The American actor and stand-up comedian talks about his favorite moments in Netflix’ “Space Force” and the joys of doing live comedy
If you enjoy looking up stand-up highlights on YouTube, chances are the site’s algorithm has suggested quite a few videos featuring Jimmy O. Yang. Born in Hong Kong, Yang moved to the States when he was 13 years old and was well on his way towards a career in wealth management. But instead, he worked various odd jobs to support himself while pursuing his real dream: stand-up comedy.
Yang soon took the plunge into acting as well and made his TV debut in 2012. Fast forward to today, and he’s become an established actor with appearances in titles such as HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” although his best-known work at the moment would definitely be Netflix’ “Space Force.”
DAMAN: So, first and foremost, “Space Force” season two has started streaming not too long ago. What can fans of the series expect this time around?
Jimmy O. Yang: It’s going to be fun this year. This season is going to feel more like a true ensemble comedy where we give all the great actors on the show room to play with each other. Even though it’s always very high stakes at “Space Force,” it’s going to feel more like a relatable family this season, with our colorful characters.
DAMAN: So far, what has been your most memorable on set moment while working on “Space Force”?
Jimmy O. Yang: We were up in Vancouver shooting “Space Force” during the pandemic. We couldn’t hang out with anyone else, so we all we had
was each other. On the weekends, we’d rent out this little movie theater and watch movies with just the several of us, and on our last weekend, we invited John Malkovich to watch “Con Air” with us. It was incredible.
DAMAN: Anybody following the news leading up to the debut of “Space Force” knows that the show poked fun at the real-life U.S. Space Force and the political drama around its establishment. In, say, ten years from now, do you think that the series will still be binge-worthy on a lazy weekend?
Jimmy O. Yang: At the end of the day, the show is a funny workplace comedy, so I think people now, and in the future, can enjoy it. Even though the characters are working at a based-on-real-life military branch, they’re still people at work, and you form relationships and friendships with people you work with. Everyone that has ever worked anywhere can relate to that.
DAMAN: Back to the lighter side of things, late last year, you starred in “love hard.” What was it like working on—please correct us if we’re wrong here—your first leading role in a romantic film? And is this a genre you’d like to explore more of in the future?
Jimmy O. Yang: I loved making “Love Hard.” It was a romantic story but also a relatable human story and an underdog story. I’d love to make more rom-coms in the future and any other stories that are worthy of telling.
DAMAN: You’ve done various comedy shows, a romantic movie, comedy dramas, voiceover for animated series and so on. What has been your favorite film project so far?
Jimmy O. Yang: I don’t think there’s a specific type of project that I prefer. It’s the people working on the project that make it special. The “Space Force” cast, crew and writers are honestly some of the most talented, coolest and kindest people out there. It’s a joy to work with Greg, Steve, Norm [Executive Producers Greg Daniels, Steve Carell, Norm Hissock—who also wrote several episodes each] in the writers room, then act with the amazing cast. Each person is so inspiring and kind, truly a rare group. I’d love to do anything with a group like this.
DAMAN: Do you have any other upcoming shows, series or movies that you can share with us?
Jimmy O. Yang: I am working on writing a show that I’m super excited about. I can’t say too much about it, but it’s very close to my heart and my childhood. And I’m doing the show with Greg Daniels, Mike Judge and my partners Jessica Gao and Ken Cheng at Crab Club. Truly a dream team.
DAMAN: And what about stand-up? What do you enjoy the most about doing comedy in front of a live audience?
Jimmy O. Yang: It’s the live feedback—you get the instant gratification of laughter and it’s a joyous moment when you’re doing it right. Whereas with TV and film, you have to wait so long and hope that something comes out well. Standup is instantaneous, and if the jokes are not good today, you can always come back tomorrow and be better.
DAMAN: By the way, stand-up has been steadily becoming more and popular in Indonesia. Do you have any tips or advice you can share for any budding comedians looking to make it big here?
Jimmy O. Yang: It’s about practice and repetition, just like any other art form or sports. The thing about standup is you can’t really practice it by yourself, you have to practice in front of an audience. So, for anybody out there who wants to make it as a comedian, you have to spend every night at a comedy club and grind out your material in order to get better. And if that sounds daunting, it is; but if you love it, it’ll barely feel like work.
DAMAN: What is your dream project? your bucket list for film, live-comedy or anything, really…
Jimmy O. Yang: Aside from the show I’m working on right now, I think there are some great Asian and Asian American stories out there featuring truly extraordinary people. We have so many more inspiring figures beyond just Bruce Lee, there are many heroes in all walks of life that have extraordinary stories that haven’t been told. I’d love to be part of telling some of those stories.
U.S.-BASED CREATIVE DIRECTOR MITCHELL NGUYEN MCCORMACK
FASHION EDITOR KIMBERLY GOODNIGHT
STYLING TAYLOR OLSEN
PHOTO BY MITCHELL NGUYEN MCCORMACK and KIMBERLY GOODNIGHT
GROOMING JENI CHUA FOR EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS USING MAC COSMETICS AND KMS
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