Guy Aoki - Transcript
[00:00:00] guy, you know, thank you so much for coming on the strong Asian legacies podcast. honestly, you’re one of the first persons, online that I had seen that got me into really thinking about the industry in something further, just like, becoming the next artist or doing something more. and even this past weekend, I watched some of your work, with my grandmother and she was really impressed by what you were doing.
Masami Moriya: And so, I’m really thankful to have you on the podcast today.
Guy Aoki: Well, thanks for telling me. It’s always nice to be asked. So yeah.
Masami Moriya: It’s really rad. Well, I’ll introduce you in the, in the previews, but I really want to hear from you. You know, what drives you to be an activist with an Asian-American entertainment community? Because I feel like, you’re one of the first people and probably the only person that I’ve seen who is so insistent and assertive in, in, in what you’re doing, that you take no take no bullshit.
And so, I love it and I think we need more of that. So, but I’m wondering what about you makes you, makes drives you for this, this work [00:01:00] that you do?
Guy Aoki: So we’re recording now.
Masami Moriya: Yeah. Yeah. We’re
Guy Aoki: Okay. you know, I grew up in Hilo, Hawaii, which at the time had 25,000 people and the mirror was Japanese American. The governor was Japanese American. The person in charge of civil defense was Korean-American the main judge that everyone looked up to was Japanese-American. So I grew up with a sense of belonging.
I grew up with a sense that, we were capable of doing anything, you know, I didn’t grow up on minority. Hawaii now is 60% Asian or Pacific Islander. never had anybody come up to us and say, Hey, you know how long you been in our country? You speak really good English. We never had that patronizing bullshit that a lot of other people have faced it.
I’ve heard horror stories about, so the only problem for me in making the shift from Hilo to Los Angeles, where I came for college was how do you go from being the king of a small pond to the big king of a small pond, to the big pond? [00:02:00] And so I have some issues to deal with that. I, I did have some insecurities and how, how do Asian people get accepted or not accepted, but the base was there to feel like Asian people are worthwhile.
We don’t, I don’t have an insecurity about that. That’s never been an issue with me. I never worry about how good.
our Asian people are. We American enough. I never went to that bullshit on security. So I always had a firm foundation in being. In whatever issue came up that I had to push for the biggest challenge was to get white people, to give a shit about it.
That was what the whole thing was. And also, you know, when we started meeting with the networks in 1999 on a regular basis, Asian Americans were like 5% of the population. So you, you in a room with the NAACP, with the Latinos native Americans, and you’re only 5%. So you have to, you have to convince the powers that be that your community counts as well.
[00:03:00] Even if we’re not that many people now it’s 7%, so it’s a little bit more, but, so that’s where I came from. And I always had a very strong sense of justice. I remember in 1980, when I was a senior in high school, I read this newspaper article where president Carter commission, the commission. To look into what happened doing, world war II.
When they put 120,000 Japanese Americans and in German camps for three to four years and Daniel Noah, our Senator from Hawaii, he said, Yeah.
we want to, we want to look into this because people may have been hurt. And I remember telling my mom, people may have been hurt. Come on. He knows very well. They were heard.
Why do these politicians have to be so,why do they have to be so safe in what they say? He knows it very well. What happened to our people? So in 1981, someone from NCRR, which is a national coalition for redress and [00:04:00] reparations, and now they’re renamed Nikkei for civil rights and redress. So they can still be NCRR.
they came to speak to my college class at Occidental college. I was a sophomore and the commission hearings. They show these tearful testimonies from people who hadn’t even told their children about why they were put in prison by their own government. And some of them were crying. And,I was, I was hooked on this.
Guy Aoki: I was, I was riveted by this stuff and other people in the audience, I don’t know how much they were into it. The problem was that there was some problem with the projection and this idiot was putting on different stuff in the background. It had nothing to do with what the person was speaking about. And so they were laughing, they were laughing and I was furious.
It’s like, you don’t laugh at an issue this serious. I was just furious. And then finally the guy, he looks in the bag and then they really, really, really laugh. Cause now he’s realizing what’s going on in the bathroom. They’re not showing the commission hearings, you know, but,[00:05:00] so that was my first introduction to NCRR.
And then I went to, went back to Hawaii, went to UHC when Noah. From January 82 to, June of 83.
Masami Moriya: Yeah.
Guy Aoki: But, after I came back to Occidental college, someone from STR came to talk to our Asian Alliance group. And I w I joined like December of 84 and I was one of the hundred and 40 people who lobbied Congress in 1987 to pass a redress bill.
There were 15 teams. Each of us had, six or seven people in our group, and we were assigned to six or seven congressmen to, to lobby. And I was one of the 15 liters. I was like, I was twenty-five. I was the youngest leader. And it was that experience in dealing with these congressmen, with her age that gave me the confidence that, you know, I, I think I can be a leader.
I think I’ve always been looked at as a leader when I was a really. Like in elementary school, they’d always nominate me for president of the class [00:06:00] and stuff. And I just kinda like submerge. When I went to intermediate school in high school, I just kinda didn’t get involved at all. But I got such good feedback from the women in my group about how I handled this Congressman from Glendale, who was this Republican, who was never going to vote for the bill
that I think I have to think about that.
And so in 1987, that same year we did two panel discussions at Occidental college. One was on Asian American actors and one was on Asian American politicians. And it was trying to get people, at least at Occidental college to look at careers other than being a lawyer or being a doctor. So we had Georgia K, we had the Catholic gung-ho.
And so that was the beginning of my talking about the media and the impact that it has on us and how it helps it affects ourselves. Yeah. So it started from there.
Masami Moriya: Wow. I mean, yeah, it’s funny. Cause I’m also a part of our NCRR now
Guy Aoki: Are you serious?
Masami Moriya: correlation. Yeah. Yeah. I’m, I’m working with and [00:07:00] help work with them that, you know, as they come back into things, being Japanese, American myself, my family is in the camps and
Guy Aoki: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Masami Moriya: and I really listened to, a lot of those testimonials.
I found a lot of, I have a, we just radio is my second podcast where we listened to the other testimony,
Guy Aoki: Oh, good for you.
we want to keep it going right now. It’s only like four episodes, but we want to keep it rolling because I think that those that’s a part of that media thing is like that was recorded back then.
Masami Moriya: And that gets people inspired to hear about it and the importance of documentation, being, having, standing up for yourselves and activism. that was my, one of my other biggest things about seeing Asian American stand up for what they believe is right. And then winning. Right. And so,yeah,
Guy Aoki: I will not be rushed by you as a member of this government ever. Oh,
Masami Moriya: Right.
Guy Aoki: alright. Jim. Jim is my hero. Jim is my hero. He captured the anger of our community and tell the commission don’t you dare you. [00:08:00] The government. It took away my family savings. Don’t you dare try to rush me when I tell you what you did to my family. I loved you. I loved you.
Masami Moriya: Ah, so fantastic. And that’s, that’s another thing that we just have in that, for me, it’s like history being documented, Asian American, standing up doing the thing, and then being, being just, agents of their own, their own being and having, having a stance against something. So, you know, seeing how you’ve got started with that, just feel like, ah, a lot of, of similar vibes.
yeah. What now, bringing that POL politics. Cause I come where politics is. Into the entertainment industry. what did you see like fitting together? Cause I feel like how Hollywood is all politics and being, that, how do you, how are you using that? the ability and the understanding of how the political system works into entertainment and you’ve changed so many minds you’ve changed, you’ve made people, apologize for things.
you mean, one of the things that’s Jalen or apologize for what it’s something he had said. I wanna hear [00:09:00] that story. And, you went on national TV with the politically incorrect with bill Maher and Maher and Silva, Sarah Silverman, really calling out what she had had said. And so, how, you know, standing up for that, all those things, you know, w why, w what, what drives you in that way and how you, how you doing that?
Guy Aoki: It’s really weird because when George Johnson and I formed motto in 1992, our original concept was. We’d probably take turns being president or vice-president for the first three, maybe four years. And then the meantime we thought other people would come in, that?
we didn’t even know of that would have the equal drive that we did.
And they will take over as president. And we kind of just be on the board for a while and then probably just quit and then let other people take take over. But it hasn’t been that easy. It’s it’s apparently not that easy to find someone who can do the work that the president of a meet me a watchdog group can do, which is to not be afraid of speaking in front of the cameras, not be afraid of [00:10:00] talking to the media, not afraid of having protests, physical protest against movies, to be able to write well and to give speeches and, and also the fundraising.
that’s, that was part of the thing that surprised me. I thought it was going to be a lot easier to hand this off to somebody else, but it is, it’s not been very easy to do that, but, I’m not sure. I don’t, I’m not sure if I can make a link between. Talking to politicians and then talking to the people in the media, like the people at the networks is a little different. what was I going with this.
Masami Moriya: Well, I think the, for me, like seeing mana a form, is this an organization, right. People coming together to stand up for that, I’ve seen you speak on television multiple times, in the past, for sure. And now it’s mostly the, the blogs, but seeing, you know, people would come together to, to have those physical protests.
I think a lot of Asian Americans today are worried about their jobs, about standing up and worried about they’re not gonna get hired on something. I I’ve had that feeling too, but I also think it’s really [00:11:00] important that we, we stand up for something that we don’t, we don’t like we don’t believe. And we don’t just let it go.
