May 2, 2023
Today on TV Club we’re changing the channel to Comedy Central! Ashley speaks with BD Wong (Jurassic World), Lori Tan Chinn (Orange Is the New Black) & Teresa Hsiao about the return of Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens and also does a deep dive on the state of the network that used to launch careers of comedic stars. The conclusion? People aren’t giving Comedy Central the respect it deserves! Plus, Ashley goes through her weekly watchlist and discusses the latest terrifying episode of Barry.
What We Watched:
Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens
You, Me & My Ex
Seeking Brother Husband
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
You, Me and My Ex
The Goldbergs series finale
If you have 2 minutes, please help TV I Say grow by filling out this survey: podsurvey.com/tvisay
S2E41 — Respect to Comedy Central w/ stars of Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens
[00:20:16] BD WONG: She’s incredible. You know, she’s like a force of nature and she is a very confident young person. And there was no adjustment to be made or anything like that. I mean, I thought it was great. I got to direct an episode last season, so I really empathize with the person in that position. It is really kind of a high-pressure position. But I think she did incredible.
[00:20:40] LORI TAN CHINN: Well, talking about Nora’s directorial debut, you know, she did her homework. I was very proud of her. You know, there’s a lot of things–I put in a lot of my Chinese, I like to say, because I’m the last of my tribe from the original Chinese that came to America. So, you know, I want to include as much as I remember because it’s going to be gone. And so, you know, this one that she directed–I couldn’t tell the props people to wrap these candies in white paper and put them on a plate when people come out of the funeral, you know? Without giving it away to the public yet. You see they’re all wrapped up, and you’re supposed to take them. And nobody knows except the Chinese. So, when they see the thing, hopefully they’ll recognize–the ones who are savvy.
[00:21:32] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. There are so many just beautiful cultural moments. And in this season, even cultures maybe that people aren’t expecting to see, like Iceland. And with that episode, we get a little bit of an Orange is the New Black reunion. Don’t want to give away too much on that either. But how did that feel, Lori? Did you know that this was going to happen?
[00:21:53] LORI TAN CHINN: I didn’t see the episode! I can’t remember what was in it.
[00:21:59] TERESA HSIAO: Lea DeLaria, Lori!
[00:21:59] LORI TAN CHINN: Oh, that. Yeah, Leah! I haven’t seen her in ages, so it was nice to see her.
[00:22:06] ASHLEY RAY: It was so fun to see you two on the show again, even if your appearance in that episode is really fantastical. I’ll leave that to the viewer.
[00:22:15] LORI TAN CHINN: Is this X-rated? Can we be clear?
[00:22:18] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Get X-rated, please.
[00:22:22] LORI TAN CHINN: I love that bitch. I miss her.
[00:22:26] ASHLEY RAY: And she’s so, so funny. I’m promising you, you will want to watch this episode, where you discover Bowen Yang might be Icelandic. And I think that’s really the only premise you need to be fully in on the episode.
[00:22:38] LORI TAN CHINN: That I remember, and I do remember the ending. If they kept that. They did, didn’t they, Teresa?
[00:22:44] TERESA HSIAO: We did. We did.
[00:22:46] LORI TAN CHINN: It’s very cool.
[00:22:48] ASHLEY RAY: And Teresa, I have loved this show from the start because it is such a celebration of just everything that throws out the idea of the model minority–that throws out the idea of responsibility and respectability and what you’re supposed to be as a woman of color. You know, I’m right there, wanting to hit my vape with Awkwafina every time. You know, as a co-creator, with this season, where did you want to take Nora’s character?
[00:23:13] TERESA HSIAO: Yeah, the show has always been about just wanting to be authentic to who Nora really is in real life and obviously her family. And this season we really wanted to kind of explore… You know, Wally’s character has a great arc this season, especially with what he goes through. Grandma has a great arc. You know, and Nora, of course–she’s still going through the same stuff that she’s going through in Seasons One and Two but obviously still in kind of an elevated way. So really wanting to explore Wally and Grandma and just, like, get everyone together because that’s what people love about the show– seeing the whole family together.
[00:23:51] ASHLEY RAY: And I do want to get into Wally’s journey because, BD, it seems like you were having so much fun this season with Wally being an absolute sad sack after everything he goes through. I just immediately think of the scene where you’re on the couch, like, just sadly strumming the guitar and you’re just like, “What do you know about love, Nora?” And your delivery of that line–I had to stop because I was laughing so hard. What was it like to kind of build through these sad sack moments for Wally?
