Ask the Fung Bros: What's so funny about being Asian? | KUOW News and Information

Ask the Fung Bros: What's so funny about being Asian?

May 24, 2017

The Fung Bros, Andrew and David Fung, have more than a million followers on their YouTube channel. (And yes, they're real biological brothers.) 

They grew up in Kent, a suburb south of Seattle, but their breakout hit "626 (Music Video)" celebrated the Asian food feast in their adopted home: L.A.'s San Gabriel Valley. They've made videos like "Asians Eat Weird Things" and "Things Asian Parents Do." But these days, Andrew and David say they're moving towards videos with a bit more social commentary, like exploring perceptions of Asian masculinity, in "Get Out Asian Parody."

Andrew and David joined KUOW's Bill Radke to talk about where their comedy comes from, what it's trying to do, and where it's going.

Transcript lightly edited for brevity.

David Fung: Born and raised Kent East Hill, we in the building!

Andrew Fung: 253 Deuce Five Tre! Unincorporated King County!

Bill Radke: Now when you told people that you were from Kent, you're from the 253, what kind of things would you hear?

Andrew: "Oh, the place with a lot of factories and warehouses!" and I was like "What are you — oh yeah, I guess down the hill there are, yeah."

David: Yeah, a lot of my friends in business school, their parents owned companies where they would house their, like, ships or something.

Andrew: It was known for being "That place next to Ikea."

In high school in Kent, says David Fung, 'At least in my grade, you picked white or black to hang out with because Asian was not really an option. So I chose more the African-American community to hang out with.'
Credit Courtesy of The Fung Bros

Radke: King County is a lot more Asian now. But what was it like growing up Asian in Kent in the '90s?

David: Yeah, I mean growing up in East Hill, you know, you still bumped into people who had country rural accents and you'd be like "I don't know how you have a rural accent. I don't know if you immigrated from Missouri or is it just like a mechanic blue collar thing?"

Andrew: And I think something that's funny, growing up in Kent, I don't think it's as common anymore, but we would see people wear cowboy boots and cowboy hats to school, like on Hat Day. That kind of area.  

Radke: Your parents were born in China. How did they end up in Kent?

David: Our parents actually met in college at Ohio State and they were part of the first wave of student immigrants allowed in by Nixon. My dad took a job as an aerospace engineer at Boeing. So they have different plants all over, but Kent is one of them, so my dad was like "Hey, I don't want to commute too far, so." 

Andrew: Kent was close by work, essentially. So that's it.

David: We kept it real.

I think this goes to a larger idea of us feeling relatable to a lot of Americans, and also why maybe we even got a chance at a TV show. It's because we're from a place like Kent which is very American.

The Fung Brothers don't appear to take themselves too seriously. Andrew Fung provided this picture to KUOW, with the filename Andrew_SeriousAsianHipster.jpg.
Credit Courtesy of The Fung Bros

Radke: I want to talk about your YouTube channel, which focuses on Asian-ness, immigrant parents, how non-Asians see you. Why do you focus there?

David: I think a lot of it is probably driven from growing up and being the only Asian that a lot of people know, or at least like stereotypical Asian. You know, when I say "stereotypical Asian" most people are referring to a Chinese or Korean or a Japanese person.

Andrew: Or maybe one of the only Asians that they're engaging with, that they feel comfortable talking to. Like I know there was always some funny conversation: "Oh do you really know how to use chopsticks?" Or they would touch the middle of our forehead, around where our eyebrows are, and be like, "Oh, I never did this to an Asian before." It's kind of goofy.

David: "Why do you guys' faces look so plain? Why don't you have eyelids? Why is your skin so smooth? Why are your eyes like this?"

Andrew: But you know the funny thing is it was literally because of lack of contact. These are not people who know any Asians.

David: Yeah.

Andrew: And they're not, I wouldn't necessarily say these kids are racist, really, like they're just being kids. Like, "You look different. What are you? What's going on here? Tell me about it."

Radke: You know that some people's reaction to that is to be like, "That is such a small part of me," you know? And you want to see people on TV, Asians who are just people and it's not all about their Asian-ness, you know? And in your YouTube channel you're really kind of diving into those perceptions and those questions.

