[00:00:00] Maggie Chui: Hi, everyone! Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us. His name is Joe Jitsukawa. Joe is a serial entrepreneur, comedian, investor, and public speaker. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and grew up surrounded by the growing gang culture in L.A. Tired of the regular nine to five job, Joe quit, and co-founded Just Kidding Films, a comedy YouTube channel in 2007. Through this channel, Joe and his team are friends to comic sketches through which they teach good things in a bad way. Just Kidding Film has almost 2 million subscribers. Besides YouTube, Joe has also found success in different business ventures, such as apparel consulting, eCommerce, and investing.
[00:00:44] He likes advising and investing in several businesses, including a growing matcha franchise in LA called “Junbin”. Passionate about helping others, Joe created a free online education platform called “Joemalian Academy”, which now provides over 20,000 students with basic life skills and self-improvement education. Joe, welcome to the show.
[00:01:06] Joe Jitsukawa: Hello. What’s up everybody? Thanks for having me.
[00:01:09] Bryan Pham: Of course, we’re so excited to have you on the show. I think we mentioned earlier before we started recording that Maggie and I were watching hours and hours of your content just to get a refresher. Everything, we just realized, dude, Joe has done so much and made such good videos throughout the last, like 13, 14 years, dude. So such a huge on-tap in the show.
[00:01:29] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes, it’s crazy, man. Because when I first started YouTube, this was what, 2007.
[00:01:35] Bryan Pham: Yes.
[00:01:35] Joe Jitsukawa: And, it’s insane because none of this was planned. Everything was just, we learned as we went and it’s just been a crazy journey because I’m always thinking like, when is this going to end? Because entertainment like this doesn’t last forever. And so I’m just holding on and I just keep going. And it’s funny because we have this joke saying that we are the cockroaches of YouTube, cuz we can survive anything. Nuclear apocalypse, like we’ve seen people come and go especially on YouTube, especially on new media, like, you go viral, and then you’re gone.
[00:02:11] But we’ve been super fortunate because I think we have such a loyal fan base that stuck with us for like over 10 years. And every day I’m just grateful. Wow, these guys don’t get bored of us. And I’m bored of myself and they’re not even bored of us. And it’s wild because one of my channels this year will be our 10th anniversary, which is just kidding news. We filmed it right here on this set. But the channel you’re referencing, Just Kidding Films. I think we stopped filming. That was maybe four years ago or so.
[00:02:40] Bryan Pham: But still active.
[00:02:40] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes, it’s been 15- ish years now. So it’s been a long time. That’s a whole high school student.
[00:02:45] Maggie Chui: That is crazy. And Yes, just echoing all that Bryan said. I remember watching your videos and you guys were just so authentic. It didn’t seem like you guys were trying to be someone that you were not, and I think that’s what made it so special that people just wanted to laugh and see what you guys were putting out. I know you mentioned that, like, all of this was so unexpected, but I want to know, did you guys even have goals that you wanted to outline in mind, and what were you expecting at the time? Did you want some sort of achievement out of, creating all these YouTube videos? Or was it just more of “Let’s just have fun and go with the flow? We don’t know what’s going to come out of this.”
[00:03:21] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes. I guess it did start with a mission, and in the early two thousand and also the late nineties, me and Barb, my, my biz partner, we’re products basically of the nineties era. And growing up, watching in living color, Saturday night, live, all that slapstick comedy, that influenced our taste in comedy. And growing up, you guys remember it wasn’t too long ago that Asians had horrible representation. Like people talk about, we have no representation now. Do you guys remember 1999 or freaking 2005? Even like, it’s like YouTube was our gift. Without YouTube, I don’t think there would be any English-speaking, Asian community. Like, we didn’t have Hollywood, like Hollywood was just like Kung Fu masters and maybe a liquor store owner in a movie or something. We never became lead characters, but now you have so many people who are lead characters and I feel like it’s so awesome to be a part of all of that. But in the early ages, I remember watching comedy and I remember watching comedians and even with the OGs, like Margaret Cho and even the second wave, like Bobby Lees and stuff, I was like, damn, this is so cool. I wished there was more of that out there because of some stuff I didn’t relate to. Because a lot of the Asians on TV weren’t like the SVG Asians. They weren’t like the LA Asians. They weren’t like the NorCal Asians. They were like maybe Asian kids that grew up maybe in white neighborhoods because most of those characters were written by, maybe Jewish kids in Hollywood who were like, oh, I remember growing up with an Asian kid like this.
[00:05:03] And then, that was their portrayal of them. And for me, when I was doing this stuff, I was like, dude, how come there’s nothing for us? Black folks have a living color that tells the stories of their neighborhood and the comedy that goes be like behind them.
[00:05:17] And then, all this other stuff, I felt like being made fun of, but I didn’t feel like they were laughing with us. So I was like let’s create content that we can relate with like shit that we want to see what’s out there. That’s authentic to us. Like the stuff that goes on in our household. How funny it is when it’s the cultural differences, even within the house when the parents are foreign and immigrants. And then you’re like the first generation growing up in America and all the difficulties we have to go through. Let’s do it with a comedic twist, and that was always my mission. Let’s create content and stories and things that we grew up with, like in our community.
[00:05:55] And although I’m Japanese-American, sometimes I feel more Vietnamese than Japanese or more Chinese because let’s face it in America, it’s like a huge melting pot. And you might be spending more hours with a different culture than your parents. And then you start to absorb that, and you start to become that, and you start to have little elements of who you are based on all these cultures.
[00:06:19] And that’s how we got to learn all of these different accents and the nuances, and you spend hours and hours at your friend’s house. You’re going to be able to copy their Korean uncle, or like their Vietnamese mom or whatever. And then you get to see the nuances, but the things that bring us together, like our parents beating our asses when we don’t get a good grade or like whatever, we can all laugh at that. Like we’re laughing in pain, but we can all relate. And that’s the kind of stuff we wanted to create.
[00:06:44] Bryan Pham: I loved that a lot. And to be completely honest, I think it was only like within the last five years where I realized you were Japanese, cos all your videos you get off like Vietnamese accents, Korean accents are just like, wait a minute, Joe is Japanese, what the hell.
