Fumi Abe and Mic Nguyen from "Asian, Not Asian" talk Asian American masculinity and bros connecting over brunch
Comedians Fumi Abe and Mic Nguyen met in the stand-up comedy scene three years ago, and soon started making short videos and writing sketches. And though they’ve continued performing on stage, they’ve brought their jokes to the airwaves with “Asian, Not Asian,” a comedy podcast where Abe and Nguyen talk about pretty much anything they want to.
Often, those topics are rooted in Abe and Nguyen’s experiences as Asian Americans. From Yelp reviews of Panda Express to the talking points of Asian American masculinity, Abe and Nguyen frame “Asian, Not Asian” as a podcast discussing “American issues no Americans seem to care about.” That is, except for Asian Americans.
We spoke over the phone about everything from getting vulnerable with listeners to why some Asian men won’t stop talking about dating white women. Here’s a (much) shorter excerpt, and you can read the whole interview on Medium.
One of the issues you discuss early on is Asian American masculinity. And I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous when I started listening, because sometimes discussion about that devolves into “why white women won’t date Asian men.”
Mic Nguyen: Yes. Yes. So funny.
But you not only raised issues beyond that, but poked fun at that surface-level conversation. What is it about issues like Asian American masculinity that grab your interest?
Fumi Abe: I think with issues like that Asian American masculinity thing—that seems to be the only thing that people ever talk about. I think there’s so much more as to why that—there’s so many things that play into that.
For example, I find it way more interesting to talk about why the media has trouble talking about Asian people who are not kung-fu masters or teachers. You know, like there was an Asian veteran who went back to his mental institution and shot a lot of people. It didn’t really make the news, because people see the words “Asian” and “veteran” and were like “I don’t know what that is.”
So all that stuff, to me, all that stuff goes back to Asian masculinity. But solving these other problems first is more interesting and I think it’s more productive than simply whining about why you can’t get laid.
And also I personally think if today, you can’t get laid as an Asian dude, that’s mainly your fault. [laughs] Like in the last five years, I’ve noticed a significant change, and I see Asian dudes with all kinds of different girls now. So I think it’s getting better, but to your point, people love talking about that one thing for sure.
MN: Yeah, uh, you shouldn’t listen to Fumi though, because he’s got a white girlfriend, so he’s got the game, you know.
MN: He got his. He’s out. But I think that in general, masculinity has been going through this redefinition. And I think for Asian men, who have always had a problem with masculinity as it’s been defined in the West, there’s been a little bit of a vacuum. We don’t know how to act and we end up having to “act Black.” A lot of men, like Eddie Huang, who we’re big fans of, he is masculine because he doesn’t act Asian. That’s kind of a thing.
And I think what we’re trying to do on the podcast—we’re two bros. We’re not that bro-y, but we’re kind of two bros and you can hear us, and there’s still not really a space where you hear two Asian guys talking. There’s never a time on TV where you see two Asian guys talking. That never happens, ever. That’s something unusual.
And to Fumi’s point, the Asian guys not getting white girls thing, that’s a symptom of something much bigger. And if we focus only on the symptom, it doesn’t address the root problem, and it ends up being boring. And it ends up being weird and creepy. Like you’re looking at the wrong thing, and it ends up being bigger.
What are your goals for your podcast right now, since you’ve been heading into less “Asian American” topics?
FA: I think immediate goals are to find more people who are into this kind of stuff. Just finding an audience has been our biggest challenge. Interacting with fans on Instagram and getting their e-mails, I think there’s a large population of people who this podcast could entertain. So I think immediate goals is expand our fanbase,.
But long-term goals, comedy-wise, I think we want to market ourselves as like, the “Desus & Mero but Asian version” for sure.
MN: Yeah. We were—I mean, you saw that podcast that Still Processing did?
MN: That was huge, right? There were tons of Asian American people where that resonated for them. We want to reach those people. Somewhere out there, there’s a bunch of people drinking boba and going to LA Fitness, and doing all the Asian stuff. And they need to have—they’re waiting for us.
MN: When you’re ready, your audience appears. When you’re, you know, there’s a match that happens when your voice is strong enough and your audience is ready for it, and there’s a beautiful lovemaking session there. And [laughs] we’re trying to get to that, where we’re connecting with that audience. They’re out there somewhere. They’re looking for us and we’re looking for them. And we’re trying to get that Tinder right swipe on them. We don’t know where they are. But that’s the big immediate goal.
And down the road, obviously we’ll take over the world or whatever.
Asian, Not Asian is “a podcast by two Asian comedians not from Asia talking about American issues no Americans seem to care about.” Each week, Fumi Abe and Mic Nguyen discuss everything from race to urban myths to Urban Outfitters. New episodes release every Monday. Find Asian, Not Asian on iTunes and Soundcloud, and on Instagram @AsianNotAsianPod.