And. You know, what’s your reasoning and why behind doing something like that, you could totally have been someone who’s not on camera, who just kind of does the internet thing or newspapers and critics, but you know, you’re out there putting yourself on the line, you
Guy Aoki: Well, the formation of mana was linked to the redress movement because after going through all of that in Washington, DC and being involved with NCR from December 84 to February of 93, in the 1991, the media started doing these stars about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And they started doing this about maybe June of 91. So this is like six months early and they weren’t doing anything that was shining more light on what happened. Did FDR know,
Japan was going to bomb Pearl Harbor? Did he let it happen? Because he wanted to get Americans pissed off enough to join the war effort so he could help.[00:12:00]
Winston Churchill. Didn’t really talk about that. They just kind of put a mic in front of an old person and asked, how did you feel when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor? And so people would revive all of these stupid, wartime, hysteria things. Oh, we didn’t know who we could trust them. There are saboteurs among that.
Shut the fuck up. Shut the fuck up. There was not one person, not one Japanese American in Hawaii, in the whole country that was ever found guilty of doing anything to help the Japanese enemy. How dare you, how dare you after all this time, you’re still pushing that bullshit. So, at the time, redress was kind of winding down to bill was passed.
Senator Noey introduced an, something in the Senate where paying out the money would be an entitlement, meaning they didn’t have to fight for it in the budget. Half a billion, the first year, half a billion to second year. And then the remaining, I think it was $250 million the third [00:13:00] year. So we didn’t have to worry about that.
So NCR was looking into other areas to get involved in because they said, you know, we have a very good group here. We should probably stay together. There are other things we can get involved with. So I kept saying, you know, we have to have a media committee, a media watchdog committee, to talk about how the media is misrepresenting Asian people and how it’s affecting the way people think of us and how they treat us.
And NCR is about the average person. About 20 years older than me, I was like one of the young people there. And so they didn’t quite get it, or they’re afraid they’re intimidated by the media. I remember Burton McConnell. I love Britain O’Connor he was our national spokesperson. He was, he was also born and raised in Hawaii.
He had quite a spirit about him and we fought a lot, but he had a good heart. I know he had a really good heart. We laughed a lot as well. And he says, you can’t trust them. You know? You say something and you can cut it up any old way and they can make you say something you didn’t say. I said, I’m not afraid of that.
You gotta try, you got try it. And so that was the difference in approach. So I remember [00:14:00] complaining to my cousin on the phone and I had done, I had done this over the last four years. the more and more and more I paid attention to the way that we’re portrayed. I began to see this pattern of how Asian people are just laughed at.
We are not respected. You can make funds, you cannot make jokes about black people, but you can make fun. You can make fun of Asian people. No one’s going to defend you. And no one’s going to get in your case for, putting down Asian people, you can get away with it. And so I said to my cousin, if NCRR doesn’t form a committee, I’m going to form my own group.
And before I said that, I asked myself, okay, are you going to say that just to be dramatic? Or do you really mean. don’t just say it just to be dramatic. I mean, say it that you’re going to, if you say this you’re committed and I thought if I went, Yeah.
yeah, because I’m sick and tired of talking to the converted.
Everyone agrees with me. No one says you’re a wrong guy. No one says, God, you’re just making a big deal or not. Everyone [00:15:00] goes, yeah, you’re absolutely right. Asian men are always put down. We never get the girl. The Asian woman always gets a white guy. That’s all she’s interested in on this thing affects real life relationship.
You tell us Asian women who and what you should be attracted to and who you should not be attracted to your own men. This stuff is poisonous. So that’s why this active form model. So that’s where we started. So I got together with George Johnson who was with the JCL and he had written articles about when we need to form a media watchdog groups.
So people say, God, you gotta talk to George. Okay. Alright. So we talked and after about three meetings in person, we said of. Let’s have a meeting, you bring your people, I’ll bring my people and we’ll just start this group, you know? And that’s how we started April 9th, 1992. So we’re coming up on 30 years next year.
We just we’ll just shoot me, shoot me. I wasn’t supposed to be around as long. Believe me, I was not supposed to be around this level.
Masami Moriya: well, I mean, I think it’s a really important thing that you created. Right? And I think [00:16:00] part of it for me is that we do need this. We need someone to call it out, show it and stand up for the community at large, because otherwise no one will, like you said. And, and so one, thank you for being you. You said you weren’t going to be a very long and he tried to hand it off, but you’re still here.
So thank you. Cause I feel like even though. Like, I’ve talked to my friends about you and either, and mana and I just, I’m so sad that they don’t know about it. And I just see, but I’ve seen the work and you’re still doing today. I still keep up kind of the blog and see what’s what’s going on, what you’re talking about and still so relevant from when even just started 92.
So, you know, what’s been the biggest challenge to know, besides running and running a nonprofit, running these organizations is a lot of work as we’re seeing here. but you know, what’s been the biggest challenge to, you know, be that watchdog, be someone who’s stirring up trouble. I mean, nobody generally that’s, that’s rocking the boat.
Right. That’s being [00:17:00] something different. It’s one thing that generally Asian-Americans, aren’t worn to do or are taught to do as an a very, I feel like it’s generally an American thing to have the right to be that, that, that loud voice. but then in the industry, in the Asian American entertainment, There’s not a lot of it.
And so to see someone like you continually doing that, you know, what, what needs to happen now? Like if you’re, if you’re gonna, if someone was to, if you were to pass this off to somebody, what kind of person does that need to be? And how are we building, like building that structure for someone to become that?
Guy Aoki: They have to be very confident in what they believe, and they cannot worry about being liked. That’s what I’ve found in working with other groups. When we meet with the television networks is a lot of people that?
there’s this Asian thing, no matter what generation you are, I want it to be likely other people. When I go and put on my suit and I have a meeting with [00:18:00] ABC or NBC or Fox or CBS, or I’m meeting with the president of paramount as I have, it’s kinda like going from Clark Kent to Superman, not to be so full of myself, but there’s a distinct, does this distinction in my mind, About Gaia oaky, the private person versus guy OCA.
The activist guy, LPD activist looks at a problem, looks at what needs to be expressed as a problem so that they can change it and goes about it in the best way he can dealing with the personalities of the people in the room, giving the corporation that he’s dealing with. And he doesn’t worry about if they like him or not.
It’s based on this is the truth. Do you not agree? Do you agree? What can we do about it and going from that? And I, I’ve always said that because I’m a very detail oriented person. I am probably the person who will give the longest and deepest criticism of a network when they keep fucking up. [00:19:00] On the other hand, when they do really well, I am the one who will deliver the longest and deepest. And so I’m very happy with that. I mean,you know, there were, there were two ABC presidents in a row that I had to say, you know, ABC used to be the best network when it comes to number of Asian American regulars on their network. Now you’re the worst. So now you’re the worst. What are you going to do about it?
I said, I’ll just keep him MacPherson. And then his PR then his successor to Paulie. And so they knew that I just, I said bluntly. And, one of my, one of my favorite moments was, about three years after Pauli was president, they gave us in one season Blackish, a black family sitcom. Christella a Latino family sitcom fresh off the boat. first Asian American sitcom in 20. And I have a years and self selfie where John Cho plays a [00:20:00] romantic lead opposite. Karen Gillan is sexy redhead, and I, I gave them so much praise and I said, I don’t know how you guys did this, but I know it was not a coincidence. So I really want to know how you guys pulled this off.
And so we’re going back and forth talking about the GSE. We’re very happy with his life. And I said, you know what? I haven’t done this at a network meeting for, I’m not sure how long we’ve been meeting at that point 14, 15 years. I said, but for what it’s worth, I think you deserve this. So I stood up, I looked to the left, I went to the right in the middle to the right, give him a standing ovation and they’re all cracking.
’cause they know how hard I can be. And one of the women, Vicky Dumor, who was the head of current programs, she goes, can we stop the media right now? Because it’s not going to get better than this. I said, you want me to do it again in slow motion? You can take pictures. You know? So we have some light moments like that.
You know what I mean? So I I’m just, I just call it like a, see it. I’m just, I’m trying to be fair, you know? but what drives me comes back to what they did in [00:21:00] 1991. It’s like you fucking bastards. I am sick and tired of you pissing on my community. I knew they’re going to be hate crimes because of what you did fuck you.
I am never going to be a passive recipient of your bullshit. I’m going to push back. I’m going to have a rapid fire response team and you’re not going to get with a ship. That’s been my driving force because if I don’t do it, it’s going to happen. And as much as I can’t solve every single thing that these people are going to do or have done, I know that by being there, I have prevented a lot of that. by being proactive and telling the head of drama, the head of comedy, the head of casting, the head of reality shows what we’d like to see more of and what we’re sick and tired of. We have prevented so much of this stuff from coming out and affecting all of you watching TV and being pissed off and same with radio, you know, so that’s my drive.
That’s what it comes down to. It’s like, don’t, you dare put this bullshit on us. That for 1991, that’s never changed my anger [00:22:00] at the news media. And so ironic. We’ve gone mostly after non-used media, but, but that was my initial anger. I was don’t you fucking do this shit to us. That’s been my driving force.
