Watching Uncle Roger’s egg fried rice video for the first time, I was pretty turned off by it.
I understood the archetype, but seeing a fresh-faced young man on the internet pulling off the character of an old Chinese ah pek was a cringe-fest to me.
However, his 1.1 million subscribers on YouTube would probably disagree with me.
Just 2 months ago, he only had about 10,000 subscribers and an average of 5,000 views per video. Safe to say, he’s since gone viral.
And the video that shot him to virality?
Its title is “Uncle Roger DISGUSTED by this Egg Fried Rice Video (BBC Food)”, and we’re sure everyone with an online presence would have heard of him and this video by now.
In the video, he reacts to a video from British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) about a lesson on how to make egg fried rice.
Uncle Roger’s reactions included numerous gestures and comments of disapproval as he mocked the cook, Hersha Patel, saying things like: “You killing me woman! She’s draining rice with colander!”
Comedy skits parodying Asian and Western culture and commentary on current events make up some of the other types of videos he does on his YouTube channel.
Despite not enjoying the egg fried rice reaction video at first, it still led me down a rabbit hole of binge-watching the others.
In particular, the reaction videos to other cooking tutorials online. His over-exaggerated comebacks eventually became helplessly entertaining to me.
Who Is Uncle Roger?
Behind the persona of Uncle Roger is Nigel Ng, a Malaysian comedian in the UK.
In an interview with Vulcan Post, he shared some brief personal history with us, such as his move to the US to study engineering at Northwestern University in Illinois.
That was where he began doing stand up comedy as a hobby. He then relocated to London shortly after to work as a data scientist.
In an interview with South China Morning Post (SCMP), he said that comedy became his full-time job by 2019.
He was performing on television and had been nominated for the Best Newcomer Award at the Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival in Scotland.
That same year, he started producing content for YouTube and Instagram.
“Uncle Roger came about because I had it as a goal this year to come up with a character for my social media content. After some improvising and workshopping on my Rice To Meet You Podcast, Uncle Roger was born,” he said.
As his jokes heavily centre around Asian culture, it’s hard to imagine audiences in the UK resonating with it.
Nigel agreed, but replied that the point of performing his comedy there was to build up his skills.
“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,” he said.
“I think everyone will get the jokes in the videos, maybe asians will get 10% more, but it’s very accessible regardless of race.”
Virality Came Unexpectedly
On how he even decided to do a reaction video about BBC’s egg fried rice video, Nigel said, “A fan of my podcast shared that video with me. I already had the Uncle Roger character at the time, though he only existed in short, 40-second clips on Tik Tok and Instagram.”
“I figured this would be a perfect chance to flesh out this character in a longer video.”
It gained the attention it has today from being shared on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and on Facebook through the group Subtle Asian Traits.
“Then news outlets caught on too. I was really surprised when it went viral but also super grateful,” he shared.
Hersha Patel, who was the unfortunate butt of his jokes in the reaction video, was trolled by viewers online.
He told SCMP, “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.”
Hersha herself actually found the video funny and reached out to Nigel, wanting to clear the air and try to turn it into something positive.
The two collaborated and posted a follow-up video a month after the first one, Uncle Roger Meet Egg Fried Rice Lady. It has since gained 7.4 million views.
While Nigel is doubtful that he’ll be able to achieve this sort of virality again, he’s happy to settle for steady growth.
It looks like he’s working his way towards it too. Taking a quick glance at his YouTube page, it’s clear that he’s identified what his audiences want to watch: reaction videos.
He’s since posted a couple more of those and some collaboration videos with other Asian YouTubers to achieve his goal.
“Would I want to go viral again? Of course! But only if it’s a positive thing and not like a scandal,” he joked.
As for opportunities, some brands have reached out to him to sponsor his videos. He also has future plans to develop his own stand-up using the Uncle Roger persona.
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.Nigel Ng, comedian behind Uncle Roger
Featured Image Credit: Nigel Ng, comedian behind Uncle Roger