[00:06:58] Joe Jitsukawa: Bro, we made it a point to never reveal our race or ethnicity because of Bart’s Chinese and all that. And when we first started, we were just doing solo characters from East L.A. We were doing Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, whatever. And, when we started reading the comments, there were a lot of people fighting over what ethnicity we were.
[00:07:19] And I remember back in the day, Asians weren’t like standing in solidarity the way that they do now.
[00:07:26] There was way more division. And then it’s even if you go to school if you went to a place that had a lot of Asians, like the Koreans hung out with Koreans, the Chinese, with the Chinese, and it was way more separated.
[00:07:37] Now, everyone’s more United. It’s a pretty beautiful thing to witness, but when I was in high school and during that time, my goal was to create the identity of what Asian Americans are. And don’t be so devout or don’t be so limited to just sticking to your little group.
[00:07:56] And since we didn’t have representation, I noticed that a lot of people wanted to claim us for selfish reasons. They would be like, no, they’re Chinese. Fuck you guys. They’re representing us. And I was just like, I don’t like that kind of vibe that was created in our community.
[00:08:13] So I was like, let’s play a game and make this where they have to keep guessing and I don’t want to put myself out there and make my identity be my ethnicity or culture. I want to be the representation of this new identity of what’s Asian Americans.
[00:08:31] Bryan Pham: Yes. I want to speak real quick. Sorry, Maggie.
[00:08:33] Maggie Chui: Yes, go ahead.
[00:08:34] Bryan Pham: I can tell you’re a California-Asian because there is the only group of Asians that feel like, oh my God, there’s so many of us that we see the vision. Whereas like you talk to Asians in the Midwest, or not from the coast area, they’re always like, what are you talking about?
[00:08:47] There’s so little of us that we’re always stuck together. And for us, there are just so many of us, why are we so segregated? And I could tell you immediately by that statement, you’re a California-Asian.
[00:08:56] Maggie Chui: That is so funny. Yes, I agree. And I just wanted to say I think it’s so compelling that you picked up on that so fast cuz Bryan and I always talk about that. And I think there are still some little hints of it here and there where we do normally stick with our ethnicity. There are Chinese that stick with the Chinese, the Korean stick with the Koreans, et cetera, et cetera. And a lot of it comes from our parents.
[00:09:19] Our parents teach us to only stick with who and don’t try to venture out. And, it’s hard to trust people and stuff like that. And I think we adopt that mindset from a lot of our parents and our grandparents and stuff like that. And it wasn’t until after COVID that we’re diving deeper into learning about art nation and cultural heritage, where everyone is, you know what, why is there so much division.
[00:09:39] We need to stick together and we’re an Asian community and not Chinese or Vietnamese or Korean. We have so many similarities in terms of our struggles, our upbringings, and stuff like that. There are more similarities than there are differences, but, for you to like notice that so early on when you were creating these skits and when you were going into comedy and creating these videos you wanted people to like recognize that we’re an Asian community and we needed to work together to make sure that we’re able to go forward together. That is very compelling.
[00:10:09] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes. Thanks. I think being in comedy and creating content, you start to see the world, as like these big groups, where like it’s when you grow up, I think like you’re just in your neighborhood with your small circle of friends. Especially because the online, online world wasn’t like what it is today, where you could become best friends with a middle-aged lady in the Midwest over a video game or whatever. Like they did have that, but it wasn’t as accessible, as now you can see a vlogger from every single country and see how they live.
[00:10:46] And it’s bringing us way closer. But since we were in the early stages of that, I was able to witness how people would react to our content and then adjust from there. So I feel pretty grateful that I was able to see that early on.
[00:11:01] Bryan Pham: Yes. I feel grateful that you have too because I’m being completely honest, your content has shaped me a lot in my early teens, and mid-20 years just by watching it. Because I’ll be honest here like I was one of those unconfident Asian kids. That I’ve probably felt a lot more confident around other Asian people. But as soon as I walk into the atmosphere where it’s not Asian anymore, I don’t know how to hold myself. I don’t know how to represent myself. I don’t know how to be myself. So I’m going to ask you a spicy, hot topic.
[00:11:28] Joe Jitsukawa: Okay.
[00:11:29] Bryan Pham: I want to talk about Asian male masculinity.
[00:11:31] Joe Jitsukawa: Okay.
[00:11:32] Bryan Pham: And the reason why I asked that question is I remember seeing a comment that you made months back regarding Asian males who are also portrayed as weak, nerdy, whatever.
[00:11:42] So I want to ask a question regarding that and representing yourself as an Asian male in comedy. Like how did that affect the way that you saw yourself and the way that you want other Asian guys to feel?
[00:11:54] Joe Jitsukawa: That’s a really good question because I remember, I grew up in a predominantly black and Mexican neighborhood and some would call it the “ghetto”. There used to be a big Japanese population in the city called Gardena. And it was a farm town back in the day in the south bay here in L.A. As the city grew, so did the population change. But I was unaware of a lot of the things that were different from, I would say middle-class world, right?
[00:12:25] Means like usually in poor places, violence is prevalent. And the idea of masculinity, especially in that era, the late nineties, and early 2000 was defined by gangster men. Like you listen to west coast rap, whatever the worst on the block, the most gangsters, the most violent, and it was a violent era all around.
[00:12:47] As I think, it was pretty normal to get your ass completely beat by your parents, my siblings, my kids on the street. It was much more machismo in its way. So growing up, that’s what I was used to. And so how I define max masculinity, even moving here to Monterey park where it’s predominantly Asian, I was in that world and it was probably completely different from how other people defined it.
[00:13:13] And I also didn’t grow up around timid, nerdy Asian men. My brother grew up around that Venice dog town-kind of crew with the skateboarders and extreme sports people. And also a lot of my Asian American friends were either gang-related or into more of the delinquent behavior stuff.
[00:13:33] So they were wild, aggressive, and high energy. I did have a few friends who fit the stereotype of like the nerdy, textbook kid or whatever. I didn’t know that was normal Asian. And we were the weird ones. I had no clue. And also this is true in Hawaii too. If you go to Hawaii, like most of the Asian kids out there, they’re doing Hawaii stuff. You’re outdoorsy, you’re surfing, you’re fit, you’re outgoing. It’s a different culture. So it wasn’t till later on in life that I realized that this stereotype of this Asian nerd or whatever I saw on TV, I was like, what? This is crazy. So this is the normal Asian, like the majority. And then I would start traveling. I would start speaking. I would go to college and I would see all these nerdier kids or whatever.