[00:24:19] BD WONG: It’s really a gift to be able to have, like, the highs and the lows of a person’s life, you know, throughout a season. And so that’s kind of what he gets–the very low, low of where a person can be when they’re in a low place. And then see him and root for him, hopefully to get to this place of, you know, overcoming all of that and getting what he wants. And that’s really lucky to be an actor and be able to play that–all of that. So, I loved it. And, you know, there are some really ridiculous low points, like all the low points that I can think of that involve, you know, pepper spray and eating dog food. All of that stuff–if you’re not having fun doing that, there’s something wrong with you.
[00:25:10] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. And even just the embarrassing moment where he admits he likes to get a little whipped cream on his iced coffee. Just little details like that make me love that character.
[00:25:20] BD WONG: I really feel for him and have been rooting for him just like I hope the audience does. And thanks to Teresa and Nora and the whole writing team and everybody who worked on the show for, you know, giving these little wonderful things that we get to have fun with.
[00:25:36] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. It just is so, so much fun. Wally is, I think, for me, a big departure from other roles we’ve seen you play. Do you see your fans kind of coming up to you like, “I had no idea you were silly like this”?
[00:25:48] BD WONG: Yeah, yeah. I have a very weird kind of career that I get to do lots of different things. And some people only know me for one specific thing and then are surprised. And so, then when you kind of go around in circles because I try to keep things kind of interesting. And so, if I do something serious and then I move on to something funny–when you get back to the beginning of the circle, people are sometimes surprised. “Oh, I didn’t know you were funny,” or whatever they might say. But you’re constantly trying to recycle your sensibility. And so, to me, it’s kind of funny because I’m me, so I don’t feel like I’m doing anything new or different. I’m not reinventing myself. But the people do do that–I’m always very particularly happy when someone says they know me from this particular show. I just love this show.
[00:26:40] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, it’s just not like anything else on TV. It is so funny. It’s out there. The comedy is so hard to even define because it’s so surreal at times. And one of my favorite episodes this season– As we all know–TV, I Say listeners know–weed was legalized in New York this last year. Big deal for my listeners who watch a lot of TV. So clearly, they’re potheads. And we have a whole episode where Nora and her grandma start selling weed. A huge goal for Nora seems to be working in the head shop space–weed space–without giving away too much. Teresa, what was kind of the desire to add that to this season? Was that something that you wanted to celebrate with Awkwafina being somewhat of a stoner legend?
[00:27:27] TERESA HSIAO: Yeah, well, absolutely. And I think it also kind of goes back to, you know, Grandma’s story in the season, where in the beginning, she’s feeling a little bit down. She’s feeling like she doesn’t really know what her purpose is anymore. And she kind of stumbles into this weed empire that she gets into because she’s feeling bored with her friends. And, you know, Lori in real life, of course, is just such a badass. And we really wanted to celebrate that by giving her this sort of chance to shine in this episode. And immediately, you know, there’s this great scene where she kind of turns around. She’s got this really surprising look. And I was shook. I was personally like, “Whoa! Lori just transformed.” And it was just so fun to get to see her play that badass role.
[00:28:12] ASHLEY RAY: There are also tons and tons of guest stars this season, just some amazing people in comedy like Janeane Garofalo. I screamed when she shows up in that just amazingly perfect car. And then we also had Scott Adsit, who’s amazing in 30 Rock, playing a very similar character here. What was it like to kind of put together your wish list of comics you wanted on this season?
[00:28:39] TERESA HSIAO: It was great. I mean, it was so nice to get people like Janeane and Scott Adsit and, you know, Ken Jeong and Frankie Muniz and just so many great stars, who decided to just come out and play, and take on all these roles that are so insane and outrageous. But yet they bring this element of grounding those characters into someone real. And, you know, obviously the show is, like you said, really silly and we have a lot of crazy things. But I think counting on the actors to bring in that level of realness–it’s always so fun when someone comes in and they’re, like, just game to do whatever.
[00:29:15] BD WONG: It just couldn’t be more fun. You know, someone comes in that you admire or that has made you laugh in something else–it all makes you feel excited about having that process of working with them. But it also really makes you feel like you’re on a really good show. “Oh my gosh, we’re really attracting these people to the show. We must be a good show.” That just doesn’t happen if you don’t have something to offer them.
[00:29:38] LORI TAN CHINN: I gotta add. I also have to add that I recently saw a production–a one woman show–that starred Judy Gold. And it was directed by BD Wong! It’s a fantastic show. It just closed. And I hope that there’s going to be more of a life touring with it and, you know, having more audiences in the future. But it was an excellent thing. And she has an episode.
[00:30:05] ASHLEY RAY: Did the episode help bring you two together? Were you already, you know, friends before you directed her show?
