Underneath my yellow skin

Living vicariously through The Try Guys

During my dive into the Buzzfeed rabbit hole, I stumbled across a video of something called ‘The Try Guys’. It was a series of videos by four guys who worked at Buzzfeed doing daring, funny, and sometimes crazy things. I was immediately hooked and watched all the videos of them I could find. The zest with which they threw themselves into activities in which they had no experience was fascinating to me because I’m terrible at doing things I haven’t done before, especially if I have no interest in it. I’m always hyper-conscious about how I look as I’m doing it, convinced that I must look like a total loser. I have a hard time getting out of my own head, and there’s no way I could do some of the shit they tried (such as spending a night in the wilderness by themselves. And, not as a group, but each individually). I know part of that is that they’re men so they have more leeway than I as a woman would (for societal reasons and because of self-imposed limits based on societal expectations), but it wasn’t just that. More on that in a moment.

Let’s get the elephant out of the way. One of the reasons I liked the videos so much was because there’s a very hot Asian guy as one of the four. Eugene Lee Yang. He is insanely hot (though he doesn’t think so because like me, he grew up yellow in a white world, believing that he was ugly. He’s Korean, and he has the same dual-country shame that I do–both his cultures thought he was ugly just as both my cultures did, too), and unfortunately for me, gay. And too young. It’s just like me to go for the person I can’t have. Story of my life. Beyond his hotness, though, the fact that there was an Asian guy being prominent in this series (and often being the best at the activity) really warmed my heart. You often see white people (duh) and more and more black people with an occasional Latinx person thrown it, but it’s still rare to see an Asian person be prominently figured. He’s not a sidekick, which is refreshing.

I have to say, though, that while Eugene is my favorite for many reasons, the one I admire the most is Zach Kornfeld. Why? Because he’s the one who often has the least aptitude going into an activity, and yet, he does it to the best of his ability. Yes, he gripes and complains, but way less than I would if thrown into these activities. He’s like the C student who studies all week to get that C instead of being able to pull an all-nighter and get an A. Yes, the latter receives the better grade, but the former is actually the harder worker. (Yes, Eugene is like the latter, but the difference is that he works just as hard as the others, but his natural aptitude is higher in general.) Zach often mentions his little breakable body that isn’t made to do physical activities, plus he has an auto-immune disease that makes many things painful.

Side note: Both Zach and Keith (Habersberger) are lactose-intolerant, and yet, neither shies away from eating cheese by the bucketful on the show if need be. As a fellow lactose-intolerant person, I shudder whenever I see it. I also wonder if Eugene is lactose-intolerant because the vast majority of Asian people are, but that’s neither here nor there.

Back to the show. They have a bunch of them in which they try something typically feminine to see how it feels. The video above is the first video they’ve ever done, and boy is it funny to rewatch and see how modest they were in this video. They were so careful to hold up the pink swatch of fabric so that nothing untoward is shown (until the very end). It’s funny because in later videos, they let it ALL hang out! It’s also funny because their core personalities are pretty much established in this video. Keith is the jokester; Eugene is the hot one; Zach is the cute dork; Ned (Fulmer) is the sweet one with dat ass doe.

They’ve also tried on other sexy stuff for ladies as well as edible underwear, and they comment about how you don’t need all that to be sexy. It’s not as hokey as I make it sound, either. They actually put some thought into their feelings about all these ridiculous outfits. They’ve worn heels for a night, been photoshopped into their ‘ideals’, tried the pregnancy labor simulator–in fact, they had a series on parenthood because Ned’s wife, Ariel (and she’s really like the fifth Try Guy because Ned talks about her all the damn time and she shows up in several videos) became pregnant, and they ate like a pregnant woman for a week. They’ve also worn boob weights for a day, been pregnant for a day, and have done makeup tutorials. It’s helped them get a glimpse into the day in the life of being a woman, and I appreciate that they’ve put so much effort into it.

On the flipside, they’ve also explored what it means to be a man. They have a series on fatherhood, and the episodes in which Eugene talks frankly with his father brought tears to my eyes. I could relate to some of it as being pervasive in Asian cultures, but it was also the pain I heard in Eugene’s voice when asking questions about why his father wasn’t there for much of his childhood. I admit I was surprised when his father frankly admitted he liked going to strip clubs and that he had several lovers before marrying Eugene’s mom. In addition, when Eugene turned to his dad and said something about ass stuff, and his father said casually, “anal sex”, I nearly lost it. I’m not used to Asian elders being so open about sex.

The guys have also tried ballet, roller derby, stepping, Irish step dance, UFC, boating with the sharks, and several other rugged adventures. I love watching Eugene dance, by the way. It’s sexy as hell, and he’s a fantastic dancer. They’ve also done drag and stripping, and they’ve eaten a shit-ton of unusual foods. They’ve dressed up like anime characters, and they did a series on Korean culture, including K-pop, K-dramas, and Korean food. They’ve done dune-buggy racing, demolition derby, and the American Ninja Warrior show as well. They’ve also had prostate exams, tested who was the sexiest of the four, and looked at their ancestry DNA.