[00:14:24] And I’m like, oh shit, I’ve been living in a bubble. And so if you live in SVG or if you live in the LA area or whatever. It’s not uncommon to see a macho tough, like Asian dude walking down the street, full of tattoos, more blue-collared, whatever. So my idea of masculinity has always been more blue-collared. So, this is just the weirdest thing. When I see this popping up all the time and Asians talking about how we’re this and we’re that.
[00:14:50] And I’m like, that’s not my Asian America, and I don’t know what you’re talking about. And even within my circle of friends, I have military dudes. I have guys that are into extreme sports, all this stuff. And then I don’t picture them as this weak-in-cell individual that people keep saying Asian men are.
[00:15:07] And I’m like, where, what is this? Where does this idea come from? So it’s hard for me to relate, but I do know that it does exist. And for me, I think the idea of just being a masculine individual or someone comfortable in their skin. That’s the best. Confidence is just accepting who the fuck you are and being proud of that because maybe you’re not into fitness.
[00:15:30] Maybe you’re not a macho dude. Maybe you got to do what you like, and be comfortable with that. I think this is what you got to love about yourself. And then to me, that being comfortable in your skin is masculinity. You don’t have to prove to the world that you’re someone. To me, that’s insecurity. When you’re like, I’ve been weak all my life, but now I got to show the world how fucking strong I am. To me, that shows even more. I don’t want to use the word effeminate because that’s not wrong or negative thing, but I can’t come up with special words, but it’s more when we grew up, we said you were a little bitch.
[00:16:02] Joe Jitsukawa: Because your insecurities are bleeding, you want to prove so much to the world. Like everyone’s looking at you, but no one gives a damn about you. Everyone’s concerned about themselves. And I see this conversation coming up a lot from insecure human beings. And a part of me is, first, I’m glad that they’re talking about it because maybe they can make a difference instead of suppressing it.
[00:16:27] But the other part of me is some of the things that you do that make you look even worse. For example, when guys complain, let’s say they don’t like me because I’m Asian or whatever, they don’t find me attractive because I’m Asian. To me, I’m like maybe you individually are unattractive.
[00:16:44] But there are a lot of really attractive Asian men that can get dates and whatever. But don’t bring all of us into this stereotype and say, “Oh, they don’t like Asian guys like us.” And I’m like, “shut up, maybe you.” I don’t like to entertain these types of conversations and thoughts because to me, what it does is enhance insecurity.
[00:17:06] It does the opposite. When you’re marching down the street and crying, “please, find me attractive.” That’s the most unattractive thing, right? If you’re lecturing a woman to love you for who you are, that’s unattractive. You should just be flirting. You should be showing what a great personality you have.
[00:17:28] Just have a great conversation and just be comfortable in your skin. And I know it sounds cliche, but it’s just a really weird phenomenon to me where a lot of guys are just complaining, “Treat me masculine.”, But dude, you don’t complain about your masculinity. You just got to learn that confidence.
[00:17:46] Maggie Chui: Yes, you bring up a great point. And I think a lot of us tend to do that, right? A lot of us in the Asian community, whether it be about masculinity or not, hate when people start to generalize, accentuate and emphasize stereotypes.
[00:18:03] Like we already have so many stereotypes to deal with, and some people just reinforce them, to begin with and it’s just there’s no need to do that. And it does speak volumes about what that person is thinking about themselves. There are a lot of people who would find them attractive.
[00:18:19] Like not everyone is like physical appearance is everything. You just have to be confident in your skin. And once people start seeing that, then people will become attracted to you. So I think you bring up a great point. It isn’t really about the whole Asian community, you can’t generalize those STS.
[00:18:36] You can’t emphasize those stereotypes. You just have to be confident and you have to show the world that you’re confident. Otherwise, no one will be able to agree with you. No one will be able to look at you and say, “Wow, that is either physically attractive or mentally attractive.”, whatever it may be. You just have to be confident and show that to the world.
[00:18:55] Bryan Pham: On a side note, Joe, you are attractive. So I just want to put it, make it very clear that you are sexy as fuck.
[00:19:01] Maggie Chui: Should I leave this room?
[00:19:02] Bryan Pham: I never get to tell my idols. They’re sexy. Okay. So this is the first time.
[00:19:07] Joe Jitsukawa: You know this phenomenon though, I do think it’s happening beyond just Asians. Like just redefining the word of what is masculine. It just seems like it’s all around like, it’s not just within our culture. And I don’t know, it’s interesting. You guys see that happening too.
[00:19:24] Bryan Pham: Yes. I especially see it. I don’t know about your experience, but as a six through six Asian, every time I meet Asian people, that’s not from California, the first time I always get is, “wow, you’re so confident” like they keep thinking we’re extra cool. The California Asians are extra cool because we’re more confident, we’re more this than that. We don’t care. And I think largely because of that, we never saw ourselves as a minority and that’s a keyword. We always saw ourselves as the majority, we don’t know how to act like true minorities.
[00:19:49] We act like we’re the majority because it’s what we see every day. Like macho Asian men. And I do agree with you for the longest time, I didn’t understand that term either, “Oh, you’re all nerdy and stereotypes are all weird. I thought that was a pretty weird concept to me. I’m like, Bro. I just came to my hometown. You see a bunch of dudes you don’t want to mess with.
[00:20:07] But, Yes, I kind of want to shift the conversation a bit and talk a little more about yourself, right? And the reason why I say this is because I know I read a lot of your articles, especially the one released last year by AP. About you growing up in a very rough neighborhood. And I think for a lot of us, we tend to hold onto a lot of who we were and let that hold us back from who we can become.
[00:20:28] And you’re a classic example where it’s you, didn’t let your past hold you back. You accepted where you came from, who you are, and what you learned. But the thing with all of us is that we have a hard time, reinventing ourselves and almost unlearning the bad things and relearning the good things.
[00:20:46] So I want to talk to you about your experience too, like how many times have you liked, really look deep down inside and reflect on me? Like, Wow! I can’t believe this is all happening. Of me, this kid out of this city, my background, imposter surgeon was kicking in. I want to hear all about that.