[00:30:11] BD WONG: Oh, yeah. I’ve been her friend since Margaret Cho’s show in the ’90s.
[00:30:14] ASHLEY RAY: Oh my gosh. Yeah!
[00:30:17] BD WONG: And so that’s where we met. And she’s been working on this show. It’s from her book that she wrote a few years ago. So, this has been in the works for a while, and we worked on a lot of it last year. But yes, this is the perfect example because it really is these people that come into the show that really have something to bring to the table. And they are so funny. Judy is just endlessly funny.
[00:30:42] ASHLEY RAY: She’s so funny. Again, we don’t do spoilers here. You’re going to want to watch that episode. And I love that you brought up the Margaret Cho show because there’s been so much conversation recently around the lack of representation for Asian Americans. And when you watch this show, I’m just kind of like, “How are the networks so behind in the fact that Asian-American comedy exists–that these shows should be taking over–that there should be more of it?
[00:31:09] BD WONG: That conversation, you know, with the Oscars and everything is a really fertile conversation. It shows you how far we’ve come, where we need to go, and where we hope to go. And I find it particularly encouraging. But I’m also a very cynical person, so who knows how long something like this could last. But I think it’s both positive and challenging.
[00:31:34] TERESA HSIAO: Yeah, I find it encouraging, too. And I too, like BD, am a bit cynical. But I think, you know, obviously from where we started, where there were so few and now there are more and more and more… And I say, like, “Let’s just keep being greedy. Sure, Everything Everywhere All at Once was a huge win. But we wouldn’t necessarily call that an “Asian movie.” But I don’t think you call this an “Asian show” necessarily. Like, we’re just a show trying to be a comedy for everyone. And I think it’s really great that now you can start to see shows that are just like, “Oh, it’s not just an Asian show. It’s just a show, you know?” And that’s what we really hope to be, like, “Oh, that’s not just a specific thing for a specific audience.” You know, we want to be for everybody. And I think, you know, especially with this incredible gang of actors and all the storylines–it really is a universal story.
[00:32:30] ASHLEY RAY: And it’s just so, so funny. You know, to me, I would think that this is one of those things that knocked down some doors that led to us getting the movie Joy Ride coming out that I’m so excited about. I cannot wait for Joy Ride.
[00:32:45] TERESA HSIAO: Lori’s in it!
[00:32:45] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, yeah. We have a rule. We don’t talk too much about movies on TV Club, but I will allow a shout out for Joy Ride because I am so, so, so excited. And I feel like Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens is one of those shows that… You have to get Hollywood to believe something can work. And for me it was like, “How can you deny the talent of this cast?” I really also want to get into the experience of working with Bowen Yang, who I feel like got Nora and SNL kind of around the same time and then just has blown up to be one of their biggest cast members. What is it like working with him on set?
[00:33:20] TERESA HSIAO: Yeah, when we shot the pilot, he had not been on SNL or anything. Season One, he was a writer on SNL, but he was acting for us. And I remember he got the call for SNL while he was on set with us that he was going to be a cast member on the following season. And it was just so exciting, you know, to really see someone who… When we saw his audition tape, Edmund’s character was completely different before. And then we saw Bowen’s audition tape. We’re like, “Wow, there’s just something about him. We’re going to kind of rewrite the character to really fit who Bowen is.” And then just to see him kind of blow up and get his flowers. It’s so well-deserved because he’s just so lovely on set. So funny, of course. And he’s just a delight all around.
[00:34:07] ASHLEY RAY: I feel like, watching this season, there’s a sense that maybe he does a lot of improv. So, I was kind of curious about those comedic instincts. Is he, you know, surprising you on set, throwing random stuff in there?
[00:34:20] LORI TAN CHINN: We’re all doing that.
[00:34:21] TERESA HSIAO: Yeah, all the actors are doing that. Yeah.
[00:34:24] ASHLEY RAY: That’s amazing.
[00:34:25] BD WONG: It’s a tone that he definitely helps to reinforce because his comfort in that improvisation is so solid. And certainly, I look to him for that energy and the permission to just invent, which is not my background at all. And so, I find between the four of us there is this bizarre kind of free-for-all feeling that is really liberating and really fun. And he’s definitely a big part of that.
[00:34:58] LORI TAN CHINN: I think when we first did the pilot, he just got cast for one day or something–or a couple of days. And he just came on–everybody’s jaw dropped. “Oh, he’s taking us all there.” And Awkwafina just, you know, completely went with it. Improv between the two of them, battling cousins, you know?
[00:35:24] ASHLEY RAY: Oh, I’m sure there’s just so much blooper footage that could be its own show with the two of them. And since this is established–not a spoiler–I do need to know: Did Edmund have a tail initially or was that an energy Bowen brought to the character?
