Comedian Aasif Mandvi’s “No Land’s Man” is a Funny, Thoughtful Autobiography

Comedian Aasif Mandvi keeps it funny and thoughtful in his autobiography No Land’s Mangiving an interesting look at his life growing up in two different countries, starting out as an actor, and eventually becoming a recognizable Muslim figure in the American media.

Most people know Mandvi from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” as the team’s leading “Muslim correspondent.” However, if you’re looking for crazy behind-the-scenes stories of “The Daily Show”’s cast and crew, No Land’s Man is not the place to begin. Mandvi only briefly mentions “The Daily Show,” instead dedicating the majority of No Land’s Man to look back on his life and other career accomplishments.


The book is split into three parts framed around his journey back to his English hometown, Bradford. In each chapter Mandvi begins a story, diverges off into a different one, then brings it back around to the main point. It’s a tough style to pull off in a book, but it works. Sections switch between deep reflections pondering his identity as an “Indian-English-American-Muslim-ish” man to funny anecdotes from his school days, family, and his early acting career in New York.

No Land’s Man isn’t a comedy heavyweight like other comedian autobiographies, but he includes more personal stories and deeper reflections. Mandvi’s humor doesn’t come from amazing stories of backstage hijinks only New York City comedians could experience, but from his witty, dry commentary of average events. He never gets so pensive that it drags the story, but he offers good advice and reflection on what it’s like to be a part of many different cultures and reconcile them with one’s identity.

Through his stories, Mandvi shows he understands what it’s like to not belong to any one place, but instead build a home in all those places and in the passions a person decides to pursue. Very funny and surprisingly heartfelt, No Land’s Man should not be forgotten in the list of comedian autobiographies to read this year.

Photos courtesy of and

Run River North rocks St. Louis and Kollaboration

Most independent bands only brush through the Midwest on tour, usually stopping in Chicago before moving onto bigger cities, so I couldn’t believe when Run River North decided to stop in St. Louis.

Run River North came to my neck of the woods last August as part of their headline tour around sixteen U.S. cities. In between New York City and Madison, Wisconsin, came their show in the ‘Lou. They played at a venue called Off Broadway; one of many, many concert dives in the city. Off Broadway features a full bar (where I ran into singer Alex Hwang before the show and took a selfie), a tiny stage about a foot and a half off the floor, and a small balcony for people to sit with their drinks while escaping the raging mosh pit of thirty rocking out on the floor. These tiny rock clubs make St. Louis one of the best cities for local concerts because people can stand two feet away from the band. And standing two feet away from Run River North was awesome.


The six band members —  Alex Hwang, Joe Chun, Daniel Chae, Sally Kang, Jennifer Rim, and John Chong — came out on stage and immediately launched into “Monsters Calling Home,” kicking off an amazing show. They had solid vocals and harmonized with each other and the instruments to sound just as great live as on their album; a rare feat in today’s auto-tuned world. They jumped around the stage, talked to the audience, shared the stories that inspired songs, and looked like they genuinely had a good time. Some of them weren’t wearing shoes, which entertained me, though at Off Broadway they probably should have kept them on. Run River North played their entire album, a cover, and an exclusive song off the vinyl edition, full of energy despite their jet lag after flying into STL earlier that morning after playing a concert in LA.


Run River North joined Kollaboration Star 2014 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on November 15. Not only does Run River North consider LA home, but they also know their way around a Kollaboration show. They performed at Kollaboration LA in 2011 under their previous name, Monsters Calling Home. The band met in their church after Hwang wrote the song “Monsters Calling Home” and passed it around to the others members to perform with him. Once Kollaboration LA came up, they auditioned and became the city finalists for Kollaboration Los Angeles 2011.

Though the band did not win that year, they didn’t let the loss get to them, and Monsters Calling Home continued on. In 2012 they caught Honda’s attention for a “Fight to Keep” music video shot entirely in the band’s Hondas, and gained over 200,000 views. The car company called the band in September 2012 to perform for Honda executives, but on arrival at the venue, the band was told the concert was cancelled.


Instead, the band was booked to play on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Cameras captured the band’s surprised and touching reaction, and on Oct. 26, 2012, Monsters Calling Home made their television debut. Unfortunately, after “Jimmy Kimmel,” the major record labels previously interested in the band decided to move on. Not letting another letdown defeat the group, they decided to focus on songwriting and building a local fan base in between part-time jobs and continuing school. They sold out the famous LA concert club the Troubadour by the time CEO Terry McBride of the Canadian label Nettwerk, who also signed the band fun., called and offered to sign Monsters Calling Home.