[00:21:00] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes. I feel like all of us never really completely changed. Like you’re still the same 10-year-old that you were like. Have you ever heard, let’s say, you always wanted to do something like you had a dream to go to a theme park. And you never got to go to Disneyland until you were an adult. But that was a dream that you had, like when you’re nine years old and you get to be like, finally I’m at Disneyland as a 30-year-old man.
[00:21:24] Your inner nine-year-old is super happy. And I feel like all humans are exactly that, so you don’t. You might physically change over time. We might look different. You might wrinkle, you might get old but then the things that you love – desire, the things that you want, it doesn’t change very much.
[00:21:42] And so with that, although I’ve changed, obviously like we’re all meant to, we’re all. And if you don’t, then something’s wrong with you. But I don’t hold on to my old beliefs because I think as we learn and grow, we just keep moving forward. I do look back and go, man, this is pretty awesome because I never thought that life could be like this.
[00:22:04] I didn’t know that I was going to have an entertainment company for over a decade and be freelance, have a business, and start investing in things, but then, the way I operate is maybe different from other business people or whatever. Because a lot of my friends are very strategic in how they live life. Like they have a goal, they have a plan, they have a route. They take those steps forward and I do that to a certain degree because the way I go is I have a feeling or an inspiration. And I go, “You know what? This is missing in the world. This is missing for me. Let me just do it and see where it goes.”
[00:22:44] And I take baby steps towards something. Then before you know it, I’m at the top of the mountain. I wasn’t aiming to go to the top of the mountain. I was just going through this trail.
[00:22:53] Maggie Chui: That’s pretty amazing. It is interesting to see how people, how different people strategize their lives differently. And I understand. I think, especially in the Asian community, a lot of people want to plan their lives out. They want to have a kid by this stage or get married or have a job, and everything is planned out and they can’t miss a beat.
[00:23:14] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes.
[00:23:14] Maggie Chui: But it’s interesting to hear you say, ” Maybe this is something missing in my life. I’m going to fulfill this. I’m going to go for it.” Some people may never get to that top of the mountain, but you’re able to make those steps to get to that mountain. Even if it’s spontaneous. So I love that you have this sort of ability to take a step back and reflect on your life and be like, okay, what’s missing in my life and what do I need to do to achieve it? And we can see that a lot has come to fruition. Based on everything that you’ve gone through and everything that became successful for you.
[00:23:47] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes. I feel like there are different stages that people have to complete psychologically. It’s like a video game, right? I think the first stage is people have a dream. Like they go, oh, wouldn’t life be great if I had a surf shop and I can rent surfboards and surf all day, or like they have an idea for their passion or I love freaking oceanography.
[00:24:10] I want to be a dolphin trainer. Then that’s where it starts because I think most people go through life doing as they’re told by their parents. Especially in our community, the parents set that strategy for you. They think for you, they create a plan. And it’s been like that for hundreds of years because of Confucianism.
[00:24:28] So this concept of individual happiness, individual pursuit, is a new concept for Asian Americans. Asians, in general. Because it’s always been a system of hierarchy where the last generation is supposed to have more wisdom. So they create a plan, create a route with their expertise. They go, you’re going to marry this person. So, we’re disrupting the system of our culture right now. So when they move to a Western nation and the philosophy is more individual, rather than the family unit, it creates a lot of tension because their parents are trying to do what they were taught how to do.
[00:25:10] And they followed the system. Then for us now we got to go individually and we go, “You know what? I have my journey to follow. I have my own free will. I want to do my own thing.” And they’re like, “why are you, such bad kids?”
[00:25:23] That’s where the conflict comes from. And I’ve been thinking about creating a whole book behind this and all that because all of us went through this and all of us felt the pain of being like, oh, we’re disappointing our parents, but we have our desires.
[00:25:36] So let’s say that’s the first stage. Do you want to pursue your goal? You want to do your own thing. You don’t want to be an engineer or a freaking lawyer, doctor, or whatever. Then you become a dolphin trainer. And then, so this is the pivotal point in most, people from Asian families is, do I disrespect?
[00:25:55] Do I pursue what I want? Do I do the stable thing? And they have to figure this out, on their own. If they take that leap of faith and then they go through that. Then they disobey the community, parents, whatever, and prove to themselves that they can earn a living doing this stably.
[00:26:14] That’s the first step. Once they can psychologically build this independence, then it turns into what else can I do? And what else can I hack in my life? What else can I overcome? And before, it was no longer a question of will I one day be able to pursue my dreams. Now it’s just going to be what’s the next project.
[00:26:35] And I feel like that’s where I’m at now, after all of those years of proving to myself that I can feed myself doing any imagination that I have. And I think that’s probably a good kind of roadmap for Asian Americans that want to break through. Then overcome their fears and then, basically walk toward all the desires that they want.
[00:27:01] Bryan Pham: I couldn’t agree with that more. Like you’re at the point where you’re no longer held back by any sort of restrictions, boundaries, or anything you feel limitless about right now. You feel like you prove the nuts to yourself that you can make anything and practically anything happen. And that’s from the accumulation of years and years of little wins that compile up together that showed you, Hey, I can do it and I can do something amazing in my life. And that’s an honestly amazing spot to be, man! so huge congratulations on that.
[00:27:28] Joe Jitsukawa: Thanks, man. The worry and the fears and then the pressure doesn’t end, but it gets different. It’s just different. So the first might be how your aunt sees you or whatever.
[00:27:42] And then you overcome that. And then let’s say you build a business, but now it’s about how your customer sees you and you got to overcome that. Or like all these things just morph into different and you just get better at dealing with it. Or, and I think that’s what it is. It’s if you’re into fitness, you just become stronger and stronger or any skill like you, if you keep doing it every day.
[00:28:03] Bryan Pham: Definitely because consistency matters, man. And you just become a better and stronger person. So I want to talk a little more about Jamma because I was watching your skits. So I was under the impression that this is a private country, a private island. Now that you hear it’s a course to help other people, how did you make that transition to one day to be like, okay, like I want to take on this challenge of building a stronger community that brings resources that I don’t necessarily have?
[00:28:26] And I want to hear more about Joemalian, just like to frame the context about that a bit. Because it’s in your skits. But I want to hear about what led you up to the creation of this course?
[00:28:34] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes. So basically over all of these years, right? Like I would get a lot of messages. From fans like, Hey I want to pursue like this and that. And like, how do I do it? And just, I started realizing that I just want to figure out a way to compile all the things that worked out for me and pass that on, especially because my fans make me who I am anyway. It’s just a little passion project of mine, but I’ve been running it for about four or five years now.
