Bowen Yang And Matt Rogers: I Don't Think So, Honey!

Jul 19, 2019

Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers were not fast friends. Now the co-hosts of the pop culture podcast, Las Culturistas, the two lived on the same floor of their freshman dorm at New York University (NYU) — where they had little to do with each other. Smash cut to 2019 where they are now both emerging voices on the comedy scene. Yang was recently getting hired as a writer on NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL), and the duo are also planning a national tour together based on "I Don't Think So, Honey!" — a recurring 60-second segment about a frustrating cultural phenomenons, which ends every episode of their podcast.

Before jumping into comedy and entertainment, Yang was a self-described mediocre chemistry major "who somehow ended up with a B.A. — not a B.S." in the subject. In an interview with Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another, at the Bell House In Brooklyn, New York, Yang explained how even before a career in comedy seemed viable, he would always make a point of asking the college tour guides, "So do you have any improv groups?"

Yang's early pre-med aspirations still had some foundation in his love of pop culture: He confirmed to Eisenberg that his path to becoming a doctor was inspired by Sanrdra Oh's character on the ABC medical drama series, Grey's Anatomy. He attributed this miscalculation to "bad" or "double-refracted representation," that he first thought he wanted to be a doctor like Oh's character, before understanding he actually wanted to go into entertainment, like Oh herself.

Ophira Eisenberg chats with Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang appear on Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York.
Mike Katzif / NPR

Years later, things came full circle when Yang met Sandra Oh, first while serving as a writer on the 2019 Golden Globes, and again later in the year, as a writer on SNL. Not only was he able to meet the woman who indirectly started it all for him, and tell her how much he loves her work, but appear alongside her in a sketch when she hosted SNL in March 2019 — portraying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, opposite her, as his translator.

Yang was also joined on the Bell House stage by his Las Culturistas co-host, comedian Matt Rogers. While they began recording their show together in 2016, the two met six years prior as students at NYU — although they did not initially get along. Rogers elaborated, "There was a degree of animosity between us" over a girl that they both claimed to like. Rogers clarified, "This is when we were both closeted. It happens. It's happening now." Even after they had both separately come out of the closet, Rogers and Yang noted how they resented the external pressure they faced from peers to become friends that appeared to be hinged solely upon their shared sexual orientation. "We were like, 'You think we're going to be friends just because we're gay? No way!'" exclaimed Rogers.

It wasn't until a Halloween party where Yang and Rogers discovered they both knew all of the words to rapper Nicki Minaj's 2010 hit single, "Super Bass" that the two finally struck up their now-storied friendship upon which Las Culturistas is built. "At the time—!" begins Rogers before Yang interrupts to finish his sentence, "Was just a bonus track and not a single. It was a deep cut."

In their first Ask Me Another challenge, Rogers and Yang face off in a game inspired by the closing segment of their podcast — titled I Do Think So, Honey! — in which they decide whether a given fact about honey is true or false.

In their second match-up, Rogers and Yang compete to identify critically-panned films starring famous divas, based off of the film's negative description on the review aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes.

And the special guests became contestants in the show, meaning the winner of the two challenges advanced to the final round.

Heard on Bowen Yang And Matt Rogers: I Don't Think So, Honey!

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

JULIAN VELARD: This is ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia. I'm Julian Velard. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thank you, Julian. It's time to welcome our first special guest. He co-hosts the pop culture podcast "Las Culturistas." And he currently writes for "Saturday Night Live." Please welcome Bowen Yang.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.

BOWEN YANG: Thank you for having me.

EISENBERG: Pleasure. Bowen, you went to NYU and have described yourself as a mediocre chemistry major.

YANG: Absolutely - just somehow ended up with not a B.S. in chemistry - a B.A. in chemistry...

EISENBERG: You did.

YANG: ...A Bachelor of Arts in chemistry.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: My sister was already going there. She's two years older than me. And I would go on all these college tours. And I was thinking about where I would want to go. And at the end of each tour, I'd be like, yeah, yeah, yeah. So you guys have any improv groups? Like, I was...

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: I was so - I was that kid. Yeah.

EISENBERG: Right. They're like, but you're studying science. And you were like, just curious.

EISENBERG: Just curious, yeah. But when you were taking chemistry...