Just before releasing their debut album, Monsters Calling Home announced a name change partly in response to indie band Of Monsters and Men’s recent success with “Little Talks.” Then on February 25, 2014, Run River North debuted their first album of the same name, “Run River North.”

“[The new name] describes the different ranges of our music,” Kang, the keyboardist, explained in a June 2014 interview with Audrey Magazine. “From being laid-back and letting our harmonies shine through, like in ‘Growing Up,’ which represents the steady flow of a river, to being as crazy and loud and thrashing as some of our other tracks that are a little more rock-ish, which portrays a rushing river.”

Wishing the best to an incredible band, and thanking them for visiting many smaller and often overlooked cities including my hometown St. Louis, where I was able to catch one of my favorite live performances ever.

Photos courtesy of Run River North and John Xiaomeng Zhang.

Break it down: DANakaDAN

Editor’s note: This post was written before Kollaboration Star 2014 and has not been edited for time continuity.

Dan Matthews, also known as the rapper DANakaDAN, is a very busy man. He was only available for an interview at 10 pm, so of course I stayed up until 1am EST to interview him over the phone.

“Lately it’s been pretty busy,” he said on his way home from the San Diego Asian American Film Festival. “We’re in the middle of a big campaign for my job and my schedule is really unpredictable.”


Aside from his usual daily schedule, the alternative rapper is performing this Saturday at the Los Angeles Wilshire Ebell Theater as part of Kollaboration Star 2014 for its 15th anniversary. Kollaboration Star features six different performances from winners all over the U.S. who won their city’s individual Kollaboration Showcase. For their wins at home, the six finalists then go to Star to compete for $10,000 and be judged by singers Marie Digby and AJ Rafael, along with actresses Samantha Futerman and Ally Maki. Actor Jimmy O. Yang and comedienne Jenny Yang are hosting the show and many Kollaboration alum will join Matthews, including indie band Run River North and singer-songwriter Alfa.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun being able to play with a full band, and it’s not just me [performing],” he said. “It’s really important [that] when I did this show it wasn’t just going to be my performance, it’s going to be myself collaborating with a bunch of other amazing artists.”

Those other artists include Chucky Kim, Sam Kang, Travis Graham and Matthews’ friend Victor Velasquez. Matthews considers them amazing musicians on their own, and after collaborating with them in the past on some songs he looks forward to doing a show together at Kollaboration.

“If I didn’t have this way to express myself, I don’t know I’d be able to express it any other way…”

Off stage, Dan Matthews is the director of productions at ISAtv, meaning he produces all content on the channel. But to him “you just do whatever you need to do in order to make the company survive.” At ISA Matthews develops content, builds connections with the Asian American community and tries to find stories people want to hear and see brought to life.

“I really love working at ISA,” Matthews said. “I think that we’ve been able to develop a really amazing platform to really [be] able to create a place where people can come and find content that they can relate to and stories that are special to our community. And because of our connection to the community, we’re able to find really interesting, really cool people that support us and collaborate with us. So it’s provided a lot of really interesting experiences.”

His co-workers at ISA also support and empower DANakaDAN, giving him the chance to stay creative on the side. He’s met a lot of people, both as DANakaDAN and Dan Matthews who help both ISA and his rapping. There’s a bit of conflict of interest between focusing on his talent in front of the camera, and behind the scenes.

“It’s challenging sometimes, but for the most part what I’m doing at ISA makes me a more creative person,” he said. “It helps the passion that I’ve got for being Dan aka Dan, and vice versa.”


His passion for being DANakaDAN and hip-hop began in his junior year of high school. It provided a creative outlet for a bored teenager, and “bored teenagers need ways to get their emotions out and find ways to be able to express themselves.” Writing, rapping and performing became Matthews’ outlet because he found it an interesting and unique way for people to express themselves and became drawn in.

“There’s something special about people that are able that are able to express themselves through rap and lyricism that I just think is really special,” he said. “I think that the stories you can tell with rap are, at least to me, a little bit different stories you can maybe tell through other forms of music. I’m a better storyteller through rap than I would ever be through any other forms of music.”

Hip-hop isn’t the only musical influence to Matthews’ sound, evident on his debut album “Stuntman” released earlier this year. Matthews had already been writing the songs the year before, after his trip to South Korea and meeting his birth family inspired the album. They began recording in November 2013, then finished the mixing and mastering four months later. Listening to “Stuntman” from start to finish, he includes many different genres to tell his story.