[00:29:09] And I decided to just basically take it all offline and keep it within the fan base that followed through with it. But it all started because people kept asking me the same questions. I want to pursue this. How do I become that? How do I save money? How do I make this? I want to make more money.
[00:29:26] I want to open up a business and it’s the same questions over and over. And I created a whole video course to answer all that. Yes. So instead I could just link them instead of me explaining it to them all the time.
[00:29:39] Maggie Chui: That’s so amazing. And it just speaks volumes to the person that you are because I think a lot of us tend to be business owners.
[00:29:46] We do see a lot of people who keep everything to themselves, right? They learn all of this useful information, resources, whatever it may be. And, we are rooted in a lot of competition, growing up our parents always like, at least my parents always compare me to my cousins and stuff like that.
[00:30:04] Yes. And there’s a lot of competition and there’s a lot of being better than this person. Don’t share your knowledge or information with other people. But I love that you are using this opportunity on your platform to share all of the knowledge that you have. It’s just incredible that you’re doing that.
[00:30:19] And just going back to your original point, there are so many barriers that we have to go through. That first part is like believing in yourself, right? That’s the first part. And once you’re able to do that after you believe in yourself, and you’re able to prove to yourself that you can do it, then the second part is like being able to prove to your family or being able to prove to your community. And, going back to competition, there’s going to be a lot of people who won’t believe in you too. And they’re going to put you down. They’re going to say you can’t do this. And that’s something that Bryan and I had to deal with too. With the Asian Hustle Network, a lot of people said we couldn’t build a business growing a community. Like where’s the money in that? And how are you going?
[00:30:55] Bryan Pham: Honestly, they’re still not.
[00:30:56] But we were able to do it. We started a business from the Asian Hustle Network and just wanted to commend you for all the things that you’re doing to give back to your community. Because that’s really where the value is and where you’re able to gain a lot not only from a business perspective but just from an impact perspective.
[00:31:15] And I want to know, like, you were tired of your nine to five job. I think there was this article that mentioned that you didn’t even know what a GPA was.
[00:31:22] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes.
[00:31:23] Maggie Chui: And you came out at the top of your class when you were graduating college, right?
[00:31:28] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes!
[00:31:28] Maggie Chui: And so just like taking that step back, I want to know like, what made that transition? What made you think back and say, man, I didn’t do so well in high school or I don’t know if you did well or not. Judging from the fact that you didn’t know what a GPA was, what was that turning point like for you, and what made you decide to turn your life around a little bit?
[00:31:47] Bryan Pham: I also want to add that to you. I want to hear about your lows, your low moments.
[00:31:52] Maggie Chui: Yes.
[00:31:52] Bryan Pham: We don’t talk about that enough, man. We don’t talk about those hardships.
[00:31:55] Joe Jitsukawa: Let’s do it.
[00:31:55] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes. I would say for most of my life, I hated school. I didn’t understand it.
[00:32:03] I didn’t know the reasons why. It started in elementary school. I asked my mom, and I was like, I want to stay home and play with my toys. Why do I get to go to school? And she goes, so you could get a job. And I’m like, why do I need a job? And she goes, cuz you need money, dumb ass. And I’m like, why do I need money?
[00:32:21] And she goes, so you could pay your bills and all that. And I’m like you guys don’t pay your bills. I always have the bill collectors calling at the house and you tell me not to pick up the phone. And then I watched them and the boomer generation, they worked and tried to keep up with the Joneses.
[00:32:38] My dad was in mad debt. He was always buying shit, buying new cars. And I was just like, I don’t want that life. Like, why would I want to work to death? My parents are never home. This is stupid. So school is the route to that destiny. That’s ridiculous. I have way more fun playing with my friends.
[00:32:57] Like recess was my favorite topic. All the other stuff I was like, I’m not going to learn this stuff. It’s not going to make me money. And so from a young age, like I just never applied myself in school. In high school, I ditched so much. I probably only had a year of it. But also throughout life, I was told I was a dumb ass by teachers, by people and it’s probably because I was such a difficult kid. If something didn’t make sense to me, I wasn’t going to follow it. And so I got into trouble. What that did was it created a relationship between me and authority where I’m like, you’re dumb because you can’t explain to me why something is important.
[00:33:34] I was an arrogant, little, narcissistic kid. And because of that, I think it easily drew me into gang life and drugs. Then the partying, because I was like, these guys they’re making money. And that was another thing too. For some reason, at a young age, I wanted to start making money.
[00:33:52] And I remember like in fourth grade, my friends would go out and they would collect cans. Then they got into a partnership where they would collect all these cans and then they saved up for a Nintendo. And I was like, damn, you could get cans, recycle them, get money. And you could get a Nintendo.
[00:34:08] That is so genius. So I started thinking of all these different things. Like what about if I mow someone’s lawn and they’ll give me money. So I would grab my friend’s lawn mower. Go door to door. Ask them if they want their grass cut. Get money. I would stop asking my parents for things because my dad would never get me the things that I wanted.
[00:34:29] And I started thinking of creative ways to make money on my own. Sell candy at school, whatever. So over the years, the school became a thing of I just have to go to this babysitting program. Because everyone kept calling me a dumb ass and whatever, after high school, I was like, man, am I that dumb?
[00:34:48] I started to believe it. I thought I probably am dumb and I’m never meant for school because if you grew up in a hood like you don’t think college is ever for you, it’s not accessible. I thought college was a place for geniuses. I thought it was only for extremely intelligent people, like Einstein. It wasn’t for everyday people.
[00:35:08] And then, that’s why I didn’t know what a GPA was. I never applied myself. In the type of high school I went to, I remember in our ninth-grade class, what we were doing in U.S history was, we had the state, the map of the U.S, and we would have to crayon in different states and then write the capital.
[00:35:29] And I was like, that’s elementary school shit. And I wasn’t in a special school. So that’s the level of education that they were telling teaching ninth-graders, man. And I felt so insulted and I felt like this was such a stupid place to be. But anyway, all of this, I guess like reinforcement of what a dumb ass I was. In college, my buddy was like, “Hey, you should go to college with me, a community college.”