Masami Moriya: no. And wow. I just to hear, hear that history. I think that’s something we definitely don’t know about. yeah. Well, I think the whole point is, is that we don’t want to have to react to fixing something. We want to prevent it in the first place and media reflects society. And we do reflects the reality of what it is.
But if media is a fictionalized lacking in. lacking in a certain demographics or in, representation of, of reality, then this society and disease, the media as that’s what reality is. And if we’re not holding them accountable for what they’re putting on our screens and into our homes and into our minds, we’re being riverine, brainwashed, you know, and that’s what media in general can be.
And we use a tool for good or, or bad, or just, a [00:23:00] negative neutral. And so, you know, hearing that people like yourself have had to stand up, did stand up, put, put their jobs, careers, pers people in person at all, on the line is really, is really valuable. And to see that, it needs to continue that work still needs to continue.
And so that leads me into our next thing is like, Have you seen that has no. You just went over the good positive of what black Haitian the boat did for, ABC, what else have you seen in general? That’s been a positive change in the industry since you’ve started,
Guy Aoki: Well, we’re seeing more, we’ve seen a lot more, Asian-American men in romantic situations with women. That was one of the main concerns that Monica had, because it was obvious. It was this kind of like a social apartheid. When you talk about Asian women and Asian men, Asian men were not attractive, even two women of their own race, apparently and Asian women were only interested in white men, you know, and it really, it really had,
was doing [00:24:00] number in the minds of Asian women.
I’ve I’ve heard so many Asian women’s. I never wanted to date Asian men. Cause they’ll be like dating your brother or your father. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, what now, can you imagine a white woman saying that about white men? I never wanted to date me. I mean, come on. Let’s let’s compare everybody across the board.
Black women, don’t say that against black men, black Latinos. Don’t say that against Latinos, only Asian women say that against Asian men. Why is that? It’s internalized racism. When you see enough times you’re men being beaten up by the white hero in a Kung Fu movie where the, the white guy knows come from more than the Asian guy.
For some reason, it’s a crap out of him. And it goes off into the sunset with an Asian women, with an Asian woman and you see nerds like, in 16 candles were getting what the Nabis just laughed at. And he doesn’t even know is being laughed at you. Get embarrassed by Asian men. You want to, you want to distance yourself from them because they make you look. That was what [00:25:00] was being done to Asian women for decades. So now it is changed where you have different, you have Asian American men who are regulars on TV series or stars of motion pictures, and they get the girl that is one major thing that was so hard to get going. and so now people of all races can look at different Asian men and go, wow, this is really odd.
That was really important to get going. The notion that Asian man could be desirable to not just their own women, but to women of all races. That was so hard, which sounds stupid. But that’s how, that’s how hard it was. No.
Masami Moriya: mean, yeah. I mean, I resonate with that a lot. Not only do I feel that from other Asian women, but even just in general, a sense of my own, self image, right? I still have problems with feeling like feeling valuable, feeling good, looking, I have a modeling shoot today just to get me on and it feels still feel weird about it because
Guy Aoki: Congratulations.
Masami Moriya: many.
Guy Aoki: Oh, you’re a good looking guy. So good for [00:26:00] you.
Masami Moriya: Well, I need the extra money. And so, the biggest thing is just for me to, to feel confident in, in that way, I feel like I’m always looked down upon martyr people. no. Do I see myself as equal most of the time? I don’t. I think apart and when I was younger, especially when I was younger, I’m being, I’m mixed race too.
So I’m a mixed Japanese, American and white. And so, and then I was around my white family, a lot Vata my, you know, holidays and stuff like that. And white neighborhood. And even my dad, like you said, you’re not Asian, you’re not Asian if anybody ever asks and definitely not Japanese. and to see that, you know, in my life, I didn’t, I didn’t think it was,Japanese or Asian, for 25 years I had something someone had to tell me, you’re Asian, you’re a person of color and it really changed my mind of what that looked like.
Guy Aoki: Wait. So your,
Masami Moriya: I look back,
Guy Aoki: your father who is Asian or non-Asian
Masami Moriya: yeah, he’s Japanese, he’s Japanese American. He’s full of.
Guy Aoki: so she didn’t want you to promote yourself as being Japanese. You’re supposed to be white.
Masami Moriya: He just you’re you’re American.
Guy Aoki: [00:27:00] that’s a self hatred. There you have no matter what you are, you have to be comfortable with what you are. Otherwise there’s all kinds of crap happens in self hatred. Yeah.
Masami Moriya: I think it was a lot of internalized racism and then like it, him growing up in the eighties, and his, his brother being killed and murdered by a cop, you know, w and because they thought he was, you know, my grandmother says he was, they, that officer thought he was a different Japanese boy who had given him trouble earlier.
Guy Aoki: I’m sorry.
Masami Moriya: Yeah. It’s, it’s a whole family thing, but I think that really screwed with them. And then, you know, seeing the, for me, it was seeing the media only being anything that was good as Asian was only anime. If I, once I, I love Pokemon all that stuff, and then all those things, but then once I got to college and it was like super geeky, and like, I couldn’t even speak Japanese, Japanese class.
I can be any era, anything, and everybody else could. But that internalized racism also still stuck with me for so many years. I didn’t want to be with Asian people. I wasn’t that I wasn’t fresh off the boat. I wasn’t, I didn’t have an accent. I’m fifth generation. [00:28:00] And so, you know, even people around me were people were coming international students.
And so it was really hard. And I think immediate really played into that. And I think that’s why it’s so important for me to go into media today to make something different, change that, change the perspective, and add new stories. And so I’m glad we’re seeing a lot, change today.
Guy Aoki: No. When we first met with the networks in 1999, they all said, look, we don’t want to have quotas. Okay. But yes, we’re going to try to push to have more people of color on television. Now, after the George Floyd murder, CBS and other networks are having quarters, which is shocking to me where, George cheeks, the head of CBS says we’re going to aim for a writer’s room that is 50% people of color.
So he’s aiming to hire black, Latino, Asian, native, American, indigenous people to be in the writer’s room, writing every TV show that they have. And they’re applying that also to do [00:29:00] reality shows you watch big brother. survivor, you can see the change. There’s so many black wall, a little too many black people, quite frankly, because they’re putting like one-third of the cast being black.
So they’re overcompensating, but, and there’s something that we can talk about debt, cause there’s ramifications to that. But it’s really interesting to see how they’re doing like an overreaction, to feeling guilty about not doing enough to help black people. So Asian people are kind of the beneficiaries of that on some level.
But, the problem is that when people say minority, they always think black. When they say people of color, they think black that’s always been the thing. So we’ve always had to fight and say, look, this is where you need to be mindful of, including us. Where does the show take place if a San Francisco, where one third of the population is Asian, where it’s Hawaii, where 60% is Asian or Pacific Islander, we have to be the regulars in that. And they rarely are, what’s the job medicine. [00:30:00] We’re like 23% of all Asian doctors. I’ve only of all doctors are Asian. Okay. So, you know, you got a medical drama, where’s the Asian regulars, right. So that’s kind of like ho how we try to push ourselves into these situations because otherwise they’re just going to put black people there.
That’s that’s the, that’s the first response. Oh, we need a minority. Oh, let’s get, let’s get Dooley hill. Let’s get, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. So that’s what, one of the things we’re fighting against, but that’s, what’s changing now in that people are looking to give opportunities to people, including Asian Americans that they haven’t before.
Like, CBS has a new show called ghosts and it’s the two leads are a white blonde woman and her husband who’s south Asian. Oh, well, it’s interesting that, you know, so that’s part of the beneficiary of the new, the new, mental. So it’s really amazing. I, mean, the George Floyd murder affected corporations across the world and everyone now has a diversity [00:31:00] officer would stupid.
Didn’t have one before and they’re really making a push to include more people of color. What was encouraging to me was actors who had taken roles, voiceover roles, playing Asian characters. Apologize. We had worked on a letter to send to BoJack horseman years ago because it focused on a Vietnamese American woman in her twenties played by, was voiced by what’s her name. she was in,
Masami Moriya: by now you’re talking about.
Guy Aoki: in Glo and she was in,ah, what’s that NBC sitcom a Jewish woman. Anyway, so she apologized, she said, I should not have taken this role. I apologize. I am so. In my white privilege, I thought that I could play this character. Dish should have hired a real Vietnamese or Asian woman. She could have brought more dimension to this character than I could.
And, Kristen bell, she was playing a mixed race, black girl. She said, you know what, [00:32:00] I’m quitting this role. I am sorry. I made, in my mind, I rationalized why I could play this character. I’ve got no business playing this character. I don’t know what it’s like to be part of black there should I told the producers, hire someone who’s black or part black.
And they agreed. So there’s been self-reflection, that’s been very gratifying to me that people have looked at it and go, was I thinking? I get a real Asian person to do this. They need more opportunities I can pick and choose my. Projects. They are lucky to get these projects, let them have the first option.
So everyone, a lot of people coming around except for someone like scholar Johanson, who did ghost in the shell playing a Japanese woman. Right.
Masami Moriya: quick back. I was at Alison Brie played Diane. And
Guy Aoki: thank you, So she
Masami Moriya: no,
Guy Aoki: Yeah.
