Through popular sitcoms like SEINFELD, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, and web series-turned Comedy Central hit BROAD CITY, humor that focuses on those awkward moments and bizarre encounters in everyday life, and especially how people react to them, has long been a favorite among audiences.

It’s the same story in web series, with hilarious shows like HelLA, YUKATA COWBOY and others continuing the tradition of “slice of life” humor that’s already been established by those above mentioned shows. Adding to that growing list is ALMOST ASIAN, written, created by and starring Katie Malia, and now streaming on its official web site and Youtube pages (see links below).

In all 12 episodes, Malia, who is half-Asian, experiences a wacky series of misunderstandings, mishaps and just plain uncomfortable moments as she tries to live a normal life in a world where people of mixed race encounter continued social and professional problems on a daily basis. In addition, ALMOST ASIAN features memorable guest appearances from Rory Uphold (HelLA), Amani Starnes (UNITED COLORS OF AMANI), and SNL alum Horatio Sanz, among others.

Katie Malia, star/creator of ALMOST ASIAN.

Katie Malia, star/creator of ALMOST ASIAN.

For Malia, the concept for ALMOST ASIAN took shape during an otherwise routine conversation that she and her brother, Joel Knoernschild (who directed several episodes of the series), had on a variety of subjects.

Knowing first-hand the struggles that they both faced as “half-ers” (people of mixed race), Malia and Knoernschild would soon examine the possibilities of addressing those problems through comedy.

“The series began as a fun weekend project. My brother and I were casually discussing topics and issues we were both interested in — being half-Japanese and how that has affected us kept coming up. So we decided to shoot a fun exploration,” recalls Malia. “We initially planned on shooting two short sketches commenting on the half-Asian experience — he directed the videos and I wrote them. They were simple, and we shot them both in one day.”

Just as soon as they arrived in the editing room, though, Malia and Knoernschild realized how much of an impact ALMOST ASIAN could make beyond the comedic situations presented in each episode. “Our intention was to post the sketches online and that was it. Nothing major. Then, once we edited the videos, we realized we had tapped into a deeper personal and social issue yet to really be explored: the mixed-ethnic identity crisis,” says Malia.

From there, they began the long process of growing ALMOST ASIAN into what would become a larger scale production. “We mapped out a game plan,” Malia remembers. “The branding basics: purchase domain, design website, expand the cast, develop deeper storylines, build a digital platform and social media presence, etc.”

That game plan also included an extensive amount of research into the various facets of mixed race life in American society. “A lot of blogs and Reddit threads about being mixed race were read, as well as Pew Research studies on intermarriage and minority births,” recalls Malia. “What began as a fun weekend project grew into a 12-episode journey to self-discovery. And that is what it continues to be to this day!”

Rory Uphold (HelLA) guest stars w/Katie Malia in ALMOST ASIAN.

Rory Uphold (HelLA) guest stars w/Katie Malia in ALMOST ASIAN.

Every episode of ALMOST ASIAN features a potent mix of hysterically funny comedy and socially relevant commentary, while exploring an aspect of life that’s rarely, if ever, been fully examined in any sitcom.

“There are very few scripted comedic series exploring the Asian experience, let alone the mixed one,” says Malia. “ALMOST ASIAN offers a rare window in the unique world of being mixed. With a rising number of multiracial babies being born to interracial couples, never has the conversation about the mixed-ethnic identity been needed more than now.”

For Malia, the impact her series has had on viewers, and especially, those of mixed race, has been tremendous. “I receive messages and comments from parents with mixed kids sharing their support for my series, because it’s provided them insight into what it’s like being biracial,” says Malia. “They did not really consider identity issue of being mixed race until they watched one of my episodes; and moreover, they are grateful the conversation exists so that their chil- dren can grow up knowing they will not be alone.”

Overall, ALMOST ASIAN is sure to attract a wide range of viewers – regardless of who they are, where they come from, or even what kind of humor they appreciate. Malia says that her series will not only make people laugh out loud, but that it will also make them consider just how much society has changed, and how far we have yet to go to understand each other.

“The series is layered, so there are a lot of reasons for audiences to be interested in the show. First off, the content reflects current important social issues regarding race and culture with hu- mor. It’s silly, it’s smart and most importantly, it’s real,” explains Malia. “If you are of mixed race, you will relate and laugh. If you are not, keep an open mind, and you will learn! ALMOST ASIAN definitely does not play it “safe”; it raises questions and challenges stereotypes.”