[00:35:56] And I’m like, “why?” He goes, “They give you free money.” And I’m like “What?”? He goes, “Yes, we’re broke.” So we get financial aid. I abused the government’s financial aid program, so I could buy a pound of marijuana. Like at the time it was great. They gave us like four grand every semester.
[00:36:15] So I had no idea that you have to keep a C average, a 2.0. In my head, I assumed that if I didn’t have straight A’s, I’m going to have to give this money back. So for a year straight, I got straight A’s. I was worried that all this money was going to have to be paid back one day. But on the side, I was buying and selling weed. And so to me, I was like, school’s great and in college, your professors are much more different than in high school. They cuss, they’re cooler. They talk about partying and all this stuff. So I felt like education’s kind of cool and no one treated me like a dumb ass. A part of me just wanted that validation of I could beat this system that’s been calling me dumb all my life. And I can beat it and become, and I can win in it. And so I just wanted to get good grades to prove. I don’t know! No one was watching me, but I wanted to prove to myself that I can win in something, that is, what I thought was only for smart people.
[00:37:20] And that became my introduction to the mainstream world. It opened up my eyes as I went to a job fair. In the job fair, you would see different companies there and they’re like, Yes if you become a dental hygienist, you could start making like 70 grand a year or whatever.
[00:37:37] And I was like, that’s crazy! 70 grand a year? That’s a lot of money! My mom raised me on 20 grand a year. So I thought that was normal. I thought working minimum wage was normal and you could pay all your rent and bills that way. So I felt like a boy from the jungle that got into the civilized world and slowly I was learning all this common sense stuff that wasn’t common sense to me.
[00:38:00] And from that point on, I wanted to know what else is out there. That was my introduction to how I wanted to apply myself in school, my journey through. And you mentioned the downs in my life.
[00:38:15] Bryan Pham: Oh, about the best time.
[00:38:16] Joe Jitsukawa: I don’t even, I don’t even know where to start, bro.
[00:38:19] Bryan Pham: We’re starting the first depression and then we’ll go to your latest depression.
[00:38:23] Joe Jitsukawa: My late God. Okay. I feel life is interesting, right? Because it’s never one thing. Like you can have a loving father that takes you to fun events, but still beats your ass.
[00:38:35] Everything has multi faces. And then I think right now, we’re living in a world where people are being stereotyped as one thing like, oh, you are this, you are a chauvinist. Especially now, like people are really like all up into titles, but I don’t believe a human being is one thing and they can never be one thing.
[00:38:56] I think you can be in a shitty situation, but find the joy in it. And I think that’s where my comedy comes from because there were dark times. Like when I was going through all the lowest points in my early years, I remember coming home from a party binge at 14 years old.
[00:39:13] And my mom was like, did you even notice that your father has been gone for a week? And then at that time, I was like, I was high every single day. So I’m like I said, no, and I went to sleep and my mom fell into a spiral of depression. I remember being like 14 thinking, mom, you are a weak ass bitch.
[00:39:34] You’ve trapped yourself in the room? And now I have to be the man of the house and somebody has to make some money in this house. So I started upgrading from selling weed to ecstasy because it made more money. I never wanted to be home. And I think that that point is when I felt completely independent, but also lonely. And I found myself with a handful of other kids that were just neglected. And I remember at such an early age, it’s a weird point when you can’t trust anybody like you can’t trust your parents, you can’t trust the friends that you’re with. It made me extremely isolated and sad, but at the same time, it taught me the craziest independence, where I felt like I could live through anything at that point because I was too young to work and pay for my things.
[00:40:28] But I figured out a way to eat. I figured out a way to sleep in different places. I figured out how to survive. And all the things that I learned from there, I feel like it pushed me to who I am today. But Yes, like whenever I talk about the lows it’s hard for me to only talk about lows because there are always the highs that come along with it. Of course, there was a lot of depression and all that, but also there was a lot of fun parting tooke you get a bunch of high school kids together with no adult supervision. Some of the best memories came from that shit.
[00:41:07] So it’s hard to say, Yes, it was a tough time in my life, in my family. And I think I take that philosophy for everything. Life constantly has these ups and downs that we can’t control. I would say that the climate has changed for comedy.
[00:41:21] This is sad for me but I’m trying to figure it out right now. We’re living in this culture of everything is canceling. “You’re wrong for saying this.”
[00:41:30] It’s a popular virtue signal. It’s popular to be like a hall monitor. You guys might be saying, oh you guys, JK, you helped out the Asian community. But now there’s a completely different narrative of people saying that we damaged the Asian community. And everyone has different perspectives. That’s fine. But I feel like it’s very unfair to sit there and condemn those without having a conversation.
[00:41:56] I never did that. Like I never pointed fingers. I never wanted to throw rocks at people without even understanding who they are. And it’s so much easier to cast judgment and say you guys are a bunch of fuck heads and all you did was hold us back. And I’m like, did we destroy the whole perception of who you are, a stranger?
[00:42:17] That makes no sense to me. It breaks my heart, because of how much I gave to the community. But at the same time, I know that the world is changing, and the way that they see things and the way they see comedy is changing. So because like a good lesson for me to figure out the new era and how to navigate through that.
[00:42:34] Maggie Chui: Yes. You bring up a really good point. We are going through this new generation and this whole culture is really big. And I think certain points in time, like certain cases like, okay, that’s understandable, whatever. But a lot of people tend to generalize. And even if it’s 10 years ago, they’ll find something to nitpick.
[00:42:56] Same thing for Asian health networks, there are a lot of people who are grateful for the community. But then, sometimes you’ll get people who are hating on you and that’s everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. But I do agree with you that you can’t be generalizing and blaming if you don’t even have the time to sit down and have a conversation with them and try to understand because it’s easy to point out every little single bad thing. But what is that person doing to help the community?
[00:43:23] Joe Jitsukawa: I think it’s so easy to point the finger. But I wish the world had a little bit more empathy. And If we could just feel like a lot of people, they have their reasons and perspectives of why they do something.
[00:43:34] And to me, I’m so interested in their motives. Why do they do it, instead of just passing judgment and saying oh, I know why they do it. They do it because they hate us. That’s not always the case. Maybe it’s because of my life entertainment background or the storytelling background.