David: In my opinion, I actually, for the most, part disagree with that.

Radke: Okay.

David: You know, the thing about being Asian is nobody has the same experience. So there could be a group of Asians who was like, "You know we're just like everybody else, treat me like somebody else." But you know when you're more from like, lower class or you've been around that a lot — me and Andrew spent a lot of time around some really high-class Asians and some really low-class Asians — we are really different. We come from a completely different part of the world that was informed for thousands of years by different philosophies, different religions.

We have nothing to do with the holy war type things that are going on, like we have absolutely no contact. We're not mentioned in the Bible. We're not a part of anything. And just because the Western narrative has dominated the globe for the past 300 to 500 years, I don't like it when Asians try to fit ourselves in there, like, "Maybe Kings from the East in the Bible was referring to Mongoloid people."

I'm like, come on man. We were doing our own thing. We have our own culture, we have our own civilization. Just because we're living in a Western context now that is globally dominant, we don't have to like try to find our place in something that we don't have a history in. Asians are not responsible for any of that.

Andrew: But I think, for us talking about Asians on our channel it was largely because we felt like Asians needed to have more discussions about ourselves. We were like, we’ve got to have these conversations and make these jokes and break ourselves down like this before we move on.

I don't like it when Asians try to fit ourselves in there, like 'Maybe Kings from the East in the Bible was referring to Mongoloid people!'

Radke: What are some of your favorite things to get at, to talk about, joke about, put a light on?

David: Alright, basically when immigrants arrive to this country there's this American pop cultural spectrum that ranges from white to black. Obviously you see there's flaring up between these two sides in America right now because you know there's a lot of anger throughout history between these two groups. Now Asians we come in here, Latinos too, we arrive to a battle that's already happening and then people go "Hey, which side are you rolling with in this thing?" And you're kind of like, "What? I just wanted to come here and build a nice life for myself. I came from an internal civil war back in my home country and now you want me to pick a side that's blue or red or left or right?"

Andrew: And then what, you want us to like be educated all about these social issues and understand all this stuff? I'm like, to be honest a lot of the Asian immigrant parents they didn't even go to college, or some of them didn't go to high school even where they're from. So how can they jump into this conversation? I'm like, give us a break guys, you got to give us another generation before you're like, "Well, Lee, you just got here, whose team are you on?"

Radke: You know, guys, I'm happy to be talking about politics and culture wars and global relations, but it's funny to me because I know the Fung Bros mostly from like "Asians eat weird things" and your music video and —

Andrew: Those have depth too.

David: Yeah. Those are kind of like symptoms of what we're talking about. A lot of that stuff was to describe why we're so different because I think that both sides, both — if you want to look at it like white and black are the only two people with cultural narrative power in America which, you know you could say that that's true — I think both sides are like confounded by Asians.

Andrew: I don't get it!  

David: But to me the whole fallacy is that we have to fit on that scale in the first place. And I think that that's what drives the content. So I guess you know we could talk about the content but I guess to just to get meta meta and deep deep because you know we are on KUOW.

Andrew: There's a lot of smart people listening.

David: There's some brainy folks, we'll just take it meta. You know, what are the systemic things that drive our comedy? And I think that one day me and Andrew are going to delve into it on a more, like, on the meta level which is more like a Hari Kondabolu, you know that style. But for that time, in that era, six years ago me and Andrew were more trying to like dance around it and allude to it through being playful.

Andrew: We threw it in there, definitely. But I think a lot of our earlier content was about, like, "Listen guys, first of all, we just got to understand ourselves and be proud first." And then like now obviously even doing this interview, we wouldn't have been saying the same things like four or five years ago. And all we are saying is like, "There's a bunch of factors, think about 'em."

David: Just talk about them. Let's talk about some difficult stuff that people don't want to talk about, yeah!

Radke: That's what we do. Fung Brothers, Andrew and David, thanks a lot for this.

David: Thank you so much, Bill.

Andrew: We appreciate it.