And now for our second installment in our Variety Roulette series, where we grab random episodes of random variety shows and hope they’re any good. Our inaugural post was on talk show Strong Heart, and this one will be another talk show and another one of Kang Ho-dong’s four gigs, Murupak Dosa, or Knee-Drop Guru.
The guest of honor? Drama star (You’re Beautiful, Beethoven Virus), former child actor, current leading man, he of the pretty hair and the boyish smile, Jang Geun-seok.
EPISODE 248. Broadcast on September 9, 2011.
girlfriday: So the premise of Murupak Dosa, or Knee-Drop Guru, is pretty simple. It’s just a one-on-one talk show, basically between Kang Ho-dong and a celebrity guest. Because it’s a singled-out interview that usually spans two episodes, you have to be a fairly big star to be a guest on the show. It used to be a small segment of the larger program Golden Fishery, but now it’s the main attraction.
javabeans: The title refers to the type of guru, or wise old sage, that people would go to for advice. They’d typically kneel and sit back on their heels, which is where the title comes from, although in the show they’ve modified that arrangement with that recessed flooring so everyone can sit comfortably.
girlfriday: Kang Ho-dong plays the guru, always dressed in that adorable and hilarious hanbok with the painted red cheeks, and he has two sidekicks — Yoo Se-yoon, and the Band Boy (the one-man All Lies Band). The guest comes in asking the question: “Is this the famous guru who sees all things before your knees even hit the ground?” And then they’re supposed to come to the guru with problems, which is just the basic framework for the personal interview.
javabeans: This show is really hit or miss for me. It’s such a simple concept that it all boils down to whether the guest is interesting and has good rapport with Kang Ho-dong.
girlfriday: And you find out so quickly whether a star you like actually has a personality or is just vapid. It can be disappointing in that sense too.
javabeans: It also is a real demonstration of Kang Ho-dong’s skills, because whether the guest is boring or sparkling, it’s up to him to keep the wheels moving, and in a seamless way. I admit that I didn’t love Kang Ho-dong at first — I thought he seemed kind of mean sometimes, and preferred Yoo Jae-suk’s emceeing style — until I saw him on Murupak and saw how good he was at what he does.
girlfriday: I think he’s the best at this kind of one-on-one interview style because he reads people so well. He’s lightning fast on the uptake, and turns every reaction, every tick, into something worth talking about. He is meaner, but I think it’s because he’s more incisive. I’m sad for this show because it’s the one that will suffer the biggest loss from his retirement, since it really is a one-man show, whereas the other programs have a second leg to stand on.
girlfriday: Jang Geun-seok peeks in the door, a little afraid of what he might find, but the trio greets him with a little musical parody of Jang Geun-seok-esque dances and poses which cracks him up. How adorable — he comes in and asks Ho-dong to pick him up. (He usually picks up the female guests.) Leave it to Jang Geun-seok to not want to be left out in that way.
javabeans: But then he’s embarrassed to show his little socks and wiggles his feet trying to cover them up, which is hilarious.
girlfriday: He hands them all presents, but then their faces fall as they open them up… it’s a Jang Geun-seok photobook and Jang Geun-seok paper dolls! Pfffft. I love that he totally, in all seriousness, thought they would make good gifts. This kid is hilarious.
javabeans: He’s so earnest, like, “They’re big in Japan!” Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Ho-dong’s reaction is great, because he’s disappointed and puzzled, and confirms twice that this is actually the gift he’s giving. “It’s all stuff about himself!” “But these seem so useless to me…”
girlfriday: Ho-dong asks if he’s not afraid to be honest, wondering if he can freely talk about any time or place they’ve run into each other. Geun-seok nods… until it dawns on him that he once ran into Ho-dong doing something he shouldn’t have been doing, because he immediately takes it back, “Wait, wait, WAIT!” Ooooh, I hope it’s juicy! Celebrity girlfriend?
javabeans: It’s clear that he’s super savvy about the business and his image, and knows how to say the right thing. It’s kind of impressive, and when he credits his sunbaes for setting the stage for his popularity abroad, Ho-dong remarks, “That’s so mature” in the tone of someone who’s shocked, like he was expecting something totally different. But then it’s equally impressive how candid he is about his NON-modest moments, too, which is this funny dichotomy.
girlfriday: They talk about how popular he is in Japan right now, and he sort of pretends to be modest about it at first, but then admits to stopping random Japanese people on the street to confirm his popularity. Ha.
javabeans: He is disproportionately popular there, to the extent that when Ho-dong mentions Kimura Takuya, Geun-seok offers to call him directly so Ho-dong can talk to him himself. Ho-dong has this look on his face that’s half-stunned, half-terrified, like he’s thinking, Wait, now? Without prep? What do I sayyyyy? And Geun-seok takes out his cell phone and hands it over, then crows, “It’s a LIE!” Hahaha. But for a few harrowing seconds, Ho-dong totally bought it — that Geun-seok is so popular he might actually have Kimutaku’s cell humber. Ho-dong demonstrates his own talent in cutting down some of that ego, though, with little quips like “But then you come back to Korea and nobody cares” — hehehe. Geun-seok also tries to lie about watching Murupak every week, every episode, and gets called out on it and sheepishly admits, “This is why I shouldn’t lie on this show.”