[00:43:51] But I’m so fascinated with human beings because I feel like we all share the same reality, the physical reality. But everyone has such a diverse, unique story that shapes their understanding of the world. Like all three of us are Asian Americans. But we have such a different background when they see us in the group, they’re not going to look at us and be like, oh, you guys are weird friends.
[00:44:15] But it might be that we have unique differences too, that make us who we are and those in-between nuances and those stories are interesting. But what we do know is we categorize, we generalize. We just make, oh, as an Asian American male, this is how I feel. It’s like, to me, those things already create a bias and an identity of who people expect you to be.
[00:44:41] And that’s messed up because what it does is it limits the person. It limits the individual to express who they are and their own story. And to me, I wish there was a way that we can find a middle ground where it’s awesome to have a community. And I don’t want to completely be like, I’m not even Asian, because then that’s like denying your culture and everything. But then not let that be your complete identity in who you are.
[00:45:06] Bryan Pham: Yes. And these are just my opinions too, but I feel like a lot of these people who are voicing this new culture tend to be the younger generation. And the way that I see it, it’s like when I look at you, Joe, I feel complete relatability because I grew up with your content. I’ve been watching it from my early teenage years to now.
[00:45:23] And I feel like a maniple passing these judgments aren’t exposed to that. Then come up with you and see things the way they are. And let’s be honest, a lot of these kids are probably born within the last 15- 20 years. They didn’t see what it took for you guys as pioneers, to even get to this point.
[00:45:40] So lack of empathy is not just empathy alone. It’s through the information out there. It’s through their idols, it’s through whatever. It’s not seeing things from our perspective. And that’s just how I feel about this generation too. And I’m starting to feel like I don’t know why this image of the Simpsons where grandpa Simpson was like, I don’t know what you kids are talking about.
[00:45:59] Joe Jitsukawa: We’re not even that old man. I feel like it’s not even a generational thing. Maybe it’s more of a difference in, like cultural groups right now. Because I feel like back in the day, Asians, Yes, had different pockets, right? Like we talked earlier about how Asians didn’t come as one, but our experience, our shared experience was much closer.
[00:46:22] And why I know this is because back then there weren’t that many differences in pop culture. Like all of us, like when we all watched home alone, all of us went to pizza hut for a birthday or whatever we have these shared memories. But the new generation, there are so many of these different subcultures that they don’t have one shared experience.
[00:46:47] And I think that’s the difference that’s happening is we all could be like, Yes, we grew up saved by the bell. And when we all get it and we’re like Yes, that’s true. That’s true. And so there’s a lot of cultural phenomenons that we can all agree or relate to. Whereas, all these new kids, like they just might be weaved out and doing K-pop stuff while another one is like completely different and doing in a different world. So I think it’s different in that sense. So there are all these competing thoughts and different realities, even with politics too. It’s completely, what’s the word? Divided? I don’t know.
[00:47:22] Bryan Pham: Diverse.
[00:47:22] Joe Jitsukawa: It’s diverse, but also in a bad way. I am dunno.
[00:47:25] Maggie Chui: There are too many things to do out there nowadays. So younger folks are growing up and they have so many different ways to grow up and experiences are so different, but while we were growing up we had only less than 10 things that we could do.
[00:47:40] And so, I agree with you. Our shared experiences bring us closer together. So I think that’s why.
[00:47:45] Joe Jitsukawa: If you’re a two-thousands Asian, you listen to trance.
[00:47:49] Joe Jitsukawa: Somebody that you knew, or you had a…
[00:47:52] Bryan Pham: DJ Mango.
[00:47:53] Joe Jitsukawa: A rice rocket.
[00:47:54] Maggie Chui: Oh, DJ Mango.
[00:47:54] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes.
[00:47:55] Maggie Chui: Oh my goodness. Or you went to import shows. Someone always had a birthday party that was like a rave.
[00:48:03] Joe Jitsukawa: Someone has.
[00:48:03] Bryan Pham: Sixty-six-star kit right there.
[00:48:05] Joe Jitsukawa: You wore Converse or Adidas superstars or Cortez.
[00:48:11] Maggie Chui: Oh man. That’s hilarious. Joe, what would you say is, has been your biggest accomplishment so far? Just hearing your story is just so amazing and it’s even more amazing knowing that you didn’t even expect all of this to happen.
[00:48:25] And it’s so different from your experiences growing up, growing up in a school where you didn’t even think that they cared about the students at all to reinvent yourself. And knowing that there’s a reason to go to school, whether that be for, learning and doing well or buying marijuana.
[00:48:44] Bryan Pham: No, no! Savvy businessman, don’t say buy marijuana.
[00:48:47] Maggie Chui: Savvy hustler, savvy businessman, and hustler. But what would you say is collectively your biggest accomplishment?
[00:48:55] Joe Jitsukawa: That I’m on this podcast? I’m finally on the Asian Hustle Network podcast. No, it’s… god, that’s a hard question because it’s like, was there one thing that made me feel super accomplished? Okay. I would say not one thing, but one desire that I had, which was when I was working, nine to five jobs or like when I was working, just different things like from being a waiter to whatever.
[00:49:20] I always looked at the company and said, if this was mine, I’d do it so differently. And then, one day I was able to create my own company and treat the people and the team and do things the way that I wanted them to do. Because people were like, no, you can’t have a month of vacation.
[00:49:39] How’s your business going to make money? And all this stuff they said a lot of this stuff was impossible. But I took different models of what I’ve seen like in Japan, I think they give you, or in Europe, they give you pretty long vacations. So for almost a decade straight, here at JK, we take a whole month off.
[00:49:58] So everyone gets paid 12 months, but they work 11 because I want people to be with their family. Especially like in a town like L.A, a lot of people are here pursuing whatever they are. And I wanted them to go back home and have some of that family time, so we take two weeks off in December, two weeks off in January, and also two bonuses throughout the year.
[00:50:20] And we share a lot of our profits. But to me, I know that it’s possible because we’re a small company. And at one point, the biggest team we had was about 30 people on the payroll, but it’s still small compared to a major corporation or anything like that. But the kind of memories and the camaraderie and the things that I was able to create based on whatever I wanted, that’s when I was like, dang, this is awesome. Not only that I achieved the dreams that I wanted to, but I was also able to take hella people along with me on the journey. And it’s true what they say, like a lot of this stuff is cool when you make it on your own, but it’s even better when you share it. It’s like a potluck, like when you bring your dish to the table and you share it with your friends and you have a great time together, it’s way better than going to a fancy restaurant alone.
