NEXT UP

Getting started in comedy? Andrew Phung has advice for you

The actor behind Kimchee from 'Kim's Convenience' has some tips for amateur stand up comedians and improv performers.
Andrew Phung won two Canadian Screen Awards for his role as Kimchee in ‘Kim’s Convenience.’

Making people laugh is Andrew Phung's passion.

You may know him better as Kimchee, the loveable sneakerhead who plays Jung's (Simu Liu) roommate in Kim's Convenience.

Phung began sharpening his comedic wit performing with the Loose Moose Theatre Company while he was growing up in Calgary. And now that Kim's Convenience plays internationally on Netflix and Korean cable television, Phung's brand of humour— as Kimchee — streams on screens across the world.

Reflecting back on his success, the Kim's Convenience actor had these tips to share with up-and-coming comedic performers.

 

Stay curious

Phung credits his sense of curiosity that spurred his creative spirit when he first started doing improv at 16.

"Because I was young, I was a really curious person," says Phung.

"Looking past age, if you love comedy and you want to get into it, just be curious."

Curiosity comes easy as a child, but how can you keep an open mind as you grow older?  

"Read as many books as possible, watch as much comedy as possible. Go to as many shows as possible and dedicate your time to it," says Phung.

If you're interested, go see it, live it, breathe it.- Andrew Phung

See more shows

The actor says getting into comedy is like learning how to be a cook: if you're an aspiring chef, you'd most likely be looking for new recipes and watching cooking shows on the regular.

But an up-and-coming cook can't sit on the couch watching Chef's Table forever — if you want to make an omelette, you need to crack a few eggs first.

Simu Liu (far L) joins his castmate Andrew Phung (far R) on stage for Theatresports at the Loose Moose Theatre Company in 2017. (Loose Moose Theatre Company/Facebook)

Phung fondly recalls his weekend routine in Calgary — if it was a Friday or Saturday evening, chances are he was at the Loose Moose theatre. Years later, he still feels anxious for missing out on a show.

"If it's Friday and it's 7 o'clock, my stomach starts churning and my gut is like, 'Yo Phung, why aren't you at Loose Moose theatre with your hand up trying to get in the show?'" he says.

If you don't have a chance to see comics live, Phung says to find their shows on Youtube. Watching improv troupes and comedians online gave him more insight on what works and what fails on stage.

"What are they doing that I'm not doing?" says Phung. "If they're bad, it's like, what are they doing that's bad? Am I doing that?"

You have a point of view. You have a story to tell.- Andrew Phung

Embrace failure

Being heckled or "bombing" a set can be uncomfortable and intimidating to any new comedian, but Phung admits failure is a natural part of the process. He recommends performing at open mics and getting up in front of audiences as much as possible to develop a thick skin.

"If you have a bad experience in comedy, please do not walk away. Don't stop," says Phung.

He also stresses the importance of finding a community of like minded performers.

"Find people that support you. Others may hate and doubt you — avoid them, don't listen to them."

Your voice matters

Kim's Convenience is often lauded for increasing representation of Asian-Canadian performers on television.

But when Phung was starting out in Calgary, there weren't many other Canadian comedians who looked like him. He recalls a moment when a close friend said, "'You're not going to make it as a comedian. There's no Asian comedians.'"

After that conversation, Phung was determined not to let those attitudes keep him from achieving his goals. "Tell those haters to screw off, do what makes you happy," he says.

"You have a point of view. You have a story to tell."


Think you're funny?

Show us what you got — submit your funniest material to CBC Comedy's Next Up talent search until February 21, 2019. The winner will get a chance to perform at the 2019 Ha!ifax ComedyFest. Enter now and find more details at cbc.ca/nextup