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Who is Uncle Roger, the Asian uncle reviewing rice videos on YouTube?

By Harriet Piercy

Sep 24, 2020

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If you haven’t already heard of Uncle Roger, now is the time to ‘virtually’ meet him. This Malaysian comedian has been slowly creeping up to his now viral stardom in recent months by posting videos on YouTube where he reviews the rest of the world’s apparently appalling techniques at cooking rice. We dug a little deeper to find out who this Youtuber really is, behind the persona of Uncle Roger.

Who is Uncle Roger?

Uncle Roger’s real name is Nigel Ng, he’s 29 years old and wasn’t always set out to be on the centre stage of comedy. When he moved to the US to study engineering at Northwestern University in Illinois, he began doing stand-up comedy as a hobby and went on to perform in Chicago. After this, he relocated to London to work as a data scientist, which gradually took a seat on the backburner of his life. By 2019, comedy became his full-time job.

Ng started to perform on television and was nominated for the Best Newcomer Award at one of the world’s largest arts festivals, Edinburgh Fringe. This led him to produce content for YouTube and Instagram. In an interview with the South China Morning Post (SCMP) he said that “Uncle Roger came about because I had it as a goal this year [2019] to come up with a character for my social media content. After some improvising and workshopping on the Rice To Meet You Podcast, Uncle Roger was born.”

As he was based in the UK, it came as a surprise to audiences that such contrasting cultures would resonate with what he had to joke about at all. Ng continued “My humour uses Asian culture as subject material, but my experience on the standup circuit in the US and UK has helped me gain the skills of making my comedy accessible to everyone.”

The video that made Uncle Roger go viral

At first, Uncle Roger’s content on his social media platforms consisted of meme-like videos, 40-second clips on TikTok and Instagram, which were slowly gaining traction. For his ‘signature look’, Ng did his research asking his friends to send him pictures of their dads, which inspired his outfit of knee-length shorts, a cell phone holster belt and a bright orange polo shirt.

After his character of an old Chinese ‘ah pek’ (a local term of address for an elderly Chinese gentleman above his 50s, which literally translates as “Uncle”) had firmly established itself within the branding of his online persona, Ng decided to do a reaction video to ‘a lesson on egg fried rice’ that was published on an already heavily streamed channel, BBC Food. The comedian titled it as ‘Uncle Roger DISGUSTED by this Egg Fried Rice Video (BBC Food)’.

In the video, Uncle Roger shows an exaggerated disapproval towards the instructions from the BBC Food clip, and mocks the cook, Hersha Patel, saying things like “You killing me woman! She’s draining rice with colander!”

He told SCMP that “As it started picking up steam, I did get a bit nervous. I hoped she wasn’t under a lot of attack. Ultimately, the video is just comedy, but you know how the internet is. People get angry really easily.” Thankfully, Patel herself found the video hilarious and went on to reach out to Ng, and the two ended up collaborating. They posted a follow-up video a month after the first one, called ‘Uncle Roger Meet Egg Fried Rice Lady’, which has since gained 7.4 million views.

Uncle Roger and chef Gordan Ramsay

After world renowned chef and TV personality Jamie Oliver committed a multitude of cardinal egg fried rice sins, Uncle Roger aimed for his next target. One of the same calibre, of course: Gordon Ramsay. But “British chefs let Uncle Roger down so many time now. They mess up egg fried rice, so simple dish,” Uncle Roger proclaimed in one of his videos.

However, as the expected video started to unravel and much to everyone’s eager surprise, Ramsay started to do things right. “Okay, okay. First step correct, first step correct,” says Uncle Roger, nodding his head in approval.

Uncle Roger scouts the cooking location, and comments in its likeness to a deserted island by referring to the movie Castaway, but for egg fried rice. This results in Uncle Roger’s praises towards Ramsay for cooking outside, making the connection with how Asians have two kitchens, a wet one (outdoors) and a dry one (indoors). “If you go visit some Asian people house, and they only make food for you with inside kitchen, they don’t like you,” says Uncle Roger. “Go away, they want you to fuck off.” OK, duly noted.

What really seemed to shine through was the fact Ramsay used a wok to fry his rice. “Oh my God. Even Uncle Roger at home, I only have one wok. Uncle Roger faithful to my one wok,” proclaims the critic, “But Gordon Ramsay is wok fuccboi.” Let that sink in for a bit. All in all, Ramsay gets all of our bravados, for doing something right.

What’s next for Uncle Roger?

Since his first collaboration with Patel, Ng has continued to post a couple more collaborations with other Asian Youtubers, which clearly shows his intention to steadily grow his online brand. He explained that “I don’t really think in terms of ‘making it’. It’s more like if I can do the thing I love doing, which is being funny, and live a decent life while doing it, then I’m happy.”

Ng now has his own small team that helps him to edit and produce his weekly YouTube reaction videos, and shared with Variety that he actually missed being on stage doing stand-up. He hopes to take Uncle Roger on the road one day and is also angling towards a big screen role, he said “I’ll be a janitor in Crazy Rich Asians 2. Let’s do that.”

As for the happiness goal he mentioned earlier? Well, “Have you seen a happy Asian uncle? An Asian parent who’s happy? I think he’ll forever be this complain-y type,” he jokes before adding that what makes him happy will probably make Uncle Roger happy too. “So, good food. Karaoke, which is what I’m doing after this [interview], by the way. Friends, family, doing the things I like doing, being proud of my work—that actually drives me. So, hopefully, that will drive Uncle Roger, too, because I figured, he’s an extension of me.”