[00:51:13] So that’s my philosophy with life. And I think that achieving what I dreamed of when people had no idea of what that would turn out like everyone. They go to work and think that is the standard of work. And I think right now, especially with the pandemic, the idea of work is ever-changing.
[00:51:31] The great resignation that people are just firing, like quitting in droves. And even this whole hustle culture of people just working to work. All of this is being redefined. And for me, I was like, we’ve been working like a pandemic style. We’ve been like, not really with an office, just working wherever we want to like freelancers and whatever.
[00:51:50] And it’s cool seeing it all happen, especially now with the pandemic, because I was like, it makes me feel like I was right. Not only was I able to do it way early on, but then now I see the world doing it too.
[00:52:04] Bryan Pham: I love that I loved how you had this vision and you followed through with that. And I appreciate that too.
[00:52:11] I feel like nowadays we’re not confined. There are so many tools out there, right? We’re not confined to traditional careers and you agree that people are catching on to that. There’s more to life and just going towards sleeping away and then enjoying the last 20 years of your life, where you practically have no energy to enjoy it, which doesn’t make any sense to me.
[00:52:30] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes. I love hustling though like I love working. I think that it’s cool, but it’s the intention and the motive and not burning out, but hustling toward even I hustle to relax, like relaxing is hustling too, because you need the rest so you can progress.
[00:52:47] You got to chill before you like to go out and it’s a balance. You got to sleep or else. It’s just constantly toxic.
[00:52:53] Bryan Pham: Yes, I agree. So, Joe, we have one final question and that question is, you’ve been in a partnership with Barb for so long now, you’re practically married to the guy.
[00:53:03] Like what master relationship question, what are keys to a successful partnership that you can talk about in your own experience?
[00:53:11] Joe Jitsukawa: I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have a business partner like Bart too because we organically were great friends. And I know that a lot of it’s like people out there go through partnerships, groups, and stuff and they go through this unfortunate thing like a breakup or whatever, and I’ve seen it and I felt so lucky all the time because, for one, we’re very similar in personality. So we did the whole Myers-Briggs test and he is an I and TJ, and I’m an E and TJ. So I’m the extroverted version of what Bart is. And I think that having a like-minded business partner helps. But more than that, it’s being able to communicate completely honestly all the time without holding resentment, without holding anything back, and also thinking of the company first and knowing the difference between your ego and what you want for the company.
[00:54:15] Sometimes, we get things mixed up. I think this is going to be great for the company. Not knowing that’s a selfish need. That’s something that you want to like, you’re doing it because you’re prideful. And once you can work that out, then it’s smooth sailing, because then, your partner’s going to feel like you got their back all the time.
[00:54:34] But when you start wanting to take the glory when you start becoming prideful and this is difficult for people to identify because no one knows when they’re being prideful. No one knows when they’re being egotistical. It’s just that something’s triggered and then they’re starting to react.
[00:54:51] People got to be very self-aware. So yes, me and Bart, we’ve been through many arguments and all that stuff. But there’s a level of trust of never fucking each other over. There’s a level of trust I know that what he says is what he means because some people can become passive-aggressive or some people can bite their tongue.
[00:55:11] But I think that to achieve something, you have to be completely honest and completely like you’ve got to be able to communicate. And if you try to be modest in the business place between two partners, you’re going to end up resenting the other partner, because you’re like, I fucking bet my back over for you.
[00:55:28] And it’s they never fucking asked you to, you should have just been honest from the start, say what you want. And when you hash things out, you just got to move on. And it sounds pretty cliche and duh, but it’s interesting how many people are afraid of conflict or afraid of speaking their minds, or afraid of being completely honest with each other.
[00:55:48] And I think the reason why things break up is because of that and selfishness.
[00:55:53] Maggie Chui: And that was so powerful. I was almost tearing up just hearing you say that you are, so you feel so lucky to have a partnership with Bart like that. You two are such amazing people. We’ve spoken to Bart separately and you guys are very alike. That is true. And you guys both care about the community and both Bryan and I are just so happy for both of you.
[00:56:14] Bryan Pham: I know we’re extremely grateful for both of you and Maggie’s a lot stronger than me. She almost cried and I was crying.
[00:56:20] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes. I would say one of the hardest things for a business is, human beings in yourself, emotions, all that, like a lot of people, they get bogged down in the technical stuff.
[00:56:32] Oh, what’s the best product and what’s the best system. But they don’t even take the time to look at how they process information or like how they treat other people or like how they do. They even know themselves. And I love business because it’s almost like a slap in the face with reality and you get to look at yourself in the mirror and you can’t hide.
[00:56:54] And then it’s the best way to develop. At least for me. When you can’t hide from the fact that if you don’t have customers, your product just sucks. You got to face it. You can’t, you can make all these excuses as you want. Or there’s a lot of pain that comes along with it, but it’s a lot of growth too. And I’m hella fortunate with that.
[00:57:13] Maggie Chui: Yes. Thanks so much for sharing that, Joe. So where can our listeners find out more about you and Just Kidding News and everything that you have going on online?
[00:57:25] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes, so I’m not this serious on my other platforms. I buck around, a lot is just for this, I felt like I got to get deep down and personal, but if you want to listen to me and my buddies, shoot the shit and have a lot of good times on the news channel.
[00:57:42] That’s Just Kidding News, you can check that out on YouTube. Also, I have a personal channel where I just go around and again, like messing around. Adventure has nothing to do with my business. Sometimes. I’m just going on vacation all the time. That’s my name, Joe Jitsukawa on YouTube, and the same for my Instagram. You can just see me messing around. I think all I do is just mess around.
[00:58:05] Bryan Pham: That’s what we love most about your content.
[00:58:08] Maggie Chui: I hear you. I hear those secret sauces just to mess around.
[00:58:11] Joe Jitsukawa: Yes, just got to have fun.
[00:58:13] Bryan Pham: Yes.
[00:58:14] Maggie Chui: Awesome. We’ll leave all of that in the show notes, Joe, thank you so much for being on your podcast day.
[00:58:19] It was awesome having you on.
[00:58:21] Joe Jitsukawa: Thanks for having me.
[00:58:23] Bryan Pham: Thanks so much, Joe. We appreciate it.