‘Right place, right time’ just about sums up the springboard off which Malaysian stand-up comedian and content creator Nigel Ng’s international fame trajectory was set. In 2020, just as pockets of the world slid into the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ng doubled down and found his niche for his YouTube content. His portrayal of Uncle Roger, an orange polo tee-donning, middle-aged Asian man roasting BBC Food host Hersha Patel’s questionable egg fried rice video instantly went viral.
In it, Uncle Roger pointed out everything Patel was doing wrong by way of Chinese cooking, from not washing the rice before cooking it, to draining and rinsing the rice in a colander after it was cooked, to scraping the metal non-stick pan with a metal spoon, and right down to the greatest cardinal sin of all: not using MSG.
Maybe it was his over-exaggerated portrayal of the typical Chinese uncle or maybe it was his usage of familiar Manglish (Malaysian English) expressions such as Haiyaa or Fuiyoh, either way, it clicked, and Uncle Roger became larger than life.
“I came up with Uncle Roger by improvising on my Rice To Meet You podcast (co-hosted with Swedish-Chinese comedian Evelyn Mok). I was like, ‘What if there’s an old Asian uncle who’s a real estate agent?’. I started doing Uncle Roger showing houses and saying things like, ‘Haiyaa this house, too small, too small’ (laughs) dumb things like that. I thought it was funny and people liked it," Ng told Tatler.
"Then I started doing some stuff on TikTok with it, about how to cook rice, and that took off first. I realised, ‘People like this character, let’s see if I can do something longer with it’ and that’s when the first YouTube video happened,” he added.
“The greatest misconception is that sometimes people think I actually talk like that (laughs) or that I only wear the orange polo tee,” the 30-year-old jested. Whether you love it or hate it, it was this (obviously intentional) parody that earned him his overnight popularity.