They had a Netflix series for one season called Squad Wars, and by the time I had heard of it, I was so into them, I signed up for the three-month free trial of YouTube Red just so I could watch it. (Someone please remind me in 2 1/2 months to cancel the subscription. Thanks.) The basic premise is that they invite two squads to compete against each other in an event outside either squad’s purview. So, say, Project Runway participants versus American Ninja Warrior participants doing a pirate show. That was the premier episode, and it was a hoot. One of the Try Guys is on each squad, and they admitted jokingly (but not jokingly) that Eugene was the ringer–meaning he was placed on the squad that needed more help.

I love that before each episode, I knew there would be plenty of diversity in each episode–and not just black people. Women, men, blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, (no Native Americans that I could tell, unfortunately), queers, drag queens (that was one squad one episode), and everything in between. There weren’t any people with visible disabilities or trans people as far as I could tell, but the diversity was leaps and bounds better than most shows. One whole episode was based on Bollywood, and, man, did Eugene own that dance. It was fucking amazing, but I digress.

They weren’t renewed, but recently, they left Buzzfeed in order to start their own company. I’m a patreon because I like to support good content and because I get the videos a day early. They’re up to 1.9 subscribers on YouTube, which is fantastic. They’ve all invested quite a bit of their own money into this venture, and they’re working insane hours in order to make it work.

What I love best about them is that they are very upfront about their insecurities and flaws. Every time they do a body issue, they talk about what they don’t like about themselves plus the pressure on dudes to look a certain way. They also acknowledge that guys don’t get nearly as much shit in this area than women do, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with. Zach in particular is heartbreaking in this. Recently, they did a plastic surgery episode that was really hard to watch. Dr. Diamond said all these fluffy things about how he likes helping people feel more confident, and, yeah, I understand that, but my inner voice is like, “I’d rather have a society in which everyone felt comfortable and confident being themselves.” Yes, I know that’s unrealistic and naive, but I can’t help it. Also, Dr. Diamond doesn’t look ideal himself, so what’s up with that?

Anyway, he told each of the guys what he would do to make them the ideal versions of themselves, then the guys had someone photoshop his suggestions onto their photo to see what the ideal version of themselves would look like. Keith didn’t like his front view, but he really liked the idealized profile view. Ned preferred his own face to the idealized version, in part because he thought his wife would be weirded-out by the idealized version. Zach was the one most vocal beforehand about worrying that he would like the after version so much better, he would actually consider getting plastic surgery. He said he felt as if he should apologize for not being a better-looking dude, and it broke my heart. He quickly acknowledged that it wasn’t something he was used to feeling as a guy, and he knew women felt that way all the time. It was clear that he was struggling with the idealized version of his photo and whether he wanted that, and it was clear that he knew he had the privilege of making the choice rather than feeling as if he were forced into doing it by society the way women were.

As for Eugene, he had a litany of things he wanted to change. Dr. Diamond asked each guy what they perceived as their own flaws, and Eugene quickly rattled off half a dozen things. That also broke my heart, and I could relate to it. He still saw himself as the ugly boy he was constantly told he was, and he couldn’t see that purely from an aesthetic point of view, he was fucking hot. So, he was really surprised when he saw the idealized version of himself and Dr. Diamond had only changed one thing–his nose. In fact, after seeing the idealized version, Eugene had to ask, “Are you sure that’s the right picture?” So, even Dr. Diamond knows what the rest of us know–Eugene is near physical perfection! I jest, but it really threw Eugene for a loop. He said that he had to think about the fact that many of the things he viewed as physical imperfections may just be in his own head. Which is true, but it’s easy to see why they’re there.

The other thing I love about them is that they are four dudes who are comfortable showing how much they care about each other (well, except for Eugene. He has trouble showing his emotions, which is another reason he’d be perfect for me). There’s a video of them as Keith’s groomsmen that is very touching, and the one in which Ned goes through fourteen hours of labor to get a taste of the experience Ariel went through made me tear up, especially at the end. I’ve included the latter video right above this paragraph.

In addition, I really admire the way they joke with the experts they meet, but they are never laughing at the expert. They show healthy respect for the expert, and they are always complimentary about said expertise. They really adhere to the policy of laughing with someone and not at them. The guys go into every experience with enthusiasm (at least outwardly, if not inwardly), and they give it 100%. No, not 110% because that is a particular pet peeve of mine, but 100% all the time.

Personally, I’m hoping to include more of that ‘can do’ attitude in my own endeavors. I have such a fear of doing something that makes me look stupid, it stops me before I can even start something half the time. I need to channel my inner Zach and think, “I’m going to look stupid doing this and I may hurt myself, but what the hell?”

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