Phillip Wang discusses “Yappie” after CWRU showing of limited series


Yvonne Pan, Arts & Entertainment Editor

“You know if you meet an Asian guy, there’s a one in 13 chance his name is Andrew. There’s a one in five chance he’s an engineer.”

This quote is one of the first things you’ll hear when you watch “Yappie” and is a good example of what’s to come.

“Yappie” follows the life of Andrew Wang, a software engineer at Cylo, played by Philip Wang. After a date calls him a “yappie,” meaning “young Asian professional,” Andrew tries to come to terms with his Asian-American identity.

Wong Fu Productions tackles topics like the stereotype of Asian-Americans being a model minority, interracial dating, conflict with other ethnicities and the cultural divide between family members in the five-episode season.

The showing on Jan. 26 was hosted by the CWRU Film Society and Asian-American Alliance. The event offered the first three episodes of “Yappie” and invited the crowd of 200 people for a Q&A session with Wong Fu Productions.

When asked about how his parents reacted to his unconventional career path, Wang admits they are still not convinced, though he concedes having a sister who is a doctor has helped.

“Yappie,” which came out last May, has garnered roughly three million views total, but that success did not come easily. Wang explains Wong Fu had taken the script to studios in Hollywood and rejected for not having a hook.

He disagreed with their assessment. “The hook for ‘Yappie’ is that it’s the only show that follows Asians in their everyday life. It was kind of disheartening to realize that we have to be 10 times as good to get the same opportunity.”

“‘Crazy Rich Asians’ was a good start, but I hope for a day in which Asians can be successful without being pressured to break box office sales,” he continued.

Wang decided to forgo the traditional route and created “Yappie” with Wong Fu Productions. With a limited budget and resources, the season, originally pitched to be eight episodes was cut to five.

Wang admitted to reading the comments on their videos.

“We [Wong Fu] have been accused of being too West Coast, East Asian and heteronormal,” he said. He acknowledges that his upbringing in California where he attended a high school that was 15 percent Asian is different from one of someone who grew up as the only Asian person in their high school.

“Yappie” has also received criticism for having a mostly Asian cast with people claiming Wong Fu pigeonholed themselves. However, Wang is unapologetic. “We saved a lot of Asian roles because Asian actors aren’t given similar opportunities elsewhere.”

Wang understands that Asian representation is few and far between and encourages others to represent their experiences. “Don’t devalue my experience because I can’t share your story,” he responds.

Wang also discussed Wong Fu Production’s eleven-year career at YouTube. “Youtube is like high school, there are popularity contests, and it’s kind of weird, with a lot of noise and drama.”

Wong Fu Productions currently has more than three million subscribers on YouTube, a far cry from icons like Pewdiepie, who has more than 83 million. However, the channel has no plans of changing its message to gain more subscribers.

“I meet people who tell me they watched our channel in high school, and are introducing us to their children now,” Wang said. “We also have viewers that are only now discovering us in high school.”

If you liked “Yappie,” Wang hints that there will be a season two with a release date to be determined.