YANG: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...And trying to decide, you - there was a moment where you thought you might go premed, mostly inspired...

YANG: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...By Sandra Oh.

YANG: By Sandra Oh, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: I loved "Grey's Anatomy." And, like, I've said that it's an example of bad representation, which is seeing someone like you - or it was double-refractive representation because it was an Asian person...

EISENBERG: Yes.

YANG: ...Acting but being a doctor. And I thought - I conflated the thing, where I was like, oh, I want to be that but the doctor...

EISENBERG: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: ...Which was wrong. And I was like, oh, no. I'm meant to be that but the actor. Oh, I'll do that.

EISENBERG: Yeah, right. It's like take a step back.

YANG: Yup, yup, yup, yup, yup.

EISENBERG: And then it kind of all fell into place.

YANG: Exactly.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

YANG: So that's what it was, but yeah.

EISENBERG: So you recently joined "Saturday Night Live"...

YANG: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...As a writer.

YANG: Yes. Yeah.

(CHEERING)

EISENBERG: Now, many people don't know this - that as a writer, you go through the same audition, you know, on-camera process

YANG: Yeah. Some of them - yeah. Some of them do, yeah.

EISENBERG: And did you do characters?

YANG: I did characters, yeah, a few times. So yeah. And then they would be like, new material every time. And I'd be like, (laughter) OK. And they'd be like, and just - yeah, new impressions. And I was like, I'm running out of Asian public figures...

EISENBERG: Right.

YANG: ...To impersonate.

EISENBERG: Who were you doing?

YANG: So I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel by the end. I did, like, Michiko Kakutani and like...

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: I thought about doing Hanya Yanagihara. Do people know her? She wrote "A Little Life," yes. And she's the editor in chief of T, The New York Times magazine. But I would do, like, her. And I would do - I did - this was right after it happened. Remember the United guy? - the guy who got dragged off United.

EISENBERG: Yes.

YANG: Did that guy.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: Had a little pump bottle of fake blood. And so in between setups, I like - he was - I think he was my last character. Like, he was my closer for this audition.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: I took out this bottle of fake blood and just like - did this.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: And I was just like, yup. No, it's cool. I get, like, free - I don't even know what I wrote. I...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: But you were part of a sketch on a recent episode of "SNL"; the one where Sandra Oh hosted.

YANG: With Sandra, yeah, yeah, yeah.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Did you tell her that she inspired you to study chemistry?

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: I think I - because I had met her at the Golden Globes 'cause I wrote for that. And she - that was the first time I met her. And she was so great. And I did - I, like, very drunkenly went up to her at the after party. I was like, hey. This was such a pleasure. And you're a big reason why I - you know, I do this. I saw you in "The Princess Diaries" and then "Arliss" and then "Sideways" and, you know, like, all this.

I was like, you're incredible. And she was just so cool about it. She was like, thank you. Like, all she did - she just nodded at me and was like, that means a lot, and thank you. And she just - and she did the most Sandra thing ever. She just stare - like, looked me in my eyes...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

YANG: ...And just stared at me for, like, 10 seconds without saying anything and was like, thank you.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

YANG: You know, it was beautiful.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

YANG: But then, yeah, she got - and then she came on "SNL" in March, and it was great. And then I got thrown into the sketch where I was playing Kim Jong Un, and she was playing my translator. Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's right.

YANG: It was fun. It was really fun.

EISENBERG: You also host a podcast...

YANG: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...Called "Las Culturistas."

YANG: Yeah.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: And lucky for us, your co-host comedian Matt Rogers is waiting in the wings. Matt Rogers, everybody.

(APPLAUSE)

MATT ROGERS: Hey.

EISENBERG: Hello, Matt.

ROGERS: How's it going?

EISENBERG: You two started "Las Culturistas" in 2016, but you met around six years before that at NYU.

YANG: Yes.

EISENBERG: And were you just friends immediately?

ROGERS: No.

YANG: No.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: There was a degree of animosity between us because (laughter)...

YANG: There was.

EISENBERG: Oh.

ROGERS: Bowen thought that there was something between me and this girl on our floor that he was saying he liked.

EISENBERG: OK.

ROGERS: So...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: That's a lot of problems.

