Anyone who was forced to go to Chinese or Japanese school at the butt-crack early hours on a Saturday can relate. For me, as a kid of Vietnamese refugee parents, I had to go to Vietnamese school, which was held in the afternoons after prayer service, until I was kicked out for being too much of a ruckus in class.
My point is, Saturday school was hard. But, this podcast of the same name is a pure gem. It’s the equivalent of chilling with friends reminiscing on the good ole days, and in this case, it’s looking back at Asian American cinema and pop culture from the early aughts, which really helped shape the cultural views of Ada Tseng and Brian Hu, the hosts of this new podcast.
As colleagues and friends of mine, Ada and Brian have been working in the Asian American media space for many years, as editors of Asia Pacific Arts Journal, covering Asian American film festivals, compiling their annual lists of the best Asian American films, and just creating a cultural criticism space that was both academic and populist in a space with very few options for discourse.
Ada and Brian have been stalwart champions of Asian American media and continue to do so in their current careers as journalist for PRI and editor of Xfinity Asia (Ada) and the head programmer for the San Diego Asian Film Festival and assistant professor (Brian).
However, they still find the time to do what they do and its to continue the cultural conversation on Asian American film, especially during its heyday before YouTube. Hence, the creation of this new 10-part podcast series called Saturday School.
Here’s the official description of the series and first episode, which was launched this morning at 8am PST:
This is the official launch of our new podcast Saturday School, where we teach your unwilling children about Asian American pop culture history. First season will be about Asian American film comedies, and starting today, 10 episodes will be released every Saturday at 8am, which is when we were forced to go to Chinese school as kids.
There are so many cultural classics worth bringing out of the vault, but for our very first episode, we thought it was important to start with a selection of Randall Park comedy shorts circa 2006-2009. AKA rich narratives about dragons of love, cooking with cocaine, magical semen, getting kicked out of IKEA, and what happens if you wake up conjoined to your father. So clearly, you can trust us with the next generation. (No promises on whether you can trust Randall Park circa 2006-2009 with your kids though.)
Listening to this episode brought back so many memories for me, because I also had a similar experience, post-college, attending Asian American film festivals and watching many short films with Randall Park in them. To me, Park was a comic genius because of his characters in their “aw shucks” demeanor and earnest looking face, but always thrown into extreme, awkward situations.
My first time seeing Randall in anything was also the hilarious short film DRAGON OF LOVE, which really was a testament of its time as it explored Asian American racial and gender politics, or in the case of this film, a black woman’s fetishizing Asian culture.
It was an interesting role reversal, steeped in stereotypes shaped by mainstream media and is super on the nose. But this enterprise works because of Randall, or should I say the genius that is Randall’s facial expressions. He doesn’t have to say anything and I still crack up. He’s got a prowess for comedic timing that if he was born in the early 20th Century, he could’ve been a silent movie star.
Coming back to the Saturday School podcast, Ada and Brian explore the genius that is Randall Park and how his short films was good training to the success he is experiencing now as a major TV sitcom star on FRESH OFF THE BOAT.
Which is amazing, of course. But Randall is more than just a gifted actor, as Ada and Brian discuss. He’s the whole package, who can write and direct and his many low budget comedy shorts that he’s produced over the years show that this guy can do anything. Case-in-point, SIAMESE DAD and THE FOOD, which you can view below:
I would suggest you listen to the podcast episode first, then watch these shorts that are embedded here in this blog. I look forward to listening to the rest of the first season of Saturday School. It’s a great premise and the perfect time to look back at the foundations of what makes Asian American film and pop culture what it is today and in a truly fun way. So stay tuned for the next nine Saturdays, as each new episode goes live.
Or, of course, bank them and listen to them anytime. It’s going to be an interesting ride down nostalgia lane as Ada and Brian take us on a journey through Asian American comedy from the last decade. It’s a ride worth taking, or keeping within the theme of Saturday School, attending this class!