Wesley Chan and his fellow co-founders of popular YouTube channel Wong Fu Productions never intended to become Asian American icons — but 13 years later, their channel boasts over 3 million subscribers.
The group is known for shorts including “Strangers, Again,” “Asian Bachelorette” as well as web series like “Single by 30.” This is Wong Fu’s third time at Cornell, following their visits in 2008 and 2013.
During the panel, the crew of Wong Fu shared with the audience how their company got their start, their production process and their experiences as Asian Americans in the film industry. According to Wesley Chan, one of the co-founders, he and the other co-founders — Phil Wang and Ted Fu — met during a visual arts class in college and found a calling to illustrate Asian American voices.
“There might be billions of Asians on the other side of the world, but to be Asian American is a very specific thing,” added Benson Quach, a producer and assistant director. “We’re Asian and American, not Asian or American.”
Chan admitted that he sacrificed certainty and stability to pursue the arts. “We [didn’t] know what to do next,” he said. “How could I have expected to be in a career that didn’t exist when I was in college?”
After graduation, the three founders toured colleges, including Cornell, to share their films. “We knew we were making a connection with the people who were watching,” said Chan.
The members encouraged students to explore their options in college. “It shouldn’t be about pursuing your passion, it should be about pursuing your passions. Plural,” Chan said.
The event also featured a showing of the first two episodes of their latest web series, “Yappie,” which chronicles the experiences of Andrew, a “yappie” — or “Young Asian Professional” — who slowly realizes that he has chosen a safe, comfortable lifestyle instead of following his passions.
“We’re not saying it’s bad to be safe, but rather that it’s important to stay true to yourself,” said Chan. “We’re saying, go for it. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.”
David Wang ’20, who attended the show, said that Wong Fu was a big part of his childhood.
“I think one of the reasons why they’re so popular is all their content is universal among Asian Americans,” Wang told The Sun. “They talk about issues that we all experience.”
However, some attendees also felt like the experiences Wong Fu shared about being Asian American was repetitive.
“A lot of the things they spoke about definitely resonated with the Asian American community, but we’ve all heard it before,” said Christine Khong ’20. “But it was great to hear it from their perspective. They’ve taken the risk of being a little lost in their education path, but they found their passion and are doing pretty well.”