ROGERS: This is when we were both, like, closeted. It happens. It's happening now.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: So, like, our whole freshman year, we were kind of, like, very wary of each other...

YANG: Yes.

ROGERS: ...Because of, like, the Shermung (ph) of it all, which was her name.

YANG: Her name was Shermung.

ROGERS: And...

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: ...So then our sophomore year, he was in the improv group...

YANG: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...At NYU, and I was in the sketch comedy group at NYU.

EISENBERG: Oh, that's like roller bladers...

ROGERS: Hello.

EISENBERG: ...And skateboarders or something.

ROGERS: Yeah, it's very like that.

YANG: Absolutely.

ROGERS: It was the Capulet and Montague situation.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: And so basically, our friends in the comedy group were like, be friends. Like, do it. And we were like, no.

YANG: Because at that point - so at that point, we had come out of the closet. And then - yeah. So we were just - we were both, like, you know, these gay Barbie dolls for these people...

ROGERS: Yeah.

YANG: ...Who were just like, you two play.

EISENBERG: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: And we were like you think we're going to be friends just because we're gay? No way. And then we were at - I think it was a Halloween party. And you were Ash Ketchum, and I was Jason Stackhouse.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

YANG: Yes, from "True Blood."

ROGERS: From "True Blood." And we discovered from across the party that we both knew all the words to Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," which at the time...

YANG: Was just a bonus track and not a single.

EISENBERG: Got it.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: So it was a deep cut.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

ROGERS: And they credit - they do - they, the, you know, royal they, credit Taylor Swift with making this popular because she did it in concert. But I think it was me and my sis.

EISENBERG: I think you're right. I think you're right.

YANG: It was the two of us, absolutely.

ROGERS: I think it was us.

YANG: It was us.

EISENBERG: Now you end every episode of "Las Culturistas" with a segment called I Don't Think So, Honey...

YANG: Yes.

ROGERS: It's true.

EISENBERG: ...Where you rant for 60 seconds about something you disagree with in pop culture or culture in general. And you also invite comics to do it.

YANG: Yes, yes.

EISENBERG: So is there one thing that comes up all the time?

YANG: I remember getting paper straws a lot. Paper straws comes up a lot.

ROGERS: Paper straws is one of my favorites because every time you use a paper straw, you're like, I don't think so, honey.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: But you know why it's important, and that's the conflict.

YANG: Wow.

EISENBERG: I know, exactly. Are you ready for an ASK ME ANOTHER challenge?

ROGERS: Yes.

YANG: Yes.

EISENBERG: All right. So, Bowen and Matt, like it or not, you've actually now officially become contestants.

YANG: Oh, my God.

ROGERS: We like it.

EISENBERG: So whoever has the most points at the end of two games is going to move on ot our final round. It's the first time we're doing this. And of course, whoever doesn't gets to go home early. So let's welcome back Julian Velard.

ROGERS: Julian.

YANG: Julian.

(APPLAUSE)

ROGERS: I just want to say Bowen is, like, almost a doctor. And I am staggeringly dumb.

YANG: No.

ROGERS: So this is going to be...

YANG: That's not true.

ROGERS: ...Crazy (laughter).

YANG: That's not true.

EISENBERG: You'll do great. Your first game is called I Do Think So, Honey.

ROGERS: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: We're going to read a statement about honey and bees. And it could be true or something we made up. And you're just going to ring in and say - if you think it's true, you'll say I do think so, honey.

ROGERS: OK.

EISENBERG: And if you think it's false, you'll ring it and say I don't think so, honey.

YANG: OK.

ROGERS: Great.

EISENBERG: But be careful because if you answer incorrectly, your opponent automatically gets the point.

YANG: Wow.

ROGERS: Oh, my God, Ophira.

EISENBERG: I know. All right. Here we go. Honey bees are the only insects that make honey.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Matt.

ROGERS: That's true.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: So...

YANG: What were you going to say? It's your catchphrase.

EISENBERG: So you're going to say...

ROGERS: I do think so, honey (laughter).

EISENBERG: So weird in that way, isn't it? I am sorry, it's false.

ROGERS: You're kidding.

EISENBERG: Certain wasp and ant species make honey, too.

YANG: Oh.

ROGERS: Come on.

EISENBERG: Disgusting, disgusting.

YANG: Disgusting.