Masami Moriya: that’s all there was. And now you remember, you know, I think one of the moments that I noticed and remembered was Emma Stone. It was on the, on the osseous. She had said, I’m sorry. She was like, I’m sorry,
Guy Aoki: and you were P you know, the thing is that people said they should have had a camera trained on Emma Stone because they, [00:33:00] the people who were filming this,
the golden gloves, they knew what was going to be in Sarah, owes a monologue where she made a joke. She goes, you know, fresh of the boat is the first,film to feature Asian Americans. Aloha, right. And Emma Stone, they knew what’s going to be there. They should have had our camera train on Emma Stone to see what her reaction was going to be. But you know what, you’re probably, again, too sympathetic to the white woman, they probably felt bad that Emma Stone was going to look bad, but that was a loss opportunity for the show to capture her reaction where she said, I’m sorry.
And she meant it. That was classic. And that is what was also fantastic. When we get enough Asian American celebrities, where they can be asked to be the host or cohost of an award show and they get all that applause when they go up there and they get to do their monologue, they get to assert their point of view about race, if they’re not afraid.
And so I’m glad Sandra, oh, did what she did. And she got [00:34:00] support for that. And so now it’s on a larger level. It’s not just activists like Gaia, Oakey, or mano saying you should cast an Asian person to. Hollywood talking about it and saying that was stupid. What the hell was Emma Stone doing? Playing someone who was half Hawaiian, Chinese.
Seriously. What the hell was that about? The nice thing about that was that entertainment weekly did an analysis. Why did Aloha flop? You have all these white stars, Alec Baldwin, LA LA LA LA,
Jennifer Garner, blah, blah, blah, blah. Why did this flop, despite having this all star cast and number one was there was a leak from Sony pictures with a head of Sony pictures is this movie does not work on any level at any time.
So everyone knew even Shuni was a dog. And number two was us was mana that we brought it to the attention of the, of the industry, that this is utter bullshit, that you have a movie in [00:35:00] Hawaii, and there’s only a seven minute segment in the middle of the movie where an actual Asian. Pacific Islander actually speaks within a seven minutes segment.
That’s it? Everyone else is white. There was one black guy who got two lines. Everybody else is white. And Cameron Crowe had to apologize. You wrote a long apology on his website, so that’s when you that’s when you permeate the business, when they have to do self-reflection and they go, I fucked up. I’m sorry.
That’s when you get something on it. Yeah, go ahead.
Masami Moriya: no, I think that’s, I don’t even know how deep that went. I mean, you know,
Guy Aoki: Yeah.
Masami Moriya: if there’s just so much still going on and that’s, that’s the thing now, I think I’m, for me, I’m past the conversation of representation on screen, as much as do we still have these issues, white Washington, yellow, yellow faced issues.
you know, I’ve seen so many movies, cinematic movies, from back in the eighties and seventies and you know, all these movies that have been out there just never get promoted that I’ve seen so many agents on screen do really great [00:36:00] roles. even just George Kay and year of the dragon, was a brilliant.
Masami Moriya: And you just don’t see, you don’t see that anymore.
Different near the dragon. So there’s the year of the dragon that, that, yeah, it was, it’s a play.
Guy Aoki: saying what the mid eighties thing is something else then.
Masami Moriya: Yeah. It’s, it’s the same time period, which was really, I think it was like the same year. but it was a play by, I think Frank chin, yeah, George decay in and like, I think it was San Francisco Chinatown and it was like a Chinese new year.
The father comes in, he’s kind of taking money from the family, the mother, the, his mother from nice mother, his wife from China comes in and with his wife from America, it’s all. So there’s huge dynamics of family issues. all Asian, all Chinese Josh K. Right. But, to see that brilliance, I think, honestly, the thing is one big George Kate’s biggest role, as he says, he’s he starts and ends the film.
Like it’s mostly about him. In this great role. So I’m, I’ve seen those, but we don’t see those today in the same way. I see other, you know, either you’re an [00:37:00] Asian person with a white writer, is co co-writing it or someone who’s a mixed Asian who’s co-writing with other white people, even shank cheat was a desk at the curtain.
And,and the other guy, his name and then three other white guys. Right. So it’s like, we don’t see, I’m looking at the producers, the writers directors who are really going to bring that level. And so I think the conversation for me is really going past, I had talked to Tim dang about this. It’s like going past who’s, you know, just Asians telling the story.
It’s like, what. Who, what ethnicity, what background? Because if you’re someone who’s Vietnamese and tell a very different story than here’s someone who’s a Chinese American or, all these different things. So, you know, that’s something I want to see change. What do you see that still needs to be changed now that hasn’t been changed?
What still can be improved on the industry?
Guy Aoki: Well, we are seeing more Asian people beginning to tell their own stories, like more and more stuff on Netflix is showing up where the creators are. Asian-American the stars are Asian [00:38:00] American, you know, for the longest time. It was hard. You know, when we met with the networks, they would give us data on how many Asian American writers they’ve hired in the past season.
How many directors, how many actors who were regulars, how many actors who were recurring, how many were guests are? And we kept pushing for more Asian American writers. But that was because we were hoping at some point they would have enough credits and enough credibility that they could pitch a story pitch, a new TV show, which would start Asian people that didn’t always happen.
They would, they would just rather write a 24 or a, I don’t know, whatever,
Masami Moriya: It’s serialized, formulate, you
Guy Aoki: rock, you know,
they’re rather right. Write a white shell there cause they don’t want to prove that they can write any of these shows, which I understand. But I remember I went to a town hall meeting with the Asian American members of the writers Guild. If you guys aren’t going to push for Asian shows, I’d rather have a program to help sensitive white male, Mike White, raw white male writers.
[00:39:00] If they’re going to write about us, I don’t care who writes about us. I want someone to put us front and center in these TV series and I gave him the statistics about fresh off the boat. And I said, I asked Nielsen for a breakdown of who is watching this show because I was trying to save the show. It was always on the bubble after the first season, after the second he was on the bubble.
And I would always have to write to the president of ABC making a statistical case as to why did you save the show? And what I found was amazing, the white population index at 100%, meaning if 60% of the us population is white, 60% of the people watching the show is white blacks over index at 103 hundred. That means you have, blacks are 12% of the us population, more than 12% of the fans of fresh off the boat were black. Why is that? There is no black regular on fresh off the boat. I don’t know. But somehow they found watching the show to be interesting. [00:40:00] So you didn’t lose the white audience. You didn’t lose the black audience.
You grew the black audience. The only audience that kind of over underwhelmed was Latinos, but an Asians of course were over-indexing because they were watching the show alive. So I said to them, if you worry that having one Asian regular on your show is risky and having two is too ethnic, what are you to make a fresh off the boat?
We got six Asian American regulars, and you’re not losing the audience. And one of the guys goes, wow, well, not as you say that, then, you know? Yeah. I’d be more prone to, to pitching Asian shows. So that’s what we’re for. We’re trying to. Get through to these people. Look, we’re fighting for you guys to get higher, but give us a break.
Once you get hired, once you get into a position where you get to be a producer pitch, Asian shows, so that’s, what’s happening. That’s what’s happening more and more. And we’re getting to see more shows and movies where [00:41:00] Asian Americans are, the first person in the credits. That is the biggest change. And that is fantastic and crazy.
Rich Asians helped do Push it through the roof. I could not believe how well that movie did. You know, every movie that opens big in a lot of theaters, they always fall 40, 50%. The next weekend, I thought crazy rich Asians with all the pre publicity hype and telling Asian people. You’ve got to go. If you don’t see it the first weekend and it flops, we’re never going to get this again.
We’re going to have to wait another 25 years. This is on you. I fully expected it to fall 70%. Then next weekend it fell five, please. Oh, wait, wait, am I reading this right? I read it again. I read it three times. What, how, why that was the strongest hold in 20 years. No, 19 years. Since the sixth sense with M night Shyamalan movie with the twist ending, dad had a gimmick.
People said, look, there’s this gimmick at the end. I’m not going to ruin it for you. Like you’ve got to see this film and you [00:42:00] probably want to see him multiple times after they found out what the shock ending was to watch it a second time in a different way. I don’t know what the gimmick was for crazy rich Asians, but after all the Asians went out there, the white people came up, the Latinos, the blacks, they all started seeing this movie and this the third weekend, it felt only 11%.
It was the biggest shocker I’ve ever seen in an, all of my assessing the media. As far as movies are concerned, I could not believe how well this movie did and that’s show to people. If you do. Story. If you presented a right way, you don’t have to worry that you’re going to turn off the white audience or the black audience. So those examples really help. Yeah.
Masami Moriya: Yeah. Well, I just knowing that they’re there seeing, creating benchmarks to see that they’re bringing the numbers. I can get the biggest thing even with,Cianci and even, squid games. It’s it’s the marketing, right? Who’s getting seen, or the posters being done, or the buses being plastered with posters and campaigns.[00:43:00]
Cause if you don’t know about it, you’re never going to know about it and he never even gonna think to search for, to Google it or what’s that movie that’s playing today. Oh, maybe, maybe I’ll go see, but I already went to go see this movie. And so, I think it’s a huge part of it, but even, even my opinions on those movies, it’s like, I think they’re, they, they did create something that showed networks and studios that could be, this could be profitable for them and that they shouldn’t turn an eye for it.
now I I’d love to go back a little bit and I really have this dying question. Now you went on bill mirror with politically incorrect with a David spade, Sarah Silverman and, Ann Marie Johnson right now. And we’ll put it in the show notes. Cause he was, you really see this, segment, but, it’s a 30 daily, 30 minute, you know, or maybe it was an hour long.
but only on YouTube. Okay. So there’s only 20 minutes on YouTube and it says we’ll be right back. And then it cuts off what happened in that third part.