“I’m a big fan of rock, or alternative-infused hip-hop, and so it definitely started off just being alternative rock, really, really dark type of direction,” he explains. “[Then] I realized that, especially after I came back from Korea, I didn’t have a lot to complain about. I had a lot to really celebrate so I found ways to work with a lot of different people to produce a lot happier type of music.”

He also became a fan of electronic music and it helped inspire him and include a combination of both genres to create a more positive feel in the second half of the album. Through the album, Matthews talks about a lot of personal topics, saying he finds it easier to explain himself about embarrassing or personal topics through his music and writing.

“If I didn’t have this way to express myself, I don’t know I’d be able to express it any other way, so it became a very important part of me,” he said.


He also takes comfort in knowing listeners relate to him and his experiences through his music, especially the inspiration for “Stuntman” and “aka Dan”, the ISA documentary series: Matthews’ then-recent trip to South Korea, where he was adopted from as a baby, to meet his birth family. A very personal topic, Matthews originally didn’t want to film it, but decided to in the end because he knew if he didn’t he would regret it.

“It was something that was worth filming and taking that risk to be able to capture,” he decided. “It was definitely a big risk, but I’m really happy that it paid off.”

Since its March release, “aka Dan” has reached over 40,000 views on YouTube. The music videos for “Stuntman” and “Is There Anybody out There?” have reached 78,000 and 15,000 respectively. [Editor’s note: these numbers have significantly changed since the writing of this article.] Matthews has been featured on the November 2013 cover of KoreAm magazine and invited to perform around the country, including Kollaboration D.C.’s city showcase. He hopes to get conversations about adoption going, and encourages adoptees to find ways to talk about their experiences.

“I think that it’s important to find ways to be able to express yourself,” is his advice. “I think that the issues are different, between different people, depending on how they were raised or how they grew up, or what the environment is. But there’s a lot of things that we think about that other people don’t have to think about, and that having a way to express yourself is very, very important. Whether it be sports, art, teaching, just finding a way that you can find a way to be able to feel like you’re being heard about whatever issue it is that you might have.”

Photos Courtesy of Dan MatthewsDavid Kong, Wonho Frank Lee, and John Xiaomeng Zhang.

Kollaboration Boston Gets Down with the Community

On October 4th, Kollaboration Boston held its first community dance workshop of the semester. We invited Kollaboration Boston I’s finalists, Boston College’s Synergy Hip Hop Dance Company and Boston University’s Unofficial Project (Upro), to take center stage again and teach a choreography for the community we serve.  Synergy’s Taylor Frost taught the crowd to, Usher feat. Nicki Minaj- She came to Give it to You and UPro’s Alex Lam taught his choreo to Tinashe 2 on. We attracted over 50 college students from around the area for an afternoon of dance, fun and laughter.


Check out our recap video of what went down on Saturday here:

Article and photos courtesy of Christine Mai, Jane Pak, and the Kollaboration Boston Team

Boston Comes Together To Support Hong Kong

Some rain and autumn chill couldn’t stop hundreds of Bostonians from coming out to the Boston Common to support the protestors in Hong Kong on Oct. 1.

Protests in Hong Kong have been happening for weeks prior, and Boston’s rally was only one of many pro-Hong Kong gatherings in the U.S. on China’s National Day to help raise awareness and show support. The Hong Kong protests began in early September after China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee decided that in 2017, Hong Kong could only vote for their Chief Executive, the head of the Hong Kong government, from a selection of Beijing-approved candidates. In response, thousands of college and secondary students boycotted classes and began the Sept. 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement continuing today with thousands of participants of all ages.

A handful of local college students organized Boston’s “Candles in the Common: Solidarity for Hong Kong” event. People from all over the city came including Hong Kong nationals, college students, families, supporters from Taiwan and Tibet and other democracy advocates. The evening was filled with a candlelight vigil, speakers sharing their stories, singing and a march to the Massachusetts  State House to tie yellow ribbons and the Hong Kong flag on the gate to urge the government to support the protesters.

“I have been waiting for this day for a really long time,” Boston University and Hong Kong native Kimberly Chan said. “So now that it has been happening and I’m not there, I want to at least do something. This is the least I can do.”

IMG_3595Supporters turned to social media to advocate the cause by changing their profile pictures to a yellow ribbon, sharing news reports and helping to spread the word about the rally. On Oct. 1, the hashtag #WearYellowForHongKong trended on Twitter, urging people to sport yellow shirts, wristbands, or pinned ribbons to show support. Although these gestures may seem small and unhelpful to the protesters half a world away, Chan said it’s important to get the public’s attention of the pro-democracy rallies in Hong Kong.

