May 18

JQ Magazine: JQ&A with Melody Wong on the Drop That Eggroll Podcast

"JET gave me insight into a deeper rooted area of the Japanese culture that I appreciate. There were so many similarities of Japanese culture that I saw in my Chinese culture, and it really made me appreciate both as separate entities." (Courtesy of Melody Wong)

“JET gave me insight into a deeper rooted area of the Japanese culture that I appreciate. There were so many similarities of Japanese culture that I saw in my Chinese culture, and it really made me appreciate both as separate entities.” (Courtesy of Melody Wong)

By Wendy Ikemoto (Ehime-ken, 2006-2011) for JQ magazine. Wendy is a Hawaii-transplant and current Secretary of the JET Alumni Association of New York (JETAANY). When she isn’t working with librarians, you’ll find her visiting JET friends around the globe.  

Melody Wong (Okayama-ken, 2011-13) is a native of Los Angeles and a member of the JET Alumni Association of Southern California (JETAASC). Prior to JET, she attended the University of California at Riverside and worked in finance for half a decade before deciding to switch things up to teach English in Japan. In December 2013, she launched the Drop That Eggroll podcast with her co-host and good friend, Alex Lau. Together, they explore subjects that span across Asian ethnicities, ranging from fun topics like pretty Korean boys and Filipino cuisine to more controversial fare like the Tiger Mother’s tips for success and ANA’s “whiteface” commercial.

Six months after DTE’s launch, JQ caught up with Melody to get the scoop on how the podcast came to be, what the future holds for it, how JET has influenced her views on the Asian culture, and why you all should be tuning in.

Can you start by describing your background for us?

I’m a second-generation Chinese American, born and raised in Los Angeles. I speak Cantonese and English fluently. The only Asian country I’ve ever lived in was Japan (two years), though I’ve traveled back and forth between China and the U.S. throughout my childhood.

Where were you on JET?

I was a JET in a tiny little town called Kibichuo-cho in the Okayama Prefecture. My town was so small and rural that even people in Okayama barely knew about it. There was no train station, so no one could really get to me unless they had a car, so I drove out everywhere all the time. I was an assistant language teacher (ALT) to multiple elementary and junior high schools.

How do you and Alex know each other?

Alex and I met through our mutual friend Larry. In high school, I was an avid member of the community service club, Key Club. My high school was part of a larger division that included lots of other local high schools, which is how I met Larry. Larry attended the Art Center College of Design and became friends with his classmate Alex. Through some social engagements, Alex and I met. All three of us, including several other friends, went on a trip to Japan in 2010, which was the trip that ultimately influenced me to join the JET Program.

Describe how the idea for Drop That Eggroll began.

Originally, Alex reached out to me because he was interested in doing a podcast and thought I’d be a good co-host. We both have our own perspectives on life, we’re both funny (at least we like to think so), and we thought there was a lack of representation of Asian Americans in the podcast world. I was in Japan at the time while he was in San Diego, and we thought it’d be way cool to get different viewpoints from living in two separate countries. Alas, the time zones were a burden and we didn’t begin recording until I returned to the U.S.

Where did the name come from?

Ah…I knew some day this question would come up. It’s inevitable! One day, Alex and I were tossing around names via email. We didn’t want anything boring nor did we want to name ourselves after something similar to other podcasts. Alex jotted down a list of names and the last one happened to be Drop That Eggroll. It might have been the time of day I read it or just that I was in a really silly mood, but that name popped out at me and I just cracked up and decided to go with it.

Your top downloads include eight states and nearly 100 likes on Facebook so far! How do you promote your podcast, and what tips can you share to build a bigger audience for other JET alum bloggers and hosts out there?

I have to give my co-host Alex all the credit. We really utilized Facebook to our advantage as our primary source of promotion. We knew that 1) we had to be consistent in not only having weekly podcasts, but also constantly reminding people (mostly our friends) that it was published and 2) putting in a little bit of money to get our Facebook page advertised goes a long way. Additionally, at the end of every episode, we’d be sure to remind our listeners that we not only have Facebook, but we also use Twitter (Melody/Alex), have our own blogs, have the DTE blog, and that we’re available via iTunes.

After a few months since you started, how would you describe the evolution of the show?

Our initial thought of the progression of the show was to have it start off with a topic to gain listenership and then branch into areas of other interest. In the few months that we’ve aired the show, we’ve really seen a nice constant of topics relating to Asian American life. That is surprising to me as I thought we’d already be talking about random subjects. Most of the evolution happening isn’t so much the show as it is us as hosts. I think both Alex and I are really getting comfortable in our own voices and have really made a big step into making this work for us.

What kinds of things can fans of Asian culture (especially JET listeners) get from listening to the show?

The biggest thing I see fans of Asian culture take away from the show is the fact that we touch upon topics that are familiar to them and we dive into our own personal opinions about them. It’s good to be relatable and I think our fans can relate to either me or Alex or a little of both of us. Additionally, those who are JETs or former JETs get kind of an insight on what life is like post-JET through the tidbits of comments I make in each episode. I’ll draw back on my experiences in Japan and mix it into how it’s shaped my thoughts on the subject at hand.

What were some of your favorite things to do in Japan? Favorite memories?

Some of my favorite things? Hmm…besides driving everywhere? Kidding… I really loved traveling to different parts of Japan and eating the famous foods of that area. From Hokkaido to Okinawa, I went trekking through various parts of the beautiful country and tried so many amazing delicacies. However, I have to say my favorite memories are of those times that I’ve built great relationships with my local Japanese friends. I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the people who live around me and I’ve made some lifelong friends/honorary family members.