Guy Aoki: Know, I, I thought that [00:44:00] when I gave someone to upload them years ago, there were three segments and we forgot to take out the five, the three minutes of black, that was for the commercials. And so we thought we uploaded all three segments in the third segment. It was like three minutes long. And, I’ve been trying to put it up again. Marie Johnson was talking about like, so bill Margo’s look, yo, can you talk about racism about turn of the century when they’re lynching Chinese men. Okay. But how does racism affect you now? And Emery Johnson was talking about how I look when I’m in a nice store and I’m looking at jewelry or whatever. I get followed around.
Am I going to buy something? Am I going to buy something? I’m going to steal from them. Okay. And we’re talking to all these determinants, like, you know, Asian Americans in addition to romance and this and this. And if we don’t get a job, is it because we weren’t qualified? Or is it because they don’t think we’re mainstream enough?
And then it was detained, were foreigners. And so Sarah in trying to get with the program and say, and be, be supportive, said, Yeah. racism is So [00:45:00] it exists, you know? And all audiences laugh. Like what a naive statement. They’re all laughing at her. And I go, oh, it does. Because yeah. And she goes, but it’s not going to change by going after committee.
Oh, so we should repeat bad jokes that offend people over and over again. And she takes a beat. She looks at me and she goes, you’re a douchebag man. And she just loses it. And the audience goes, Aw. And I looked at the audience and I wish the camera had been on me. I looked at the audience and I just laugh.
Like what? And they’re just, they’re laughing with me. Like, what the hell does she just do? And so I just, I kind of looked down like, what are you talking about? And I put my, I put my hand on my mama, like, oh, I put, if you said that, you know, and people said, so what happened, guy? You said she was unfunny. And that’s when she lost it.
Just because you said she was unfunded, I go, oh, I didn’t realize that. Yeah, you said she was unfunny and she’s a comedian. She got really pissed at you. And I wish the cameras [00:46:00] kept rolling because after that show ended, bill Maher wanted to have everyone take a picture. He always has a picture of. Nights cast sound tooling was in the audience who was covering for Asian week.
And I said, oh, wait, Sam wants to take a shot. Sarah looks at Sam who’s Chinese American. She goes, yeah. Right. So she takes off her microphone and she walks off stage. People blew her. I, after the show is so after the show was over, I just, I just kind of like to stretch. And the audience gave me a standing ovation and we’re talking mostly white people.
They’re giving me a standing ovation I need to. And they just boot Sarah Silverman. I go backstage to the green room. She had come with five guys. They’re all looking down at the floor and shaking their head like, oh, this just didn’t go, well, this is not good. so she knew she fucked up and she goes, well, I’m going to go home now, but I’m sure that I’m going to get a lot of complaints from douchebags that I insulted them.
And it looked at her. I. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Keep the [00:47:00] bravado upset. Are you going to go home? And you’re going to fucking cry. You fucked up you royally fucked up, go home and cry, Sarah. And It’s hilarious that that has been around her neck for the last 20 years. This happened 20 years ago. This year, where every time she’s promoting something, they go about that.
A debate you had with guy Okey. She always asked you answered it. The thing that pisses me off is she never comes clean. You see, we taped that in August of 2001 a month before she went on the show. And for nine minutes, the topic was me, Dave. She, she was on there with Howie Mendell and Carlson Carlson talk.
Masami Moriya: Carlson. Yeah.
Guy Aoki: I always get that wrong. What a name? Come on. Carson talker. Get a real name anyway. Yeah. So they’re all And bill Maher was against. ‘ cause she was mad that she was talked about in the associated press story that we put out. It picked up our press release about her saying chink on a corner of Brian show as a joke.
And [00:48:00] we said, oh, we get the joke. But come on. This is like one of the last things that hate crime victims here before the being staffed at Debrik shot to death. Don’t, don’t use that in that content. So she went on to show to bad.
mouth me and that’s because her manager was the producer of this show. Now you talk about a conflict of interest.
We had to fight to get me on the show to give equal time. That’s why it happened. One month later, she has never admitted to depressed that. That’s what happened. She tries to play the, the martyr saying, well, I want it to have a, a real discussion about a race, but I just want it to be me. I was mean to you because you blind. You wrote me a letter after, after your first appearance. And you explained yourself, I wrote back to you were very cordial. Two nights later, you go on politically incorrect and you blind slightly. That’s why you got it from, she never had missed up. She wants to play poor old me because that’s all she’s got, she fucked up.
Everybody knows she fucked up by losing her. Cool. But you know, it’s hilarious
Masami Moriya: Yeah,
Guy Aoki: to [00:49:00] me anyway. Yeah,
Masami Moriya: it’s hilarious to me too, but I think. No, I don’t know. And hearing the rest of that just makes it, makes it so much deeper. It’s like, whoa, she really did not take that very well, but yet she’s still around. Right. I’m glad people still talk to her about it, but I don’t think a lot of, most people, I know don’t, haven’t seen that segment.
Guy Aoki: To go to you should go to mano.org because I wrote a blog about it.
shortly after, shortly after that debate happened. So it has more details about what happened behind the scenes.
Masami Moriya: It’s incredible. Yeah. We’ll make sure people go. Why put a segment in there too? no, so cool. yeah, that was the one thing that I think that got me to think about what it means to be assertive. I think you’re the first person to see just like, whoa, you really stood up to people just to someone who we all seen.
We, I knew Sarah, a woman for all other things. This is the only time I’ve ever seen her do something like really like crazy this way. and to see her put in a different light and of put in her.
Guy Aoki: The funniest thing is that one thing that people [00:50:00] really got a kick out of was I was on a roll talking about why racial slurs affective. When I had this, I had, I had 15 soundbites prepared in my head, 15 things. I was going to say, say this first, when you say that you said I had all checked in my head.
Right. And then, so I was on this roll on a soundbite. I was saying, I said, you know, we put people in prison because we said, Jaffe enough, And so when you, when you say Jap enough times, you’re saying that you’re inhuman, you can do whatever you wanted them, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I was on a roll and bill Maher tried interrupt me.
It was, well, it’s not at the turn of the century, sir. And I, and my brain said, stop, stop him. And I didn’t know what I said until I watched the tape back and I said, if I can finish, sir, if I can finish it. And so he shut up and I finished the rest of my soundbite and then the audience was like, whoa, he just told bill Maher to shut up.
And bill Maher did shut up and guy got to the finished, whatever he wants to say. And it was whoa. It was a strong point about the impact of racial [00:51:00] slurs. And people said to me to see an Asian guy, tell bill marsh, shut up. I’m not finished. Wow. They got a big kick out of that. Just the image of me holding the sky off was hostile to the cause.
I see. I’m not finished. I’m going to finish. So people got a lot of different things out of there. So go to YouTube and check it out.
Masami Moriya: Yeah. Well, you were not only assertive in that way. You also did it in a very polite professional. Right. I think
Guy Aoki: it wasn’t ranting and raving. I wasn’t ranting and raving. No, not at all. Not at all.
Masami Moriya: No. And I saw, I watched that clip multiple times and his, he is definitely, you got interrupted so many times than anybody else and just to see, but you, you shut them down.
Guy Aoki: And you, the funniest, you know, the funniest thing. So I studied that program before I went on every, nobody who starts to what they say, every guest to finish every single thing. They start on that show with so much hostility against me from the host and Sarah, every single thing I started, I finished.
It’s amazing. [00:52:00] It’s amazing. I got through, I got through everything. I want to say. I said, anyway, go ahead.
Masami Moriya: No, I think that’s, that’s something to think about too. It’s like, when we, when we want to say something, don’t feel like in my life we are my in my circle groups is people just, they want to say something when I finish something. Passed over a shut down, and then they’re okay with it’s like, oh, I was going to say that what they said was what I was going to say, like, well, I’ve had to stand up for women just like, but if you were going to say that, what did he have to shut you down to say that, that doesn’t make you, should’ve been able to say those things.
And so moving into activism and, and this, this community within our entertainment, I think when we’re so,we don’t want to have that conflict. Not only do we want to play nice and work with people because the industry is so small, it can be very small, especially very, very within the Asian American community.
It’s very, very small. people talk, people do different things and you don’t want to piss people off, but, you know, I think it’s still a valuable trait to keep. Keep your stance, making sure you finish having and have a [00:53:00] strong point and don’t let people overrun you. And just because they think they either have more power or they think they have a bigger voice.
And I think that’s what you’ve done here is a, it sets a precedent that other people can do it. And again, watching it, videotaping it and having me and other people see it less than see that it can be done. And I think that’s a really big point. now we’re about to come up with an idea, but a
Guy Aoki: So we have to, we have to upload that third segment so you can see, but yeah,
Masami Moriya: yes. I know we’re about we’re at an hour. Do you have a little more time to keep
Guy Aoki: Sure, sure, sure.
Masami Moriya: Fantastic. Thank you. yeah. So, you know, another thing that you had done was you got Jay and to apologize for what that is now. I’d love to hear. I don’t know this. I kind of looked it up today. I don’t know the story too much, but I want to know a little bit that backstory, but also.