EISENBERG: Only male bees make honey, while female bees take care of the hive.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Matt.

ROGERS: That is true.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: What do you say?

EISENBERG: It's not true. It's false. It's false.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: Why would it be true?

YANG: Why would it be true?

EISENBERG: Here's how it works. All the worker bees are female, including the ones who make honey. All the male bees are drones, and their only task is to mate. And the drones die immediately...

YANG: Yes.

EISENBERG: ...After mating because it's that good.

ROGERS: Thank you (laughter).

VELARD: Archaeologists excavating pyramids in Egypt found pots of 3,000-year-old honey.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

VELARD: Bowen.

YANG: Me? I do think so, honey.

VELARD: Yes, you're right.

YANG: OK, perfect. And...

(LAUGHTER)

VELARD: And...

YANG: ...You can't - no microorganisms can grow in honey, which is why honey never spoils. And even thousand-year-old honey is still good honey.

EISENBERG: Exactly.

(APPLAUSE)

VELARD: You are exactly right. You're exactly right.

EISENBERG: All right. How about this one? Bears really do eat honey.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Matt.

ROGERS: False. They eat smaller animals.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: It's actually true.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Not only do they eat...

ROGERS: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: ...They go after beehives. They love the honey so much, they just - they eat the bees as well. The just eat the whole thing.

ROGERS: So it's, like, not only are you wrong, but you're so wrong. They love it. They stan for the honey.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yes.

YANG: Oh, my God.

VELARD: Most honey in the United States is produced in Utah.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

VELARD: Bowen.

YANG: I don't think so, honey.

VELARD: You are right.

(APPLAUSE)

YANG: I don't have any addendums to that. I don't know.

VELARD: Utah's nickname is the beehive state, but it doesn't even crack the top 10. Most honey in the United States comes from North Dakota. The nickname was chosen for its symbolism of collective work.

ROGERS: I was distracted. Your voice is...

YANG: Julian has such a good voice.

ROGERS: ...So - oh, my God, it's everything.

YANG: It's a very good voice.

VELARD: Let's just focus on the game, guys.

ROGERS: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: All right. I shot my shot. I shot my shot.

YANG: Shot his shot.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: In 11th century Germany, honey was used as money.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Matt.

ROGERS: True. Yes?

EISENBERG: You are correct. That was a great game. That was a great game.

ROGERS: That was a really good game.

YANG: Wow.

EISENBERG: And Bowen is clearly in the lead.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: OK. Before your second game, I want to talk to Matt Rogers for a little bit.

ROGERS: Well, hi.

EISENBERG: Hi.

ROGERS: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: So, Matt, you recently celebrated a birthday at Disneyland.

ROGERS: (Laughter) I love that, like, it's like, Bowen, you work for "SNL." Matt, you went to Disney World. Yes, I did.

EISENBERG: But you did, right?

ROGERS: I did. But you know what? Actually, I make a cultural impact every time I go.

YANG: He does.

ROGERS: And it makes a cultural impact on me. I famously have only ever been to Europe one time, but I've been to Epcot dozens of times, so it sort of works out the same.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

ROGERS: You can get amazing things when you go for your birthday.

EISENBERG: What do you - yeah, what do you get?

ROGERS: Well, everyone says hello to you.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: And that's the extent of it.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: So we have another ASK ME ANOTHER challenge for you and Bowen. Now, I don't know if you're competitive...

ROGERS: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: ...But I take it you are. We love pop divas, but obviously, when they try acting, the results can be a little mixed because for every Lady Gaga in "A Star Is Born," there is Mariah Carey in "Glitter."

ROGERS: I reject that. Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Perfect.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: So in this game, we're going to read a summary of a critically panned films reviews as found on the movie website Rotten Tomatoes. We have removed the diva's name and the movie title from these descriptions. And you are going to earn one point for identifying the film and one point for identifying the diva who stars in it.

ROGERS: Great.

YANG: Great.

EISENBERG: OK. So Bowen's still in the lead, and you're in the final round. Matt, you need to get more points or...

ROGERS: I'm going home.

EISENBERG: Here we go. A notorious stinker, this film features banal songs, a witless plot and nonexistent chemistry between its "American Idol"-sanctioned leaks.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Yes, Matt.

