Flickering Myth had the opportunity to speak with Fairfax stars Jaboukie Young-White and Peter Kim. All eight episodes of the animated comedy are now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video…
“Having lived as an adult in Chicago, New York, and LA, I think that the major difference between LA and New York, in terms of clout, is LA is very, ‘Do you know who I am?’ And New York is ‘Who the fuck do you think you are?'” actor-comedian Jaboukie Young-White told Flickering Myth.
In many ways, Fairfax stars Jaboukie Young-White & Peter Kim are decidedly “un-LA” for two people who star on a show about the city and its upscale Fairfax Avenue. The two multi-hyphenates have spent much of their lives bouncing around between other major markets, such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco — and namely, the comedy scenes in those cities. And while Kim is based in LA now, it’s that non-native detachment from the city that perhaps makes them see it with fresh, #unfiltered eyes.
They bring that perspective to their characters on Fairfax; within the animated comedy’s quartet of best friends, Young-White plays Truman, an aspiring filmmaker influenced by the likes of Denis Villeneuve and Spike Lee, and Kim plays Benny, a shrewd sneakerhead and perhaps even the most hypebeast culture-obsessed in a group of clout chasing middle schoolers. Skyler Gisondo and Kiersey Clemons also round out the main cast as Dale and Derica, respectively (check out our interview with them here).
The Amazon Prime Video show plays in a sandbox that Young-White isn’t exactly unfamiliar with, speaking to the positives and pitfalls of growing up and cultivating a following on social media.
For the uninitiated, Jaboukie’s name is still the stuff of Twitter legend. Having organically grown his audience to a massive 880k followers, largely by being a very online presence — but also in concurrence with his emerging stand-up comedy career — the 27-year-old also gained notoriety for getting banned twice in a three-month-span for comedy hijinks that, arguably, went a bridge too far for Twitter admins’ liking.
But unlike a lot of comedians and personalities on social media, Jaboukie leveraged his online popularity into a hugely successful acting career, too, earning a residency on The Daily Show as Trevor Noah’s “Senior Youth Correspondent” and appearing in Only Murders in the Building, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens, and Bojack Horseman. He even co-stars along with Joaquin Phoenix in Mike Mills’ critical darling C’mon C’mon; Phoenix, coincidentally, is depicted as a heightened version of himself nicknamed “The Plug” on Fairfax (which we’ll get to later…)
Peter Kim, on the other hand, pivoted to comedy after spending nearly seven years in the tech industry and has since amassed an online following of his own, as well as credits on NCIS, Curb Your Enthusiasm (a right of passage for LA-based comedians) and DreamWorks Animation’s Spies in Disguise. However, in many ways, Fairfax is a breakout role for the long-time comedian, who got his start at Second City Chicago.
Flickering Myth spoke to Young-White and Kim about Los Angeles vs. New York culture, what Hollywood gets wrong about social media, improvising in the recording booth, and more.
Fairfax is both of your first series-regular roles on a scripted show. What made you interested in this project in the first place and how appealing was it to do an animated show during a pandemic?
Jaboukie Young-White: A couple of things. What made me super interested was that I was always really into sneakerhead culture growing up and hypebeast culture. I really always loved it, but first of all, I could never afford it and just was an outside spectator. So going back and reliving that felt great and it was just funny and absurd, but I also had a really personal connection to it. And then, honestly could not have picked a better project to work on during quarantine. We recorded a lot in our apartments and that’s what we ended up using a lot of the times. We went back and, of course, we re-did some stuff, but there was some stuff that was the original recordings of our home recordings. So I think that it was surprisingly smooth. It would’ve been nice to be able to do table reads and get that vibe going. But it was pretty smooth.
Peter Kim: As you said, this was my first series-regular role, and I was really excited to co-lead a show playing a Korean character that was written authentically. So, already I was like, “I’m in.” Secondly, I thought, “One step closer to Bezos’ bags,” so. [laughs] No, I’m kidding about that.
But recording during the quarantine, like Jaboukie said, it had its struggles. We couldn’t be in the same room together. Jaboukie and I have never even met in IRL, or the rest of the cast. But given that it happened during the quarantine, I thought the way we did it was so cool. They sent us a mobile booth. I was in an un-air-conditioned room, so I was sweating into the booth while recording my character. I lost a lot of weight, so it was great.