[00:35:40] TERESA HSIAO: Yeah. I’m trying to remember when we sort of talked about Edmund’s tail. I’m not sure exactly when it was. It might have come up after we had already cast him. But that’s a great question. It’s funny just to think that maybe Bowen’s vibe just, like, made us think that Edmund needed to have a tail. But I can’t remember the exact origin story of the tail.
[00:36:07] BD WONG: It does feel like something you would decide after knowing him.
[00:36:11] TERESA HSIAO: Probably.
[00:36:13] ASHLEY RAY: After knowing Bowen, you’re like, “He has tail vibes.”
[00:36:16] LORI TAN CHINN: It was mentioned in the pilot, and then it went further.
[00:36:20] ASHLEY RAY: I think there is a very wonderful story with his tail this season. So, if you need something there, this season does provide. This season, again–I’ve said it so many times–I just enjoyed it so much. It’s so, so funny. And I do want to talk about this season’s final two episodes. It’s a little two-parter. Without giving away too much, it does get really meta. We have Nora exploring different avenues of her life and the real Awkwafina kind of stepping in to show maybe one aspect of how her life could have worked. You know, in putting that story together, what did you kind of want to relay about Awkwafina and Nora with this sort of ending story here?
[00:37:20] TERESA HSIAO: Yeah, well, we had, you know, talked a lot about how to bring in the Awkwafina character. You know, obviously, the show’s title is Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens. And she had a lot to do, obviously, with this episode as well in terms of really wanting to kind of think about what her life would be like if she were not Awkwafina. I think that is what so much of this show is. It’s sort of this alternate life of, like, if she had stayed at home and kind of just hung out with her dad and grandma. You know, a lot of the show sometimes, when she’s watching it–not to speak for her–really is kind of, like, this strange parallel universe that is her life that that could have been. And so, we really wanted to bring those two together in a way that felt right but also felt like something that we could do on our show without totally going too, too, too meta in that other direction.
[00:38:17] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, I thought it hit just sort of a perfect tone. And Lori, BD, what was it like to play these alternate versions of your characters? I think Wally has a lot of fun in one of those alternate realities.
[00:38:32] BD WONG: This is all part of what we were talking about before, which is, like, there are all these different colors and different fun things and costumes and wackiness. And there’s nothing not fun about it. There’s just nothing not fun about it. And then there’s this kind of sense that when you walk onto the set and, you know, you reveal yourself to everybody–Teresa primarily, actually–you get this reaction like, “Oh my God.” Theresa is almost like, “What have I done?”
[00:38:57] TERESA HSIAO: Horrified. When BD walked into the office…
[00:39:02] BD WONG: Both those times, actually.
[00:39:03] TERESA HSIAO: Oh, yeah. You were, like, a sideshow character. Everyone wanted to take pictures with you.
[00:39:09] BD WONG: Yeah, I was like Elmo in Times Square. Yeah, it was only fun. It’s just all completely 1,000% fun. And I loved it. I love it. I love costumes. This is like character work within character work. Like, I like to think of myself as a character actor. I always like to, you know, look different or act different or whatever. And then this is even further deep down into falling down the rabbit hole of character work, which is great for me. I just love it. Every day is Halloween.
[00:39:46] ASHLEY RAY: And Lori, in the episode where Nora and Bowen’s character go to Iceland, you are there as this, like, ghost spirit. Did you film those, like, on a green screen? What was that like?
[00:40:01] LORI TAN CHINN: I’ll tell you, the producer, Sean, had called and said, “Hey, you know, I got to let you know that for an episode, we’re going to Iceland.” Before he even finished the word, “Iceland! Am I in it? Am I gonna be in it?” So, you know, it was like, “Let me just kind of pray and be real nice to Teresa.” The next day I found out that they brought me in, so I really didn’t know how it was going to appear, except that we had a little ADR session and I got to see myself, which is kind of cool how they put me in.
[00:40:48] TERESA HSIAO: Lori manifested her Iceland trip. But I think it totally fits into the episode in terms of the real quality of some of the things that we do.
[00:41:02] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, I would say it is not the most out there thing that happens in that episode, which might have been my favorite just from, Lori, your character appearing as the ghost Grandma being like, “Yeah, bitch, of course you’re not Icelandic. That moment–absolutely funny. And again, Bowen dying his hair. Everything that I just love about the tone and surreal comedic quality of the show. We’re almost at the end here. Before we go, is there anything you want to say about this season? I’m already telling them, “Watch it. Watch it. You gotta watch it. It’s so funny.” Just the four of you together on screen is such an amazing comedic duo. You’re just losing out if you’re not enjoying this. And it’s so great to see that you have that joy behind the scenes and really, really seem to love working with each other.
