Highlights from our interview with Silicon Valley actor and comic Jimmy O. YangHe talks about HBO, his dad and his new book How To American: An Immigrant's Guide To Disappointing Your Parents.
Vanity fair had the headline that you were ready to be the next main **** on silicon valley. That is true How is that possible No more supporting **** No more supporting **** Main **** yea i think with TJ leaving i was like super sad and kind of worried where the characters going to go but it turned out to be like a blessing in disguise i think And kind of allow my character to kind of mess with other people now, which is great. So Season 1, I started with literally just two lines, right? When I opened the door, this is Pied Piper. And then, they wrote me another episode, and I eat the fish. So it ended up I was in three episodes in the first season as a guest star, basically. And I had like maybe five words total. And then between season one and season two, Mike was the first to tell me, like yo, we're kinda excited to have you back, but I still don't know where the show's gonna go and stuff like that. But yeah, he was like the first to reach out, and then eventually I became a series regular on it. Do you ever think there might be a chance for a movie or a series with the two of you after Silver Hour. Maybe. I would love to. We've talked about writing together a chinese action comedy or something like that. [LAUGH] Wouldn't that be awesome. We've been throwing that around. So I talk to him every now and then and he was like yeah but you know what don't be sad dude, this is maybe the end of Erick and Jing Yang but maybe not the end of TJ and Jimmy. So I think we could definitely explore TV shows, films, and stuff like that with us two. How do you end up in a Mark Wahlberg movie about the Boston bombings? Yeah, it was just auditioning. I think it was one of those roles that the guy's a Chinese immigrant. So obviously they literally brought every Chinese person to Hollywood to audition for this role. And I'm pretty good at being a Chinese immigrant I guess. [LAUGH] I was one, so I think I can relate to it, right? Like, I came here when I was 13 so I understand the mannerisms, the accent, the thought process and all that. So, he did read the book and, you know, he wasn't upset about the parts I thought he'd be upset at, like, you know That he never supported my comedy career and things like that. He was upset about the fact that, he was like how can you let people know that me and your mom's always arguing at the house? And you can't let people know that I had credit card debt. And I'm like that just Life? So Jimmy was just a given name. Cuz Hong Kong was a British colony. So you're born with a Chinese name. My Chinese name was Manshing, which means 10,000 casettes. It's a name sure to set me up for failure- [LAUGH] As I would say, so. My English given name was Jimmy, right? There's not really an explanation for it. My parents gave it to me because apparently it just sounded good to them. But like your dad name- My dad's name is Richard. And I've ever asked dad, why is your name Richard? Cuz I wanna be rich. It's very simple, straightforward. and like my mom's name is like Amy because like that's her Chinese name. Her Chinese name is like Ami you know in Shanghainese, and my brothers, they named my brother Roger after Roger Moore, their favorite James Bond, how Asian is that, like if James Bond is so Asian for some reason. We love- Especially Roger Moore. Yeah, exactly right, it's a very specific James Bond, I think he only did one. [LAUGH] And then my brother hated that name, he's like, that's like an old white guy name. So eventually when he turned 18, he changed his name to Roy. Which is very ironic, because that's an old black guy name. [LAUGH] It can't get anymore stereotypically Asian. I was a competitive ping-pong player. I mean, come on. Yeah, people thought I was a superstar celebrity. But actually I wasn't that good at ping pong, I just look better than I actually was. So, I like when I lose in a school tournament it was really sad. [LAUGH] Everybody just thought that I was a fraud I was like watching BET not just to learn like the language. But to also learn the cadence and also the culture. And the one good thing about the standup comedy it's not just jokes, is really people telling us about culture and what the stereotypes, and in a funny way, what America is kind of about So when he saw that I was finally getting some roles, he goes like, so easy. He can't do it, I can probably do this. [LAUGH] So I thought I could teach him a lesson. I signed a [UNKNOWN] with my agent and she started sending him out on some auditions. You know how hard the audition process. It's ridiculous. Like out of a 100 I booked like maybe four, right? and for him out of his first six, he booked for. [LAUGH] Completely backfired on me. I was like my god this is easy. I was a used car salesman during day and it was like the crappiest car lot you can think of too. We sell cars to people for like 24% interest and then in the evening I'll work at the comedy club. Did that, like work the door, collect tickets, folded envelopes, and I would do a set if I was lucky. If they gave me the stage time. And then at the end, at night, I'll put another shift. I will got to a strip club. And I worked as a strip club DJ. If you watch too much music videos growing up, you think strip club DJ is one of the coolest jobs ever. [LAUGH] But it's not. Nobody in there wanted to work there, they all have been in prison multiple times, that's why they're there. [LAUGH] And I'm like the only idiot that actually wanted to work there. [LAUGH] So I think for the longest time I tried very hard to be American, because I've always felt like the foreigner, the outsider. And eventually. It's those lessons that I learned, okay, this is actually not a great job working a strip club while selling used cars. That kind of landing me in trying different things, like stand up, that got me to where I am now.