Jimmy O. Yang was born in Hong Kong but immigrated to the United States, specifically Los Angeles, when he was thirteen. He learned English by watching BET, smoked a lot of weed and chose UCSD sight unseen because there was a beach nearby. Jimmy eventually graduated with a degree in economics from UCSD and comedy juggernaut Mike Judge was the commencement speaker that year. He unwittingly inspired Jimmy to reject the life his parents wanted for him in favor of one in comedy.
“I turned down a job in finance to pursue a career in stand-up comedy. My dad thought I was crazy. But I figured it was better to disappoint my parents for a few years than to disappoint myself for the rest of my life. I had to disappoint them in order to pursue what I loved. That was the only way to have my Chinese turnip cake and eat an American apple pie too.”
Jimmy was not an immediate comedy success; he struggled to make ends meet as a stand up/ used car salesman. He eventually got a job as a DJ for a gang run strip club but his friend and mentor advised him to get out while he still could. Back in Los Angeles Jimmy, still trying to break out as a stand up, began perusing a career as an actor in hopes of getting a speaking role in a commercial for some financial security. Admittedly Jimmy didn’t have much of a plan before or after he made it to Hollywood but he got a few bit roles that kept him from living on the streets or crawling back to his parents’ house. Eventually he landed the character of Jian-Yang on Silicon Valley, a role that became some popular he was able to leverage an offer from Yahoo TV to get named a series regular on the HBO hit, and has henceforth become an established member of the acting community.
While I have only seen a handful of Silicon Valley episodes and haven’t seen his critically acclaimed role in Patriot’s Day, I really enjoyed Jimmy’s autobiography. He seemed like a down to Earth guy who is just happy to have a seat at the table.