ALMOST ASIAN’s no-holds-barred approach to its comedy is the real key to its effectiveness. “The more you challenge, the closer to clarity you will become. ALMOST ASIAN is anything but,” Malia adds. “All the scenes are super awkward and uncomfortable; they shed light on issues I am faced with everyday; like the race versus culture conversation; how the two affect and influence one another; and my struggles with self-acceptance and stereotypes.”

almostasianDespite any concerns she had about the content of her series, Malia’s determination to bring viewers comedy that’s groundbreaking, risk taking and thought provoking remains constant throughout every episode of ALMOST ASIAN.

As she explains, that style of humor is crucial to encouraging both positive societal change, as well as an ongoing discussion of how it can be achieved.

“I definitely get nervous before posting new episodes, because I know the topics are touchy. But in order to start a dialogue, someone has to talk about it,” she says. “Being mixed is often con- fusing, but I’m a lot more confident today because I’ve asked the hard questions, and I hope my viewers do the same.”

In addition to bringing viewers a humorous, yet realistic portrayal of the problems and challenges faced by those of mixed-race, ALMOST ASIAN smashes Hollywood’s stereotypical view of Asians, while addressing the industry’s continuing problem of whitewashing; an issue that has taken on greater significance due to the recent casting of white actors like Tilda Swinton (DOC- TOR STRANGE) and Scarlett Johansson (GHOST IN THE SHELL) in roles that would have otherwise been played by Asian performers.

“All too often, we’ve seen the industry exploit Asian exoticism and continue to offer Asian roles to white actors. It’s insulting,” says Malia. “I want to comment on this, and eventually push the conversation even further: what does this mean for the Asian community and more specifically, how does this affect the half-Asian identity? If we don’t talk about it, then we’ll continue to be invisible.”

Malia’s commitment to providing greater opportunities for Asian actors and filmmakers to excel in the industry showed during the production of ALMOST ASIAN’s episodes. Working alongside a talented multi-ethnic cast and crew, Malia also emphasized the need for those in front of the camera to accurately depict the public and private struggles faced by minorities in today’s society.

12122673_1629376140678202_4017748285893843992_n“When choosing my cast and crew, I absolutely take into consideration their understanding of the multi-ethnic identity and Asian culture,” she says. “From my directors, to sound, editors and cinematographers, cast and producers, the only requirement I demand is respect. And a mutual love of the almighty Szechuan peppercorn.”

While Malia hopes that ALMOST ASIAN will expand its storytelling and viewership far beyond the short confines of webisodes, she feels that the greatest measurement of its success lies solely in the lives it touches through its powerful, honest portrayal of mixed race in today’s society.

“My mission is for ALMOST ASIAN to provide honest insight into the mixed-race experience and create opportunities for the minority’s minority to communicate and connect. Being mixed is truly the minority’s minority, and yet we are growing faster than ever,” says Malia. “I am just sharing my personal story, and if that’s a positive step towards change, then I don’t want to stop.”

Just as important for Malia is how her series will help destroy the negative stereotypes that con- tinue to abound in the entertainment industry. “For me, utilizing comedy as a vehicle for change is the path of least resistance, and by marrying the sensitive issue of race with comedy, I believe ALMOST ASIAN provides opportunity for positive personal and social change in an industry that is guilty of fostering invisibility and perpetuating stereotypes.”

ALMOST ASIAN is a comedy that does much more than give people something to laugh about. It also gives viewers an opportunity to think about our world at large, and how important a role they play in making it even better. For Malia, achieving those objectives are crucial to the suc- cess of the series, and in her own life.

Karaoke3“My goal is to keep expanding the mixed race dialogue and introduce broader day to day life issues not solely driven by ethnicity,” says Malia. “In an ideal world, race does not define roles. But in my world, it always has. I’ve always been put in a box. And I’ve had to continually rede- fine it for me. It is a journey, and I aim to keep excavating!”

Most of all, Malia feels that her series will empower those of mixed race to live life on their terms, regardless of how often society tries to fit them in their “image” of what, and who, they should be. “My overall message to my viewers is to not let labels define and hinder you. Because being mixed-race is still unfamiliar and new, society is quick to put you in a box,” says Malia. “(It’s) a knee jerk reaction nevertheless, but you have to define who you are for yourself. Keep discovering. Keep questioning.”

Note: Regarding closed-captioning of ALMOST ASIAN, Malia says: “It is not at the moment, though I will definitely consider this for the future!”