What was the process you had done to get that things? I know we, I was in the James cordon protest and he still hasn’t apologized. you know, about that James Corden, he did. So on his late night show, he does a [00:54:00] segment where, it’s like,eat gross. Yeah. The food thing. Right. And so he had done like all these Asian fruits and these are gross things and you know, who grows?
I want to smell it and thinks bad. And, one of my other, yeah, someone online had done it started know protests were going to go to this thing. We’re going to protest and get signs outside of CBS. they sent over like 400 signatures or 4,000, whatever the number was. And they didn’t accept the things that he went on.
Some maybe Howard stern or something. He said, I’m probably never going to do that segment again. I see how it was kind of effected, but he never apologized. And I think, and he never went on the show. We never said anything about it. He just said he was complaining. All the Asians are complaining and that was pretty much about it.
And so. I really want to hear how you started and got that finished. Cause I mean, it’s not an easy task and J liners are really big dude. So, but we need, I think there’s a very big, it takes a very big person to apologize. And in general, like you have to come down from your [00:55:00] pedestal, you have to say I did something wrong and do it.
Sarah, did Sarah ever apologize? no. Right. So like, but I would respect that person no matter what they did. I respect that person just a little bit more. If they apologized, they understood. He said it, you don’t, they don’t like having to apologize to do it. So, but I think that can be, you know, for protesting asking for something and then getting it.
Masami Moriya: I would love to hear what you mean. Maybe even your philosophy or your, your methods of how that, how that went down.
so some people don’t know for people don’t know, between 2002 and 2012, when Jayla was the host of the tonight show, he would periodically do jokes about Koreans or Chinese people. Eating dogs. It’d be mostly north Koreans. Like he would do a joke like it was after one of those winter Olympics where this Korean figure skater lost two, Apollo, Anton, or.
Guy Aoki: And he will say something like, you know, he got so mad, he went home and he kicked the dog and then he ate them. And so just after that one joke, there was a [00:56:00] conference call between Karen ARRA, Saki, who was the chair of our Asian Pacific American media coalition and, an academician out east, and someone from Korean American coalition who spoke with Jay Leno on the conference call.
And Jay goes, well, well, Karen, I look, I, I researched this and it is true that some people, some Koreans do eat dogs and Karen goes, okay, is it also true that some African Americans eat fried chicken and watermelon? Well, Yeah.
So you’re going to be doing jokes about that too. Well, no. Well, why not? Well, because Kevin Eubanks, his band leader, is my friend.
I wouldn’t want to piss him off women. So that means you don’t have any Asian friends, you know, what does that mean? This isn’t me talking. This is not caring. so that was a ridiculous excuse. At the, at the end, Jay says, look, if I knew how much its effect, this affected you guys, I, I wouldn’t have done it.
He didn’t apologize. But I said, you know, you know, so he didn’t do it for about almost a year. And then he started doing it again with different things. So I [00:57:00] made a note to NBC that I want to have a meeting with Jay and I, I said, look, I met Jay twice before in 1998. cause I used to work with Dick Clark.
I reached a ride radio show to collect for 17 years. So I was invited to go to his house in Malibu for his anniversary party, with his wife. And it was Jay Leno. And I said, Hey, you know this, guy Oakey, this is what I do, blah, blah, blah. And I really want to thank you because you know, doing the OJ Simpson trial, everyone was doing jokes about judge ITO in an ethnic kind of way.
Cause you Japanese American, you did one thing that was ethnic, but everything else was based on what happened in court that day. And I really want to own a thank you for doing that because you know, it was, you were still able to be. Without having to resort to making fun of a sudden this is all no, no.
There’s no reason to do that. No, no, no, no, no, no. He goes, look, even when I have like a, when I go to schools, I make sure that we have Latino kids, white kids, black kids, Asian kids, you know, I make sure that we have a mix of people. I, I noticed that I really appreciate that. And I also, I said, [00:58:00] look, I’m so I’m so pissed, man.
The press has never been on your side. You know, like you’d be, you’d be David Letterman every week. And the one week that you don’t beat him, it’s headline news. Like they’re all wanting to give it, let him do better than you. And you’re funnier than him. You’re the funniest guy on TV. It was all what you want along.
You know, Dave, this is funny. This is funny, you know, but you know, he appreciate it two years later, you know, and it was a year after we had formed our coalition. he was going to be the luncheon speaker at this diversity seminar to NBC put together. And I went up to him again and I said, Jay guy. Oh yeah, yeah.
I hear you again. I want to thank you. So it was very nice. And then it was two years after that he started doing the jokes and I, I said to myself, wait, wait, wait, thought he was one of the good guys. I thought he understood this. Why is he doing this? And why does he keep doing it when we already told him not to do it and why you shouldn’t do it?
Why is he being so stubborn? So long story short, I never got to meet with him when he was on the [00:59:00] tonight show. And one night he did it again. And the next night we had a meeting with the, the coalition and I told the coalition what had happened. And Billy motto of the motto on communications. You said, guys, I’m going to stay late at night.
I’m going to stay here late at night. And I’m going to watch the tonight show. And I’m going to write down all of his sponsors, let’s divide up his sponsors and you take a T and T and you take Procter and gamble and we write to them and we tell them we want them to get Jalen out, to stop with this kind of stupid humor or you’re going to, or the sponsor is going to threaten the pool director.
Great. So we did that within two weeks. The chairman of NBC Bob Greenblatt calls, Jay Leno, he says, quote, the jokes will stop unquote that’s when it stopped. So it was economic pressure. So we forgot about that. And then 2019, Jay Leno goes on, America’s got talent as a yes, judge. And he’s [01:00:00] walking through the production offices.
He sees a portrait of Simon Cowell, what his dogs and he jokes to Holly Mendell. Oh, it looks like somebody you see on the menu of a Korean restaurant and to her credit Gabriel union, who was one of the regular judges, she’s appalled she’s African-American and she’s appalled. She sees as another Asian American staffer is just sitting in front of him.
He, she complaints to HR. They do nothing about it. She complaints to the producer, they do nothing about it. And then she goes public with it. And so we wrote a letter to NBC’s. We said, that’s shit fire J. He is unrepentant. He keeps doing this. It’s like, I don’t know why he keeps doing it. Fire him no more.
Jay Leno’s garage, no more appearances on any NBC affiliate shelter. They ignore ignorance. So the next year, when was this fall of 2020, they announced that Jay is going to be the host of you bet your life, which is an old fifties game show that Groucho marches to do. So I write a letter to the head of the [01:01:00] president of Fox television networks.
Cause they’re going to syndicate it to Fox and to the two producers. And I said, fire, Jay Leno, or we will go after your advertisers. This is why he does not deserve to be the host of your show. We had the whole timeline of nine, 10 years, every joke, verbatim quoting, find someone else he has had ample time to rectify this.
He has never addressed it. He has never apologized for it. He keeps on doing it. Okay, so let’s talk. So the two producers and I talk, they go, look, we’re not going to fire Jay Leno, but look, maybe you guys can work it out the next day. I got an email. Yes. Jay’s agreed to meet with you every two weeks. I check in.
Okay, well, when are we going to do it? Oh, sorry guy. I was, I was busy on one of the producers. I was busy. I’ll get on it today. Almost three months. Went by. I wrote another letter to the three people. I said, look, you think you were taking my migration for, for granted? Well, you’re taking me to be a fool either way.
It reflects badly on [01:02:00] you. I’m giving you two weeks to have a zoom call with me, the president and the vice-president of mano. And I didn’t have to tell him or else, you know, when that zoom call happened, three 30, the next afternoon, Jaylon Ozon he’s falling over himself. Apologizing. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t the last.
Yes, we can do a joint press state release. Yes, I will apologize. Yes, yes, yes. Economic pressure. That’s what it takes now to, to Jay Leno’s credit. After that was when we had our 45 minutes on zoom and then an hour later, he calls me back and he calls me up. He goes, you know, could you even give me his private phone number?
He goes, look, if I fuck up again, you call me, here’s my number. You got a pen. Yeah. This is my number. And he called me back and he goes, you know what, thanks for that. You know, when you talk to me about the hate crimes, you know, that Asian Americans are facing because of COVID peoples that’s when I understood now I get it because I said, Jay, I’ll go, Jay, I’m a fourth generation.
Japanese-American okay. My great grandparents came to Hawaii in the [01:03:00] 1819. We’ve been here for over 120 years, but when I’m walking down the street, do you think anybody gives me the benefit of the doubt of how American I am compared to the average white person? I’m more American than most white people given how long my people had been this country.
Okay. My family has been in this country whenever there is stress between the United States and an Asian country. They take it out on us as if we have something to do with it, just because we stand out from how we look, whether it was Pearl Harbor or, or, COVID-19. Now this, this, this is the thing we’re always vulnerable about.
So that’s when he understood. And he called me back over 20 times and he, he would call me more than I would call him. And I was just, you know, I’m mostly returning his calls. You know, when, when the Atlanta shooting happened, he called me out because I can’t believe it did this. When the grandmother in the San Francisco was punched in the face and she punched him right.