“Tell everyone about this, please tell everyone about this,” Chan said. “Learn about the movement, try to educate yourself, make suggestions how to make the movement better, think about the movement so that we can be led toward a better direction. I think that’s something everyone can do; you don’t have to be from Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong’s current struggle for democracy has been an issue ever since the island was released as a former British colony then returned to Chinese authority in 1997. At that time, China agreed to govern Hong Kong as “one country, two systems” and granted the island high autonomy and the ability to elect their Chief Executive in 2017. Now that those conditions are under question, Occupy Central activists want to show the world that their fight for democracy matters to all, not only Hong Kong.

“I think if it was only Asians here, specifically, only Hong Kong people here, that would sort of limit the amount of awareness they would get, and what this issue needs right now is awareness,” Emerson college student Nils Berglund said. “Beijing needs pressure from the entire world to really make a decision on this because, as I see it, Beijing has two choices right now: either appear weak and give in to demands or risk having another Tiananmen Square in 1989 size scandal.”

Currently, the demonstrations in Hong Kong continue without either the protesters or the Beijing government backing down. On Oct. 2 and 3 violence broke out in the shopping district Mong Kok when opponents to the demonstrators used force trying to get them to leave. Since then the violence has ceased, but tensions remain the same while leaders from both sides try to organize discussions.

As the politics and tensions continue without an end in sight, students in Boston watch and wait the situation in their homeland, unsure about what they’ll find when they return home. Hongkonger and Northeastern University student Edwin Lo said he thinks the current protests will pause for a while, then after a time will return. When he returns home, however, he hopes Hong Kong will be closer to their objective.

“I think, politically, that’s not stable of course,” Lo said. “But then at the same time, I’d expect Hong Kong as a society more united as a whole because we have the same goal and dream to have democracy and elections.”


Morgan Lynzi to Explore East and West Pop Culture Crossover in “East Meets Morgan”

ISAtv announced yesterday that it has picked up web series East Meets Morgan, an experiential pop culture show hosted by blogger and internet personality Morgan Lynzi exploring the bridge between East and West pop cultures through music, style, food, and beyond. Continue reading “Morgan Lynzi to Explore East and West Pop Culture Crossover in “East Meets Morgan””

How One South Korean Magazine Set Out To Change Asian Body Image


Asian girls and women are usually expected to be very thin, and that’s not a standard most young women go out of their way to break. Recently in South Korea, a country famed for its beauty products and nearly unattainable standard of beauty, model Vivian Kim (also known as Kim Ji-Yang in Korea) began her own magazine celebrating plus-sized figures in men and women. With 66100, the respective numbers for women’s and men’s extra-large sizes in Korea, Kim hopes to encourage positive body images and help people accept who they are and how they look.

Kim, who’s 5’5” and 154 pounds, was the first Korean model in Los Angeles’ Full Figured Fashion Week and used her own funds to print the 1,000 debut copies 66100. She said it’s hard to find plus-sized models in Korea to pose for the magazine, but hopes 66100 will encourage more women to feel more confident with themselves and show Korean clothing companies that there is a market for plus-sized clothing.

“Beauty is not about whether a person is fat or not,” Kim’s motto says. “It’s about having the confidence to know you are beautiful the way you are.”

I’m a Chinese adoptee on the curvy side who wears a size large in American stores and an XL or XXL in Asian sizes. For me, 66100 is a much-needed breath of fresh air. I feel out of place when I see other Asian girls my age weighing thirty pounds less than me while eating just as much as I do. I know I don’t live a very food-conscious and active lifestyle, but if society expects me to be a skinny twig, and I’m not, then I must be a freak of Asian nature. Along with my tanned skin, short legs, and non-flat stomach, I fail the Asian beauty standard on all counts.

Further driving the pity party home, I’m also a big fan of Kpop. Even though I know their look is very image-conscious and the pop industry promotes plastic surgery and wearing more make-up than Barbie, I can’t help but compare myself to the beautiful female idols. Watching music videos on top of hearing the stereotype that all Asian girls are skinny, my body image has plummeted. There are times when 2ne1’s “Ugly” became my personal anthem and I refuse to listen to Girls Generation out of jealousy.

My wallowing never lasts long, I know everyone is beautiful in their own right, and I too could look like a Kpop star if I set aside college and instead invested in massive plastic surgery. But seeing a strong and confident woman like Kim publish 66100, it helps instill the same confidence in my own body image and remind me that I’m not some Asian freak of nature.