Of course, the show is steeped in LA culture, and you both come from New York and Chicago. What differences do you see in LA culture coming from cities that are so dissimilar? Is it really as toxic and clout-chaser-heavy as we see on the show?
Jaboukie: Yes. [laughs] Having lived as an adult in Chicago, New York, and LA, I think that the major difference between LA and New York, in terms of clout, is LA is very, “Do you know who I am?” And New York is “Who the fuck do you think you are?” And I think that is the main polarity between the two places. But I think that there’s no other place [like LA] in maybe the world that people move where it’s, “I want to be famous.” And [then you ask], “Oh, so what do you want to do?” And they’re like, “…inspire.” [laughs]
There’s no other place in the world that you really get that and, listen, that’s no knock on native Angelinos at all, I know that they get lumped in all the time. Look, I’m from the Midwest — it’s the people from the Midwest moving to LA that make it like that! So, I think it’s its own specific environment. There’s really no other place is like it
Peter: Absolutely. I was born and raised in New York, spent time in Chicago as an adult too. And it is very different as you said, but the clout chasing of it all … that happens everywhere. And as Jaboukie said in New York, it’s like a hush-hush power, whereas LA it’s all about front in your face ‘this is my image’ power.
Jaboukie, having built a massive following on social and having been, so to say, in the trenches for years, I can imagine it’s pretty easy to scoff at some of social media’s lamer, more inauthentic depictions in film and TV. What is most art about social media get wrong? And then, in the case of Fairfax, what does it get right?
Jaboukie: What a lot of it gets wrong is, I think that people don’t really capture the negative space of social media, which is the difference between the social media self and the in real life, IRL self. I feel like that is more interesting than a lot of the depictions that we’ve seen. And also, the “Oh, this is like the worst thing that ever happened to humanity” angle is so tired at this point. Like, the ice caps are melting. [laughs] I don’t think that someone taking a selfie is accelerating climate decay.
But what the show really gets right is the fleetingness of it all. How it’s just one thing to the next, to the next, to the next — things that feel so life-ending and so immediate and visceral, but in the grand scheme of things are kind of inconsequential. I think that that is the experience of social media. You feeling these really intense emotions, but when you take a step back you’re like, “Oh, wait, okay. This isn’t that insane after all.” So I think that’s what the show really shines at.
This show is super joke dense. You’re both stand-ups and writers, but Peter, for you especially, what’s it like delivering jokes that you didn’t write, and do you ever find yourself revising a joke to fit your cadence better?
Peter: [As an actor], it’s about making it your own anyway and figuring out how to say it in your voice — the way you say it. And in that way, in the record rooms, the producers will be really keen on trying new takes and improvising. And coming from an improv background, I have fun when you can just throw something out and just riff on it for a couple of lines. Maybe find something funnier, find like an inflection that’s better, which you can’t do on a live stage. So, I thought that was really fun.
Jaboukie, what’s it like working with Joaquin Phoenix on C’mon, C’mon, and then interacting with this heightened, drug-dealing version of him on the show?
Jaboukie: [laughs] It was really funny because I had already worked on C’mon, C’mon when we were shooting, and it was not announced. I didn’t talk about it. So, it was just by chance that when I saw this and I was reading the lines, I was cracking up. And they were like, “What’s so particularly funny?” I’m like, “I just worked with Joaquin.” And it’s funny because I think that he has a really good sense of humor about himself, and I think that he would really, really find it funny. And, it was just [laughs] funny how good of an impression that guy does! He really nails the cadence. But it was also just kind of surreal — just the chance of it all.
Fairfax is an Amazon Original adult animated comedy series that follows four middle school best friends on their never-ending quest for clout on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles—the pulsing heart of hypebeast culture. Starring Skyler Gisondo, Kiersey Clemons, Peter S. Kim, and Jaboukie Young-White—and featuring the likes of Billy Porter, Zoey Deutch, Camila Mendes, Rob Delaney, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ben Schwartz, JB Smoove, John Leguizamo, and Colton Dunn, among others, in guest roles—this series is about the timeless struggle to be cooler than you are, to fit in while standing out, and what it feels like to wait in line for a pair of sneakers you’re never going to cop.
Many thanks to Jaboukie Young-White and Peter Kim for taking the time for this interview.