Alan Yang on Group Chats, Pitch Meetings, and Procrastination
If the new season of Netflix’s Master of None is nearly unrecognizable from what came before, that’s because Alan Yang and his co-creator Aziz Ansari intended it to be that way. Whereas the first two seasons of the Emmy-winning comedy followed Ansari’s character Dev as he ate and dated his way through New York City, the show’s third season, officially titled Master of None Presents: Moments in Love, zeroes in on Lena Waithe’s character Denise and her wife Alicia (played by Naomi Ackie) as their idyllic life in upstate New York unravels. For Yang, a Harvard graduate who got his start writing for shows like Parks and Recreation and The Good Place, the five-episode season once expands his foray into dramatic storytelling, which he explored in his directorial debut, last year’s Tigertail. Next up, Yang will reunite with Maya Rudolph (she starred in his Amazon dramedy Forever) for an Apple TV+ series he co-created with Matt Hubbard, but first, he offers his take on 11 topics chosen kind of, but not really, at random.
I always found it interesting that in order to sell a show or movie, you have to be a salesman. But I have to say, over the course of the last few years, as I’ve started to pitch more and more things, I kind of enjoy it. It makes you distill whatever you’re working on into a simple form and tell people what story you want to tell and why. And so, I secretly kind of enjoy them.
When I was little, I was the skinniest kid in the world, so my mom would try to make me eat anything. As a younger adult, I was very thin, so I ate whatever I wanted. But of course, as I got older, I realized I probably shouldn’t eat whatever I want, so I’ve now gotten into a good pattern. I basically eat two meals a day. A salad for lunch on weekdays, and whatever I want for dinner. No breakfast, unless I’m on set and we’re shooting something in the morning. Then, I’ll eat something small.
I’ve heard from friends who listen to podcasts on 1.5x that when they then talk to people in real life, they want to hit the button and make them speed up because it’s too slow. I don’t want to ever get to that point, so maybe it’s best if I never get on that drug.
One of my favorite things in life. I have so many group chats, it’s probably bad for my health. I have group chats for every show I’m working on, group chats about the NBA, group chats about movies, group chats about music. I just like the jokes on them. A lot of my friends are really funny people, and I’m getting updates not just about their lives, but their takes on current events. I have one called Asians and Jew which is primarily Asian-American people and then one Jewish guy. And then, I have another one called VIP NYC All Stars, which is people who live in New York.
LAST CALL WITH CARSON DALY
Last Call was the first time I ever got paid to write for television. I learned a lot on that show, because it was a very small staff. Sometimes, it was two or three people writing the show every day, and I got to work with a lot of people who ended up being my friends. It was a lot of writing, quasi-producing, directing, casting, and acting. It was this little sandbox that we got to play in, and the higher-ups didn’t put a lot of pressure on us, because it was on so late at night. And Carson was a super nice boss.
The internet has ruined all productivity. I’m almost jealous of people who existed before this kind of technology, because it seems to me procrastinating back then was like, “I’ll go sit under a tree.” But now, I can read anything ever written in the history of mankind or watch anything ever produced in the history of mankind. It’s a miracle any work ever gets done.
A symptom of modernity. We’re all younger a little bit older, if that makes sense. And this ties into the new season of Master of None a little bit, even in terms of fertility issues. Because people are getting married later, they’re having children later, and I think each successive generation wants this more and more, to get to explore what we want to do with our lives, what we want to do as individuals, what we want to do creatively. I don’t think we should necessarily damn that freedom as adolescence.
For me, intensely personal in ways I never thought I’d get to. I got to a place where I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about my family. I learned about my strengths and weaknesses. I learned about what I wanted to say. That’s an experience I’ll never give up for anything. It led me to things as profound as going back to my family’s country of origin and trying to learn Mandarin after having chosen not to learn it my entire life. That to me is the perfect example of work pushing me into places that I needed to go.
I know this sounds like I’m lying, but I just take the positive reviews and enjoy them. And if any one arrives that’s not as positive, I’m like, alright, it’s not for them. Nothing is for everybody. I’ve seen people hate Citizen Kane. I’ve seen people hate Moonlight. I’m like, how can you hate those things? They’re good. But everyone has a different opinion. And for me, everything I’ve ever worked on, I feel like I’ve put a lot of effort in, and I’ve worked on them with a lot of other people who I really respect and admire, and they’ve put a lot of work in. By the way, reviews for Master of None season three are coming in now. I was texting with Aziz and Lena, I was like, “Dude, I’m really proud of what we made.” So, whatever happens, happens.
It’s extremely flawed, there’s ways to improve it, but where else would I want to live?
Optimistic. I can’t help but see the bright side of things, for better or for worse. Sometimes, it’s frustrating to people who know me, because I can’t stop talking about why things aren’t so bad.