In this segment of “The Talks," Timothy Tau sits down with David Fung to discuss the new show, their signature style, and their views on where Asian American media is headed.
You may know The Fung Brothers as leading Youtube luminaries who create popular YT videos ranging from Asian food and cultural topics to sports to comedy sketches covering all varieties of subject matter. The unique and creative voice of these Youtube stars has now broken into mainstream airwaves with their new TV show on A&E Network’s FYI Channel, “What The Fung?!", which broadcasts every Thursday at 9:00 PM in the U.S. and 8:00 PM in Southeast Asia.
Congratulations on the show, premiering on A&E's FYI channel on Thursday, May 21. You have mentioned it is the first TV show to star two Asian guys. What do you think is the significance of that, and can that be taken as somewhat of a milestone or indication for how far Asian Americans have come in terms of representation in mainstream media, particularly with shows like Fresh Off the Boat (ABC), Make It Pop (Nickelodeon), and Dr. Ken (ABC) now on the air?
I see "What The Fung?!" as one puzzle piece to a larger Asian-American movement that is currently taking place. To delve deeper into specifics, it is true that two Asian guys have never had their own show before on American TV. Maybe it happened a few times on the nightly news because it seems there are some male news anchors but even in that space I would bet it's very rare. Now there's a lot of reasons that Asian-American males rank very low in American pop-cultural society but regardless of what those reasons are - I hope "What The Fung?!" can shake up the system.
As for Asian American representation in mainstream media (which includes traditional media such as film, TV, music and new media such as Youtube), what direction do you think it should go in? OR where/what areas would you like to see it grow in? Where do you see it in say, the next ten years?
Long answer short, I think it's only going to improve for Asian-American's in US mainstream media. At what speed and form will this progression take place at? Well that's dependent on a variety of factors and we've still got a long way to go.
For me, I'd just like to see a meshing of multiple worlds. I'd love to see even more Asians support each other. YouTube is a huge part of it because there's 13 year old kids that now really believe that being Asian is super cool and want to support artists.
We all know of the successful Fung Bros. Youtube channel that boasts a massive legion of loyal followers. What do you bring from your YT content to the show, and how is the show different from the material you produce on YT?
I would say that it's about 70% similar to our YouTube content. Obviously we're not reviewing Asian Food - which is totally cool but it's totally different too because there's not much culture behind a pancake versus prata. I think YT fans will like it but I think it's going to appeal to anyone that likes modern content. So I'm happy with that middle point.
On the first episode that is set in Los Angeles, you feature cuisine as diverse as the dan dan noodles of Pine & Crane, to the pork belly tacos of Black Hogg, to the unique-Californian twist on the Maine lobster roll and finally to nitrogen-flash-frozen ice cream from Ice Cream Lab; what is it about food that you think makes it such a powerful and meaningful cultural touchstone for many? Can you also explain why food/cuisine makes up an integral part of your content, both on the show and in your YT videos? Is there a site or resource that lists the places you visit in each episode?
There's so much that goes into food that we take for granted. Food reflects society quite often but nobody really tells us that. Food is the product of culture and simultaneously food is culture.
Food is such a great space because anyone can relate. It has a lot to do with being open-minded and just having a general curiosity about life. The spots are listed in the description box.
Were there any influences on the style of the show? I sort of see hints of Eddie Huang's VICE show (and the passages about food in his memoir Fresh Off the Boat) as well as Anthony Bourdain, Guy Fieri and a little of Man v. Food. However, I also see it as a fresh blend of your signature comedy style with a genuine passion for good eats. Was there anything new or different you consciously tried to bring to the traditional "food travel show" format with "What The Fung"? Does the show also plan on engaging with any Asian American food celebrities or chef personalities (e.g., Roy Choi, David Chang, Eddie Huang), or feature things like eating contests/challenges or cooking tutorials later on?
Andrew and I were definitely influenced by all those famous food personalities you just named so if you see shades of those things - it doesn't surprise me at all. Some reviewer said it reminded them of Rachel Ray's $40 a day show. I believe it haha.
We're just in season one but if we do more, who knows? The sky is the limit but not the guarantee. I'd love to do a ton of stuff though and I'm excited to put them into reality.
How long does it take to write, produce and shoot each episode, and how did you find the production process different from the production process of the YT content you usually make?
I have no idea because I didn't write the show but I know that it takes a long time from what I've been privy to. Which is different from YouTube in that sense but sometimes our content also is very difficult to write as well.
How do fans tune in to "What The Fung"? How do we support it so that it sees more seasons? What's next for the show? What's next for both of you in terms of future projects (to the extent that you can divulge, of course)?
Watch it on the FYI Network at 9pm on Thursday in America, 8pm on Thursdays in Southeast Asia. You can support it by just tuning in and tweeting about with the hashtag '#whatthefung'! Thank you!
Continuing to grind, create value and then shine! That's the motto!
Official Site of "What The Fung?" on FYI