After five successful seasons playing Kimchee on CBC’s Kim’s Convenience — a role that earned him five Canadian Screen Awards — Andrew Phung is a national household name. Today, he is the co-creator, executive producer, and star of CBC’s Run the Burbs, which has now been renewed for a third season and will be heading to the US on the CW network.
Andrew grew up in Calgary where he fell in love with improv as a teenager, introduced to it through his high school drama teacher. He recently sat down with CBC’s The National to explore his comedic rise and how his upbringing has influenced his comedy.
How Improv Taught Andrew to Fail
Andrew’s parents immigrated to Canada in the late 1970s with their families. He credits his parents for instilling within him a hard work ethic. Growing up, his mother worked two jobs while his father worked hard days at a metal fabrication shop. Through them, Andrew said, I saw the Canadian dream unfold as they both went on to open their own businesses through hard work and perseverance.
Andrew brought this work ethic to improv, dedicating years of practice to it and joking that many of those were spent failing at it. But it taught him a valuable lesson — how to fail.
“When I started improvising, I was trying to be really good and trying to be funny. And by doing that, I was not good and not funny,” Andrew said. “But I remember my first failure, my artistic director Dennis Cahill said, ‘well that wasn’t a good show,’ he said it — he was very blunt, he still is — and he said, ‘well, you get to come back next week and try again.’ That was everything, that I could fail and come back and try again.”
How Kim’s Convenience Changed His Life
Andrew got his big break playing Kimchee on Kim’s Convenience. Andrew said this show was “everything” to him — it finally put the immigrant experience, particularly the Asian immigrant experience, in the spotlight.
“To work with that cast and tell that story that was so relatable,” Andrew said, “with people coming up on the street telling you how that show changed their life, they felt seen for the first time, it was a joy… and I’m so thankful for that opportunity.”
After five seasons, Andrew walked away with five Canadian Screen Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
Now Andrew’s Telling His Story on Run the Burbs
While Andrew was proud to bring the immigrant story to television through Kim’s Convenience, he found that his own story wasn’t represented in mainstream media — the story of the son (or daughter) of immigrant parents. Often, immigrant parents raise their children with one foot in their new country and one foot in the country where their family’s from, Andrew said, passing down traditions from a country where sometimes they’ve never even visited.
This is the story Andrew wanted to share through Run the Burbs — the story of a child of immigrants living in two worlds. He also wanted to normalize seeing families of colour in suburbs because, as Andrew said, they’re often been erased from that kind of storytelling.
“I carry that responsibility with great importance. I care about it, I want to do good work, I want to make people laugh, but I want to authentically represent this family and our community,” Andrew said.
Hear more from Andrew in the clip below as he further explores his childhood, navigating fatherhood, and what’s next for this star comedian.
Andrew Phung is a sought-after emcee, having hosted events for The City of Calgary, Telus Spark, ATB Financial, and numerous non-profits. He brings his off-the-cuff comedic charm and boundless enthusiasm to every engagement.
Contact us to learn more about Andrew and how to bring this award-winning actor, improv comedian, and writer to your next event.