How do you think your JET experience influenced the way you view Asian culture? Your own identity?

This is a really interesting question and I’m not sure if I can get it all explained in one nice paragraph. The JET experience made an impact on me, but I don’t think in the way I view Asian culture. It’s hard to group all cultures of Asia together as Asian countries are so different in so many ways. I guess my short answer would be that JET gave me insight into a deeper rooted area of the Japanese culture that I appreciate. There were so many similarities of Japanese culture that I saw in my Chinese culture, and it really made me appreciate both as separate entities.

As for my identity, there were some experiences on JET that made me question who I am as a person. As a Chinese American growing up in Los Angeles, I always felt like I didn’t quite fit the image of an American and during my visits to China, I never really fit in as a Chinese person. Having spent time in Japan, I wasn’t seen as an American because I didn’t look like the typical American that’s publicized in the media. I spent a lot of time explaining my identity to people and it became a bit of a burden, but also a great chance for me to change the perception of what it is to be an American.

What kind of response did you get from DTE’s episode on the ANA TV commercial controversy?

To be quite honest, we didn’t have too much of a response on this episode. There were some folks who felt indifferent about the commercial and there were some who were slightly offended, but not to the point of outrage. At least one non-Asian listener wrote in to jokingly say she’s now self-conscious about the size of her nose, thanks to us!

What future topics about Japanese culture would you love to include as ideas for future episodes?

Well, as we’re not exclusive to Japanese culture, I think we might dabble into the realm of various cultural niches. I find some of the Lolita groups to be fascinating, and we might touch upon anime fans. As always, we welcome feedback, so if there is anything anyone out there would like us to talk about, let us know via Facebook, Twitter, email, blog, webpage, etc.

What do you feel non-Asian Americans can get out of your podcasts?

I think non-Asian Americans can get a lot of our podcasts. Having had experience in a very diverse part of the U.S., I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who understand me as a minority in America and as a person. But there are quite a few people out there who have a misconception of what Asian or Asian American people are like. We hope to get across that even though you may not be Asian, there are some traits that you can find to relate to us.

Do you have any fans from Asia who regularly listen to DTE? If so, what kind of feedback have they given you about your own perspectives on their culture?

Yes, we have fans from Asia who listen regularly (hopefully) to our podcast. Again, there hasn’t been too much feedback or uproar about our topics, so I think they seem to be enjoying our views for what it is. We had one listener from Cambodia blast through 10 straight episodes in a couple weeks…Alex later found out his friend had been traveling there and was just catching up on the show.

DTE is tailor-made for listeners who might have grown up in or have an interest in Asian culture. What are some other things the show offers to appeal to those who don’t have those reference points?

True, we seem to be tailor-made to those who have a similar background to us. But as I’ve mentioned before, we are hoping to have this show evolve into topics that may not be Asian- or Asian American-specific. For example, Alex has interest in talking about finance, entrepreneurship and design, which are universal subjects. I have interests in running and sports as well as coffee, food, and wine. Our hopes are to broaden our horizons a little and capture audience members of different groups.

Regarding America’s perceptions of Asians, what kind of changes have you noticed over the years? Did any of them plant the seeds for this podcast or some of the episodes?

What are America’s perceptions of Asians in the first place?! If we’re thinking in terms of stereotypes and issues that I’ve faced growing up, I’d say that America’s perceptions might be that Asians can’t speak English well, they are super smart, especially in mathematics, and they drive poorly. It’s hard to say overall if there are any changes globally, but I’ve definitely seen changes in perception in my own life, probably due to the change in people I surround myself with and the area I live in.

There wasn’t anything specific that planted the seed for the podcast, but when thinking of topics to talk about, both Alex and I had varied experiences growing up as Asian Americans and thought it would be interesting to start discussing it.

Are there any subjects you’re hesitant to do or are finding hard to plan a show around?

Actually, our second episode was re-recorded because we felt like it was really un-PC (not politically correct). We hope to move into the realm where we could say things and people wouldn’t take us seriously (think Stephen Colbert). It might be a long time, but we’re still hoping to get there.

We also work hard to find interesting content that doesn’t merely revolve around accusations of racism towards Asian Americans. The whole Internet already has that story covered. We feel there are a lot more positive, funny and sometimes outright strange aspects of being Asian American that never make it into the headlines because there’s not enough controversy behind them to drive user clicks and ad impressions.

If you could pick some “special guests” to join you on an upcoming episode, who would they be and why?

Special guests actually haven’t been a big topic of discussion in our planning of the show at our current stage. That may change at some point, but right now we have a blast just talking to each other and being silly on the mic.

What does the future hold for DTE? What dreams do you have for it that you’d like to achieve?

Funny thing is, I thought we’d only do 10 episodes and call it a day. But we’ve expanded and it seems like there’s demand. I’m thinking if we can get enough listenership to the point where we simply couldn’t stop, then probably another decade!


Finally, are there any messages that you’d you like to share with other JET alumni, current JETs and those thinking of applying for the program?

To those thinking of applying to the program, I’d say just go for it. Even if you have a remote interest in Japan, it’s definitely a great experience and exposure to Japanese life. To the current JETs, I’m still jealous you’re there and I hope you’re having a great time in Japan. Be sure to think of your future after JET, whether it be in Japan or elsewhere. To my fellow JET alums, we’re now part of an awesome community where we can communicate through an awesome vehicle such as JQ magazine, and I wish you well always.

Visit Drop That Eggroll’s homepage at For more JQ magazine interviews, click here.

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