Globetrotting with the Fung Bros
JUN 27 2017
Mixing the muppets with real people.
That’s all it took for an upstart children’s TV show to go from soon-to-be cancelled to a wild, lasting success. In the beginning, producers couldn’t figure out why their show was failing horribly with their test groups. The kids weren’t havin’ it. The fun, colorful muppets would show up on the screen, hold their attention for a quick minute, but lost all of it as soon as they cut scene to a real person.
You can’t mix fantasy and real elements with each other on this show, child psychologists who were advising them argued. But with interest in their show dwindling and test group reviews spelling B-U-S-T, the show’s team took a leap and said eff it. Listen to the kids.
It stuck. The kids loved seeing the muppet and human worlds collide, and when the on-screen adults dropped their wholesome life-lesson knowledge that we expect from these shows, the kids were now all ears. Forty six seasons (and counting) later, Sesame Street is regarded as arguably the greatest children’s show ever created. All because of that one change.
The human-muppet mingle on Sesame Street was its saving grace, a single idea that turned it from the Sam Bowie to the Michael Jordan of kids shows. It was what caused it to go viral before going viral was a thing. It was its Tipping Point (s/o Malcolm Gladwell).
Now let’s hop from Sesame Street to the East Hill neighborhood in Kent, WA. David and Andrew Fung, two Chinese-American brothers hoping to break through in the growing digital entertainment world, were looking for their own Tipping Point.
“We were always into entertainment and film growing up, but it wasn’t until 4 years into the YouTube boom already happening where we felt like we had to strike now or the window was going to close,” says David.
So they put out video after video, slowly growing their fanbase. Finally, seemingly overnight, one of their projects hit internet infamy. Their Tipping Point had arrived. The Lonely Island-esque parody piece “Wanking In The Dorm Room” blew up, and the rest is Asian-American YouTube history.
“We had several moments where we leveled up, but that video was it,” explains David. “After it went viral on Reddit and 9Gag, that’s when I was like, WOW, our art does touch a nerve with millions of people.”
But even with every W that comes their way nowadays, the Bros always have their humble beginnings in mind, and stay mindful of their original intent.
“It really was driven from a desire to see a change in Asian representation in media.”
“… But also just to do some cool stuff.”
Cool indeed. Among other milestones, the duo’s collaborated with Jeremy Lin, hosted their own cable television show, and (as of this writing) amassed over 1.6 million YouTube subscribers with over 270 million views on their channel.
With all their successes leading to a heavy amount of travel, we recently caught up with David to get more details about their work, how they globetrot, and why they’ve joined the Mile Hype Club.
For every successful person or group out there doing big things, the public never really sees just how much hard work goes into the grind. Behind the scenes, what’s been the most difficult part for y’all?
Staying consistent with production. We used to edit our own videos which is really, REALLY time consuming. It's all about finding a workflow that works for you and your specific style of content. It's really difficult to bang out a high quantity of videos and feed that hungry fanbase. Especially if you have a commitment to quality.
So which one was the most fun to make?
“Can Asians Ball or Nah?” was definitely one of the funnest to film around Brooklyn and Manhattan, because you’re acting on the subway car in front of a bunch of people.
But of course, the music videos like “626,” “Asians Eat Weird Things,” etc. are so memorable because you’ve got like 20-30 people on set.
And you guys film everywhere too, from the LES to Alhambra to Singapore and everywhere in between. When you’re traveling that much, what are your go-to essentials?
Of course the usual suspects, but I would say I’m huge on floss picks and Wisps. Those, face wipes, and a light moisturizer. One thing people sometimes overlook is how dry airports get.
Speaking of airports, which one’s your favorite?
SFO is really nice and has good sushi. The food at Sea-Tac is super cheap. LAX overall sucks, but it’s got a Lemonade now that is dope (but expensive)!
Any specific kicks you guys mess with when you head to the airport for a long trip? What’s on the Fung Bros' feet?
It used to be the Turtledove Yeezys for me, but those are actually kind of flimsy and it can get cold on the plane. So now, I prefer something that I can slip on and off but also with a bit more support, like some Jordan IV’s or I’s.
Put us on to your best travel tip.
Get earplugs that work for you. There are so many different types. Some people need the ones with a little hole in them because they block the sound like 60% and not 100%, which can be even more suitable depending on personal preference.
So which ear plug joints are you rocking with?
I recently switched to some high fidelity earplugs, and those have been working so much better for me. It’s honestly made my flying experience better. Most people use them for like, really loud rap or rock concerts. But for me, it’s perfect to be able to not have complete silence but enough to just fall asleep from LA to NYC. It’s made red-eye flights way easier.
Of all the places you’ve been to in the past year, what’s been the dopest city?
It’s definitely got to be Chengdu, China. If you’re not from Chengdu or really into China, chances are you probably wouldn’t go there. But it’s like the Atlanta of the biggest country in the world.
Interesting comparison. What makes it the Chinese ATL?
It’s not at all stoic or cold, two things sometimes people associate with say, Beijing. People dance, they laugh, they drink - even on weekdays! No wonder all the best rappers in China are coming out from that Sichuan region!
What’s next on the Fung Bros travel itinerary?
I’m planning a trip to Japan and Korea soon. Also London and Paris. But I’ve also been wanting to go to the Caribbean badly, so we’ll see. I think for me, anywhere is cool if you got the right people and especially a local plug that’s into the same stuff you’re into. But of course, that’s really difficult to get. I recommend that people do their research before they go, even 3 hours of planning could change your whole trip.
Follow the Fung Bros @davidbfung / @andrewjfung, and be sure to subscribe to their channel to keep up with all their future projects and travels. Armed with an unwavering passion to show out and represent for Asian-Americans in entertainment, the Fung Bros are most definitely on their way.
And yes, it’s to where the air is sweet.