ROGERS: It's "From Justin To Kelly" that's starring Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini.

EISENBERG: Yes, it is.

(CHEERING)

EISENBERG: I've not seen it.

ROGERS: Featuring the hit song "Timeless..."

EISENBERG: Yes.

ROGERS: ...Which they sang on a boat, so three more points for that (laughter)?

VELARD: Seth Rogen and this actress have enough chemistry to drive a solidly assembled comedy. Unfortunately, this film has a lemon of a script and is perilously low on comedic fuel.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

VELARD: Bowen.

YANG: This is "The Guilt Trip" starring Barbra Streisand.

VELARD: You are right.

ROGERS: Oh, I don't - is she a pop diva? I mean...

YANG: She's a diva.

EISENBERG: Just a diva, just a diva.

ROGERS: She's a legendary chanteuse.

YANG: She did disco in the '70s.

ROGERS: Pop diva - legendary chanteuse - two different categories.

YANG: Oh, my God.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Two divas star in this movie. We're looking for the one that isn't mentioned in the summary. Campy and cliched, this movie wastes its talent; cast including a better-than-expected Christina Aguilera...

ROGERS: No, it's me. I was in first.

YANG: No.

EISENBERG: ...On a movie...

YANG: And she hasn't stopped. She hasn't stopped. Let her finish.

EISENBERG: On a movie that wavers between bad and so bad, it's good.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Matt.

ROGERS: That would be "Burlesque," Ophira. It's starring Cher.

EISENBERG: That is right.

ROGERS: It's Christina Aguilera and Julianne Hough, who released a country album so...

YANG: Oh, my God.

EISENBERG: All right. We're going to sprinkle some points around. Don't you worry. We're going to sprinkle some points around.

ROGERS: As long as they all sprinkle over here, Ophira.

VELARD: All right. Here is the Rotten Tomatoes summary for a movie based on a board game.

ROGERS: Oh, no. I know it.

VELARD: It may...

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: So I know it - I mean, I know it, too.

VELARD: Listen; let me read the thing. It may offer energetic escapism for less demanding filmgoers, but this movie is too loud, poorly written and formulaic to justify its expense and a lot less fun than its source material.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

ROGERS: No, please.

VELARD: Bowen.

YANG: "Battleship" starring Rihanna.

VELARD: You are correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: This film assembles an undeniably talented cast of voice actors and live action stars, then crushes them beneath a blue mound of lowest common denominator kiddie fare.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

MATT ROGERS AND BOWEN YANG: It was me. It was me. It was me.

EISENBERG: Bowen.

ROGERS: That sucks.

YANG: Oh, my God.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: That is - it is "The Smurfs" with Katy Perry.

EISENBERG: Yes, it is.

(APPLAUSE)

ROGERS: I can't believe you wouldn't even let me have that one. You're going to win.

EISENBERG: All right. There's only one left, right?

ROGERS: Oh, my God. I'm so upset.

YANG: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

VELARD: Bizarre and clumsily plotted, this movie is a mess. As for its stars, Affleck and the lead actress lack chemistry.

ROGERS: No, no, it's me.

YANG: You go. You go. You go.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

VELARD: Matt.

ROGERS: "Gigli," Jennifer Lopez.

EISENBERG: Yes.

VELARD: You are correct.

ROGERS: They also starred together in the movie "Jersey Girl" - point?

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: Point. Yes? Give it. Give it. Give it to him. Yes. Why not?

ROGERS: Shall I have a point?

YANG: Shall he?

EISENBERG: That's brilliant. Very, very close, looks like - yeah, looks like Bowen is moving on to our final round.

ROGERS: It's OK. You deserve it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: "Las Culturistas" is going on tour in August with "I Don't Think So, Honey!" Thirty comedians take one minute each to go off on culture. Give it up for Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang.

YANG: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: Speaking of tours, in September, ASK ME ANOTHER is heading to Texas and taping shows in four cities. But, Houston, we have a problem. We need contestants. If you're around Dallas, San Antonio, Austin or Houston, go to amatickets.org and apply to be a contestant on our Texas tour. Coming up, I'll be joined by another female comedian/trivia host, HQ's Anna Roisman. We'll join forces, and maybe with two of us, men we'll stop correcting us. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.