Brothers use satire as anti-racism weapon

Brothers use satire as anti-racism weapon

A funny thing happened to Chinese American comedian David Fung when he was in Singapore.

He was in a club when a white man walked by, shoving him aside as if he was invisible.

Whether deliberate or not, this sort of behaviour drives some Singaporeans batty and online forums are incandescent with outrage when expatriates are captured on video using their bodies, cars or bicycles as little bubbles of white privilege.

David, 28, and brother Andrew, 26, make a living from YouTube videos that explore and poke fun at absurdities and frictions that exist between Asians living in the United States and the white majority.

"It is what it is, man," says David of the club incident.

"I've accepted that racism exists," interjects Andrew in that rapid-fire, riffing style familiar to the more than 640,000 subscribers of their channel, FungBrosComedy.

Among their edutainment-slanted videos are Don't Hate FOBs (fresh off the boat, a derisive term for recent immigrants), S**t White Girls Say To Asian Guys and Things Nerdy Asian Guys Like.

The duo tackle other topics such as Asian food, but the clips with the most hits, numbering in the millions, deal with race.

Life! interviewed the brothers last Friday at the Asia TV Forum & Market and ScreenSingapore, where they spoke on the topic of Delivering Stories In The Digital Age.

David and Andrew are aware of the Singaporean obsession with the way expatriates misbehave and the resulting torrents of online venom.

Keyboard warriors are avoiding truths about themselves, says David.

He adds: "It's easier than changing the way you feel about yourself, changing systems, building your own character. These are things that take a lot of work. People don't want to do that kind of stuff."

Andrew thinks that obsessing over the misbehaviour of whites puts them on a pedestal. "Why do you put them under so much scrutiny? What are they? Celebrities?" he asks.

The Fung brothers' anti-racism weapon of choice is satire, in a bragging style that comes from their backgrounds as rappers, undercut with a self-depre- cation that comes from their love of comedians such as Conan O'Brien.

Their parents immigrated to the United States from China and Hong Kong. The brothers were raised largely in Seattle, Washington, before moving to Los Angeles to become stand-up comics.

They worked in retail - of mobile telephones and shoes - while testing the waters of entertainment.

That was when they started video- blogging on YouTube, an occupation that now pays well enough for them to do it full-time.

Unsurprisingly, their fans tend to be aged between 16 and 24, and largely Asian-American. A significant number of their viewers are Singaporeans.

David believes that Singaporeans are fascinated with Asian American youth culture because it appears to be relatable but, at the same time, superior.

That superiority is a myth, he says.

Singaporeans think that Asian American kids "can go out and party on a Thursday night", he says.

"Guess what? Asian American kids have that same question when they look at their white friends."

johnlui@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 15, 2014.
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