you have any of a lot of close relatives in Korea, or? But because I was so insulated in Texas, I never met them until after my parents divorced. And when I graduated college, I got to go to Korea more. They are all in Seoul or surrounding cities like the mountains. But I really think they have zero interest in watching my Internet. My mother is still trying to figure out with YouTube Red is.
I announced it to her and sent her the Hollywood Reporter article about it. And I think most Asian parents, if not all parents, especially Asian parents, spend half the conversation just like nagging you about something.
Have you fixed your car? Oh, Are you driving right now? Are you eating OK? I am too skinny. So what about you? What are your influences when it comes to how you produce digital content? Because I know we are both film students from, I guess, the top two film universities in America.
Can I call NYU top two? There are lists released. They are very different.