[00:41:50] LORI TAN CHINN: Well, I got to say that Bowen has confessed to us–without giving anything away–that he has a Saturday night gig, but he really feels like he’s at home when he comes on the set and works with us. So, you know, this is very special to him, very special to me, and is such a small cast that we can really concentrate on each other and get to know each other. You know, this is a family show. It’s not a huge bunch of members, but we really get to work off each other. And isn’t that a dream? Improvisation I love. And I do all these characters. I’m no longer a beauty queen, so, you know…
[00:42:35] BD WONG: Yes, you are.
[00:42:37] ASHLEY RAY: Lori, you’re the ultimate beauty queen. Excuse me. You in the cute little heels and the fur coat and the face tattoo?
[00:42:50] BD WONG: I think every show has its own fan identity. And the fan identity on our show is really vivid and strong. And we just want to say thank you to all the fans. And I just love hearing what they’re up to, what they were into, what they want, what they’re hoping for, and all of that. It’s just really fun to get feedback from them. So, we’ll see you on the social media and hope that they enjoy the show this year. We really have loved doing this last season. I really thought this last season was really incredible.
[00:43:24] ASHLEY RAY: It really is.
[00:43:24] TERESA HSIAO: It’s just so fun with this cast. And like Lori said, like, we really are a family. Like, it really feels emotional for us to do the show. And so, we’re just glad that people like it and watch it. And we’re thrilled for people to see it on April 26th.
[00:43:42] ASHLEY RAY: Yes. As of this, it’ll be out. You can watch Season Three of Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens Wednesday nights at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central. I want to thank my amazing, amazing guests today. Truly, this is so, so much fun. Biggest takeaway? Go watch this show. Thank you so much for joining me. Thanks again to my guests, BD Wong, Lori Tan Chinn, Teresa Hsiao. Oh my goodness. I got to watch the whole season. It’s very, very funny. Go watch it. Again, go support these shows. I do believe it is Bowen Yang doing some of his best, best stuff. Watch it and be like, “Oh, I can’t believe I waited so long to watch this.” So go watch Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens. Let me give you some homework. Obviously, you need to keep watching Barry and Succession because we’re all just holding each other through this process. Catch up on You, Me & My Ex because I am watching it and I am loving it. We also have The Goldbergs finale coming up. Let’s all get together to say goodbye to the show that only I watch, but I’m watching it. And let’s all get together to say goodbye to it with me, please. We also have Couples Therapy. New episodes of Couples Therapy came out this past weekend. I’m not sure why there hasn’t been a ton of talk about it, but it’s a really wild season that gets into a lot of polyamory. It has this really, like, interesting young lesbian couple that’s just an incredible look at a younger generation. And I loved it. And I’d love to hear what you think about it. So that is on your homework list. And then I want you to tell me about it. You know, you can always use speakpipe.com/tvisay, leave a little message for me, tell me what you think about couples therapy or any other show. What else are you watching? And if you love this podcast or you just enjoy this episode, you know, share with a friend, get them hooked on it too. TV Club is always accepting new members, especially now as we face this strike together. So spread the word. And I saved this until the very end–okay–I’m going to add a one Succession spoiler right here. So, if you don’t want a spoiler, you better hang up now. You don’t want a Succession spoiler, hang up. If you didn’t watch it, hang up. Stop listening. But I’m going to put it in right here–just one little Succession spoiler thing. I think that Tom does know Shiv pregnant but isn’t saying anything about it yet. That’s what I think. And I definitely think that Jerry has a lot of pictures of Roman saved up and that is going to come back on Roman, which is why he tried to be like, “Hey, Ken, we might need to reverse my whole decision because I’m just, like, not thinking.” And it’s like, “Yeah, buddy. You are not. You are not thinking.” Yeah. So that’s my little, little discussion spoiler right there. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll be back next week with another episode. TV, I Say with Ashley Ray is an Earwolf production made by me, Ashley Ray-Harris. It’s engineered by Abby Aguilar and produced by Amelia Chappelow. And our original theme song is by RaFia. It means so much to me if you go rate, review, subscribe. Follow TV, I Say. Let us know what you think and tell your friends. Share with your Golden Girls. Tell your Boys. If you love my TV recommendations, let everyone you know know. For special TV Club members, join my Patreon. And you can also find my full archive of ad free episodes of TV, I Say over on Stitcher Premium. Use Promo code “tvisay”–all one word–for a one-month free trial at stitcher.com/premium.
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