It may have been JustKiddingFilms’ Bart Kwan and Joe Jo’s unabashedly offensive impressions of Korean accents in their ‘Korean History Channel’ video series, or David So’s insightful discussions surrounding racial discrimination targeted towards Asian Americans that launched their careers. But the entertainers have made a lasting mark on the YouTube community — a mark rooted in their success as not just entrepreneurs, but as personable, day-to-day comedians.
Kwan and Jo, the creators of JustKiddingFilms, and comedian David So are intertwined through nearly a decade of friendship and business partnership. Although the entertainers have gained momentous traction on YouTube, all garnering over one million subscribers while leading other companies, namely the Los Angeles-based Barbell Brigade gym and an accompanying apparel line, the pair of YouTubers hardly found success overnight.
Once aspiring comedians navigating their way throughout adulthood through the lens of a low-quality camera, the creators of JustKiddingFilms and David So have learned a thing or two from plunging head-first into the entertainment industry. It is in these shared experiences that birthed the YouTubers’ clothing line, Go For Broke.
The motto “Go For Broke” originated from the 442nd Infantry Regiment where Japanese-American soldiers in World War II vowed to put their best foot forward and quite literally, risk everything they had to “go for broke.” “Bart, David, and I embody the meaning of ‘go for broke’ — by any means necessary and against all odds, we will still commit to our dreams.” Jo said in an e-mail interview. “The brand was to encourage and inspire those who believe in the brand to go out there and pursue anything and everything.”
Throughout their time on YouTube, it’s clear that these entertainers have closely adhered to this motto. From Bart and Joe’s first comedic skits in 2007 to David’s humble beginnings as a stand-up comedian the following year, the friends and business partners have come a long way as entertainers.
What ties them to the driving sentiment behind their brand and to their audience might be the common thread of uncertainty about the future. As a UCLA alumnus and former Marine initially devoted to a career in medicine, Bart could relate to this sentiment after realizing that he didn’t want to pursue a career for solely monetary gain. Joe attests to this as a California State University, Los Angeles alumnus who had once considered nursing as a career option, only to realize that financial stability could never outweigh the grueling hours, mind-boggling difficulty, and lack of passion for the field.
“It seemed like the next thing to do was to create something we really believed in: inspiring apparel with a purpose,” Jo explained.
And their relentless effort in pushing new content began to pay off as they generated more viewership. Consider one of JustKiddingFilms’ most popular videos, “unco same gets jacked,” which has amassed nearly 1.5 million views since its release in 2007, or So’s popular 2011 “Korean Beauty Supply” skit released in 2011, which speaks to the discrimination targeted toward the Black community. “It’s hard to commit to something when there’s no guarantee of success, but that’s why we created this brand,” Jo stated. “We wanted to help inspire those who really want to achieve whatever they desire but need that extra push and motivation.”
The team feeds the kinship between themselves and fans through their designs, even opening a contest for fans to create designs for the line. Because the crew has a direct, long-term connection with their followers, they style the clothes without catering to outside influences or adhering to current design trends.
Go For Broke may be a clothing line, but for Kwan, So and Jo, it transcends past fashion. It encapsulates the values the trio has developed since launching their YouTube careers. The “Go For Broke” inscribed in all of their clothing is just a reminder.
Contact Caroline Lee at [email protected].