Producer Spotlight: 'Master of None' Co-Creator Alan Yang Speaks the Comic Truth
Claiming your work is like play is so clichéd. But when Master of None cocreator and executive producer Alan Yang says it, he speaks the truth. “I started writing for a comedy magazine in college and it made me really, really happy,” the Harvard grad explains. “It exposed me to the fact that this can be a job.” And an award-winning one: In 2016, Yang and Master of None cocreator Aziz Ansari scored the best comedy writing Emmy. Yang’s speech, which called for better (and more) depictions of Asian-Americans, almost torched the web. We talked to the producer about his work…uh, play.
Master of None
Season 2, now streaming on Netflix, is as unconventional as its predecessor, opening with an episode based on the 1948 Italian film The Bicycle Thief. “The show was originally more of a traditional sitcom about a single guy in New York,” Yang says. “Then we said, ‘Why waste the chance? Why not make an episode based on my dad growing up poor in Taiwan and killing a pet chicken for dinner? Or depict an entire yearlong relationship in one episode?’”
The Netflix series co-stars Eric Wareheim and Lena Waithe.
Parks and Recreation
The producer earned his first Emmy nomination in 2015 for the Amy Poehler–led NBC comedy. It’s also where he met future writing partner Ansari. “We grew up working on Parks and Recreation together,” Yang says. “[Cocreators] Mike Schur and Greg Daniels did an amazing job of making sure the staff was diverse, not all white people and men.”
The Good Place
Yang didn’t intend to work on the series (which has been renewed for a second season at NBC), but things changed when he shared an office on the Universal Studios lot with its creator, Schur. “We’d go get coffee and he would talk to me about whatever idea was rolling around his head,” Yang says. “Ultimately he was like, ‘Well, you’re here, why don’t you be a consulting producer on the show?’”
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Last Call with Carson Daly
Yang’s first job out of college in 2002 was as an associate producer on the after-hours talk show, which filmed in New York City. “When you’re first starting out, especially [in New York], you’re just trying to make ends meet. I would try not to eat out too much and on the weekends go to parties where there was free beer, as opposed to bars. It was like that for a long time.”