He goes, who wants to beat up on an old woman? Who, what kind of person does this? So he was, we’re having an ongoing dialogue beyond the [01:04:00] press release. So that meant a lot to him, you know? And he even said, he goes, isn’t this nice to people who used to be enemies are friends now. And I said, yeah, Jay, I don’t have to be angry at you anymore.
You know, is, is done a lot of human. So yeah. So that was a nice story, but it took economic pressure. He wouldn’t have come to the table with AMI saying, fire him now, or we’re going after your advertising. I wasn’t even thinking about a dollar I gave up on talking to Jay and I was like, dude, you knew full, well, I wanted to talk to you.
You blew me off. That’s it. I am not going to re revisit talking to you. That’s it. We want you off the damn show and that’s how the compromise happen, but it worked out for the benefit of both sides, but that’s how it happened.
Masami Moriya: Wow. I didn’t expect that, that big of a
Guy Aoki: Yeah.
Masami Moriya: really incredible to see that, that, that he did change. And I think that’s in, if he sees it now, I think people can see it. But, I mean, there’s obviously been a big change within the Asian American community. And, just the, do, you can just see the media, which is [01:05:00] assessing history, getting there, the new Korean, Muppet today and yesterday was just cool.
but to see that is that that’s the whole story. I feel like I just watched a whole movie, this go from it’s great. And it’s fine then just add down over up. That’s so great. Incredible.
Guy Aoki: a lot of, Yeah.
But, but then, but, but it was nice because, you know, he, he called me back and I was seeing a lot of flack when he apologized. I was seeing a lot of flack and I thought how’s Jay feeling about it. And he caught me. So I called him up and he goes, you know, it’s been 90% good. You know, I was in west Hollywood and these really big, bulky Asian guys look at it.
It just came from the gym. They were kind of like afraid of approaching me, but it’s oh, Mr. Leno, you know, just want to sit and he’s a white. You’re not even Asian. I just want to say, you know, I really appreciate your apology. So he was getting positive feedback. And so he felt good about what he did and he just kept talking about it.
He goes like, no, this is not cancel culture. Look, he even went as far as saying, if you’re a comedian, you gotta evolve with the times the kinds of jokes we said about women, about minorities, [01:06:00] 20, 30 years ago, you can’t do that anymore. And for good reason, we learned that it’s not really cool to do that. So if you’re making your whole routine based on putting down minorities and women, well, maybe you’re not that talented, you know, maybe you ought to find a better, a better niche.
So, so he’s gotten something positive out of that. So it’s not like we cornered him and he felt like, oh God, you know, he felt like, you know what? I did the right thing. I feel good about it. People give me good feedback about it. And I’m giving other comedians sometimes. How about how they conduct themselves.
So, you know, it was good. It was a win-win, it was a win-win
Masami Moriya: Yeah. And being as big as Jay Leno is like, that’s someone, a lot of comedians look up to. And so someone who’s got that platform, that thing to then come down a little bit and teach in this kind of updated way. I think that’s, that’s incredible. Now I want to go back a little bit. So into like the activism front.
Now I understand, I read like, solid deal [01:07:00] and ski and just like protests and how to be leaders. when you said going after the advertisers, what was kind of the plan? What is, what is that? I don’t want to say threat, but like, what is that? we could talk to the advertisers, but in general we’re nobody to them.
So what was the idea process of going, what is the going after the advertisers? What is that?
Guy Aoki: most corporations are very, worried about their corporate. And so they don’t want to be seen as supporting something that’s racist toward, well, I want to say any group, but most groups. when Jay Leno was doing this with, Koreans and Chinese and stuff, you know, they got uncomfortable. So they wrote to where they called Bob green, black, the chairman of NBC, and basically said, you know, we feel uncomfortable with this.
Can you do something about it? Because we don’t want to have to pull our ads. So when, when the corporations feel economic pressure, that they may be losing their advertisers, that’s when they began to take a second look at and go, [01:08:00] oh God, this is not worth it. And that’s when they said, cut it out. You know?
And now after George Floyd’s death,corporations are even more sensitive about, about being more aware of how people of color have been impacted throughout the years, how they have not had equal opportunity as white people, how they have been selling. How the way, the way that they think of the world has not been taken into account.
So more Han, more so, there is a sensibility and some people can say this sensitivity has gone too far, where someone has been accused of something. And without real proof advertisers would drop because they don’t want to, in case the guy’s guilty of doing that sexual crime or whatever. Oh, gee, we don’t want to be anywhere near that.
So you can see, you can say that maybe they’re a little too jumpy, but to answer the question of why is economic pressure, something that works on corporations? That’s, that’s my answer.
Masami Moriya: Yeah,
Guy Aoki: They’re afraid.
Masami Moriya: follow the money.
Guy Aoki: They’re afraid of [01:09:00] they’re afraid of reputation. You know, they don’t want to be.
Masami Moriya: sure. I think they don’t want to lose money at the end of the day. It’s them and the colon color is green. Right. And so it’s what, where’s the money coming from. If they’re going to lose it, they’re going to, they’re going to be held accountable for that part.
But I think if we talk with you advertise, like don’t support this, here’s why that becomes a Hmm. And upper hand a hand for that. no, I think that’s, that’s the way to think about that. I was looking at who’s sponsoring who, who who’s spent funding, whatever I’m not appreciative of. And I think that’s a huge factor even within the media, because the media is media entertainment, news, especially broadcast, like who’s sponsoring those people.
and that’s a huge, huge factor, so, well, thank you for all that work and just being, being that force for change. now, and another part of that is being, I think we already went over that, that that force for change is just valuing. [01:10:00] And what would you say to other people to become the next force for change?
we need more guy Okies out there who can, who can speak up, stand up, say something and then, not give up. I think the biggest thing I see is not giving you four months. You’re on Jay Leno for, for months. You’ve been talking about very variety of things and continue to, to this day for 30 years. Right.
Masami Moriya: What do you say to the next generation?
Guy Aoki: Well, I think that social media is very helpful. I think that, Asian Americans over index on social media, whether it’s Twitter or Instagram or even Facebook. So there is a way to amplify our voice in a way that we can, we can create a movement online and the media does pay attention to that. I mean, I was talking to someone at ABC news and they, they keep track of social media to see how much an issue is resonating with people.
And if they see enough movement or talk about a certain issue, then. Prone to make it a national story on ABC national news, [01:11:00] as opposed to, if you know, we get our press release, gets printed in a trade paper or something. So there’s a way for people to do that, in a social media way, but it does come down to doing the work and, meeting with people, meeting with net networks.
But, that’s, that’s one way that people I think can help is to spread the word, discuss it. And, and, but I, but people also have to not just do knee Jack knee jerk reactions. I mean, you know, they’re going to complain about something. You got to really study the issue. Don’t just look at a headline and then start a hashtag movement.
I mean, read articles, read what is really going on. Don’t jump to conclusions. Cause if you, if you start a hashtag movement and people find out that, you really didn’t understand the issue, then you just looked stupid and you hurt the cause. So you really have to do your homework. W with this, with this, everyone has add at this point, I mean, the way that everything works, you can be on Facebook and you can post something and you get a, like before they, you know, they did not have enough time to read the damn article and you’re already got a, like, so, you [01:12:00] know, they didn’t read the damn article.
So before you get involved in pushing for anything, read the damn articles, make sure you understand the issue, but no, you can use social media to,to really create a sense of this is important in the United States. And therefore, maybe we get a new story on it, then the national news, but you know, there’s other ways of just like the way that mana has done it on a grassroots level, just getting involved and, and talking with the powers that be to,
to better include us.
And what’s in it for them to include us, because if they don’t, it’s been proven if they don’t include us, they’re losing money. That’s the bottom line is it’s mostly the people, the problem that Hollywood has faced is. Yeah. Just about every single case. The person at every studio who gets the green light, a project is a white man and white men.
Demographically are the most conservative people. People are period, politically, socially. if you have more black people in there and more Asian people in there who are not whitewashed, they [01:13:00] will Greenline more projects featuring people who look like them and people who, have seen it fresh off the boat or crazy rich Asians, or they know very well how much money they made off of those, those projects.
It’s stupid. If you don’t green light more of them, if it’s because of your own bias. And that’s why we got again, more people of color in there, because quite frankly, what’s holding us back is the old thinking from white people that, oh no, one’s going to watch that. No, you’re not going to watch that. That doesn’t mean everybody else is not going to watch dad and see beyond your nose.
And your own biases as a white man that you think you only want to see white people. And that’s the con the population is a lot more open minded than you give it credit for it. And that’s one very positive thing that we should remember. Yeah,
let me ask you something. When you first started talking with the networks, how did you, how’d you get those meetings?
Guy Aoki: well, well there, they were dragged into it. They were dragged into it because the [01:14:00] LA times did a story in the summer of 99, about the upcoming fall season. And there are 26 new shows across the, the four top networks and not one of them start a person of color. So NAACP was threatening boycotts. The national Hispanic media coalition was.
We’re going to have a brown out on this day. We’re going to tell people do not watch TV, because if you’re not going to include us, it’s a two way street. We’re not going to watch you. Asian Americans got together on south east, west players, Georgia case spoke. I spoke various people spoke and we formed a coalition, which became the Asian American, Asian Pacific American media coalition.
And because of this pressure, we started making overtures to the four networks and we want to meet with you, the president and everyone who develops these shows. And so they were forced to meet with us. They didn’t want to meet with us. They were forced to meet with us because they knew on some level that [01:15:00] we were right and they had not included us.
It was not something that?
they purposely did because of their own internal biases. This is Why they had 26 new shows and not one of them started anybody who was a person of color and that had to change. And that’s how it started. It. We had to force them to sign memorandums of understanding where they’re like eight pages saying, because our network is not very diverse and a lot of law, we will do this.
We will have program, right rider programs we will have after showcases. We will, we will basically beat the bushes to find, previously unknown, talented people of color so that we can infuse our network with more variety and more diversity. That’s how it started. There were forced to do this. And then we started having annual meetings. And now they’re reneging on that of all of all times now they don’t want to meet with us. That is the problem that Mazda has right now. They don’t want to meet with us. ABC.
Masami Moriya: do you think that is.
Guy Aoki: ABC told us in October of [01:16:00] 2019 that there were no longer going to have annual meetings with the coalition, any coalition, and it’s creative.
Exactly. And I couldn’t get any, I couldn’t get any real answer from the person who gave me that note. It’s really bizarre. They’re just decided we don’t want to hear any more from you guys. Yeah. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Asian American representation, when right down, back into the toilet again, after they canceled fresh off the boat, we didn’t have one new show last season that had a significant Asian American character.
And that’s not like ABC. They used to be really good. We lost Dr. Kim where they had five or six Asian regulars. The next year the numbers went up for Asian-Americans. That’s how good ABC was. You could lose an entire family of Asian people. And they had enough new shows where they would put us in those new shows.
So we would not lose our presence. It’s changed. It’s changed now. So that is the problem with the networks. They don’t want to meet with us.
Masami Moriya: ah, that that’s, that makes me mad,
Guy Aoki: it part [01:17:00] of the, part of the rate. Part of the reason is because in April, our coalition broke up. Moto was the only one who wanted to continue meeting with the networks. We said, look, guys, people are getting beaten up in the streets. This is the most important time for us to talk to the Netter, which to re iterate to them.
Their responsibility in putting out shows would show us, show the community who we are and get away from this notion that Asian people are foreigners, because that’s, what’s killing us. They think we’re just these foreigners they didn’t want to meet with the net was we did. So we broke up. So we S we reapproached the networks say, look, we want to continue these meetings.
And no one wants to meet with us. That’s the problem right now?
Masami Moriya: Hmm. Well, that’s a, it’s a cliffhanger for this podcast, basically. I’m going to see how that changes over the next couple of years. Cause I think that that still needs to happen. And if it’s the coalitions of other, other communities, you just don’t want to continue it for whatever reason. I really want to know why, why they won’t want to continue.
So,[01:18:00] but last couple of things, you know what, what’s the future of mana, what’s the future to,
Guy Aoki: Well, which we’re trying to, do some fundraising because, you know, none of us gets paid and we’re all volunteers, you know, people have jobs to try to do this winter at night, but then when they’re not working. So it’s, it’s always been a ragtag group of people who are, who jumped to the occasion to, to do things as they come up.
And we’re trying to get more streamlined where we have enough money to pay for a staff person and, and who can do this for us. So that’s what we’re trying to put together. So yeah, we do appreciate people who would fund us because I think after almost 30 years, I think we have quite a track record of making change.
A lot of it has happened behind the scenes. I’ve told you some stories, but I haven’t told you a one 10th of what we had done that actually made change. we have done a lot of stuff that it’s quite impressive, quite frankly. and we are the group that has not been afraid to go out there and, and communicate to the parties that [01:19:00] the, what has to happen.
A lot of other groups there they’re very gun shy. They try to just be nice hope that companies will fund them for their annual programs. And that has never been something we think about. You know, we, we used to have award shows. We set up our awards dinners every year just to bounce it out. So we’re not looked at as, as people criticize, but we want it to have awards dinners every year, not just to fundraise, but to show, Hey, look, these are people who have put Asian Americans in, in great TV shows are great movies, and we want to thank them publicly.
We want them to go. to do more of this. And so I think when they’re standing up in a room full of people and they get their award and they see how much we appreciate it, they’ll remember that. And I remember I bumped into ’em Myles golf, who, created into the Badlands with Daniel wool. We gave him and his partner an award for, Shanghai, Shanghai [01:20:00] surprise.
And I’m actually not surprised the one with Jackie Chan. And, when Wilson,
Masami Moriya: Yeah. Like the Shanghai noon Shanghai.
Guy Aoki: I knew. yeah, And so he remembered that he goes, yeah, it was at the Roosevelt hotel. And so he remembered us and I said, thank you for putting Daniel wounded so-so he remembers us. And now he’s putting an Asian American star in his, in his series.
She did really, really well. And, Carlton Q. So we gave him an award for. Martial law, which Sammo hung in a big fat Chinese guy who knew martial arts really well because he was the star of a show. Even if his English wasn’t great. They put him as the star of the show. So we gave him an award and he did, he did an interview years later and he became one of the showrunners of lost.
And he said, you know, I was there at the dinner and we got an award from mana and they said, when Sammo hung kiss his white girlfriend, that was the first time you got an Asian man ever kissed a woman in television. That wasn’t quite [01:21:00] true. But the fact that he remembered that it informed what he did going forward in his future, his future projects, where he would say, you know, let’s have a love partner for the Asian guy, you know?
So, so all of these things I think happened, but even as we’re doing this and the networks were funding us, we still had a physical protest against Fox. To a 2003, when they put out this horrendous show called Bonzai. So we are not affected by funding. I mean, we will do what we have to do and they’ll still fund us.
Maybe they won’t fund this, that here, but they’ll fund this later on because they didn’t know that they know what we stand for. And they know that we’re, we’re a very valid group. And while we do make sense whether they wanna admit it or not. So
Masami Moriya: And last thing, you know, how do you stay sustainable? So this is a volunteer job. What, what’s the thing that you do on the side or.
Guy Aoki: well, you know, I used to work for Dick Clark. I used to write radio shows with Dick Clark, like countdown shows like the 20 big assist of the week.
Masami Moriya: Oh,
Guy Aoki: I did that from 1989 to the ending of [01:22:00] 2005, but I haven’t had a job since then. I haven’t had a regular job since then. So it’s not been easy.
Masami Moriya: Yeah. I bet.
Guy Aoki: Yeah, I should be
Masami Moriya: I hope, yeah, well, you should, I think that Monash should be funded and you should be able to do this full-time without having that worry, I think that’s part of the hard part of these nonprofits. And especially with activist groups like yours, where it’s so confrontational. Feel like they want to cause they’re talking to them and turning them down.
But, you’re doing, you’re doing a good favor for not only for the community as a good community service, but for the networks, all these people, all you, even the streamers, you know, you’re doing them the favor. Cause you’re gonna, they’re going to remember you later that, that those changes are going to be made.
So, how can people get involved with mana? can people get involved? They can still get a membership. Right. And what does that membership entail?
well, it used to entail?
Guy Aoki: getting a, getting a discount to our awards dinner, but we haven’t done that for a while and it used to get you a free newsletter, but we don’t print those anymore. I’m working on it then to update our website, but I’m [01:23:00] I’m years behind because I used to put it out in an end of the year.
And now that there’s no deadline, I never finished it. but it’s mostly just a fun just to have a cushion for us so that we can, we can do what we need to do as, as issues come up and not have to worry about how much money we spend on it, but it’s a $50 membership, $35 if you’re a full-time student. And so y’all could say, go to dot org, M a N a.org, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org and the board will get it. And we have monthly zoom meetings on the third, Thursday of each month at 7:30 PM Pacific standard time. So we’re having a meeting tomorrow. although in December we meet the second Thursday of the month, but w you know, we’re, we’re always encouraging people to come and, and you don’t have to be in the media.
And half the people who join us are not in the media. They’re bankers, they’re people who work in finance, all kinds of stuff. It’s just, if you care about the way media portrays Asian America, Because you feel that [01:24:00] it really impacts how we think of ourselves and how we get treated and join us. We want to hear what you have to say, and if you volunteer enough, then we put you on the board.
We’re very open.
Masami Moriya: All right. Well, now, now that I know that’s there I’ll hopefully join in. well guys, thank you so much. And I only for all of you and thank you for coming on the podcast today. I learned a lot. I’m appreciative. I’m so glad we had this conversation, but I know our audience is going to take this, take us out, hopefully get them, get some real good use out of this and understand, you know, their, their political power within the entertainment industry and what they can can do for
Guy Aoki: Yeah. People, people, but the message I have to say it don’t be afraid. There’s so much we can accomplish. We’ve done it. We’ve already proven it. So,
don’t, don’t be afraid
Masami Moriya: Yeah. A hundred percent
Guy Aoki: and don’t be, don’t be nice. Don’t be nice all the time, but it’s okay. Every once in a while, every once in a while, there’ll be a nice.
Masami Moriya: Be a nice person. And then, you know, stand your ground though. I think it’s a balance, right? It’s all it is. Well guy, thank you. Thank you [01:25:00] again. Thank you for spending some extra time with us. yeah, man, I hope to see you soon. And
Guy Aoki: we’ve been good talking to you.
Masami Moriya: All right. We’ll definitely have it again. All right. Take care of guy, right?
Give me a second. Yeah.