girlfriday: Ho-dong asks how he felt about Kim Yuna’s reaction to their dating scandal, and he suddenly gets depressed, recalling how much she hated being linked to him in the press, taking it personally. Hee.
javabeans: I love how Ho-dong slips in there with a winner: When Geun-seok says that he’s never seen her before in person, and that he really wants to, Ho-dong retorts, “Because you love her?” and Geun-seok is just stumped for a reaction because the attack was so swift. Don’t you love how he’s all, “You know how guys don’t really like me that much.” The others run with it, saying, “Ah, so you knew!” and Se-yoon says, “Well, I’m sure not everyone hates you” while making it clear that he means, “Even though I do.” He adds, “I’m sure you can find someone if you really try.”
girlfriday: It’s so hilarious. They all turn their backs to him at the same time, all the while handing out half-hearted words of comfort, like: “You always have Japan.”
javabeans: Geun-seok does have pretty sharp variety sense himself, because he totally lays on the sad act at first about Kim Yuna’s faux-rejection of their scandal, and it’s hilarious. He’s all, “YOU hated it…but I liked it!”
girlfriday: He says he didn’t mind the scandal because it was wholly untrue, and besides, “I was dating someone else at the time!” And then he SQUEES at his OWN confession. Hahaha.
javabeans: He’s so lively and bubbly, it’s like a 25-year-old grown-up with the energy of a 5-year-old. Ho-dong mentions Geun-seok contacting him before the show, which nobody ever does, especially since they’re so busy. But Geun-seok got his number somehow and invited him out for a drink, describing his thought process as a “trap.” Those words put Ho-dong on edge, as he’s wondering how on earth this could possibly make sense as a trap, and Geun-seok goes through this whole song and dance in explaining, and in the end I still have no idea what he means by it. Neither does Ho-dong, or the sidekicks.
girlfriday: I think he means that Ho-dong is implying a disingenuous friendship? Basically it makes no sense, but he feels victimized somehow, so blurts out, “TRAP!” and then can’t actually explain himself. So they finally get to his first “Problem,” and he says, with no lead-in or explanation: “I want to be friends with Lee Seung-gi.” Ho-dong just falls over laughing. It’s probably one of the stranger problems he’s ever encountered as the guru. But perhaps one he can fix right away with a quick phone call? Ho-dong: “Is this a trap?”
javabeans: He calls Seung-gi “Ho-dong’s right arm” and Ho-dong corrects him: He’s actually Seung-gi’s right arm. Geun-seok jokes, “Really? Then I came to the wrong place!” and mimes getting up to leave.
girlfriday: Geun-seok admits that he doesn’t have any friends his age with the same job to talk to, and plus Seung-gi is popular with both men and women (which he’s already established that he is not). He supposes that hanging out with Seung-gi will somehow rub off on him. Pwahaha.
javabeans: I love his story about wanting to befriend people his age. Other than Seung-gi, he explains how he recently texted this other person out of the blue, without having ever met him: Lee Min-ho. One of the comedians wonders, “Shinhwa’s Lee Min-ho?” which is sorta hilarious because it totally reveals his age. (He’s thinking Shinhwa’s Lee Min-woo, although funny enough, the statement isn’t so far off given the presence of Shinhwa Corp in Boys Before Flowers.) He’d gotten Lee Min-ho’s number from his manager, who used to be Min-ho’s manager, and sent an introductory text: “Min-ho-sshi! Hello~ I’m the actor Jang Geun-seok. I’ve heard such good things about you from my manager and wanted to be good friends, so I’m contacting you. When you get this, please get back to me. Hehe ^^”
girlfriday: And then he follows it up with a second text: “Min-ho-sshi… I like girls…” HAHAHA!
javabeans: His thought process cracks me up. Like he might have given the impression he might be coming on to him. After waiting 15 minutes with no response, he starts feeling down. First it’s worry that he did something wrong and offended Lee Min-ho, and then it’s sadness — so he’s sitting in his 46th-floor hotel room in Japan, watching himself being adored on Japanese television, and wondering at the loneliness of life. And then that graduates to anger, like Who does this kid think he is? “When did he debut? He debuted after me!” Haha. “Where’s the sake?!”
girlfriday: After spending 15 minutes cursing Lee Min-ho, he finally gets a response: “So, you like girls? Kekekeke.”
javabeans: Can you imagine what Min-ho thought getting that random text? So then, all of a sudden Geun-seok’s mood takes a drastic swing and now he’s on top of the world. “Ahh, my friend! I enjoyed City Hunter!” Ho-dong recalls that Geun-seok sent him two messages too, and wonders if he was going through the same self-doubting process with him. True to form, when Ho-dong explains that he’d left his phone at home that day (which is why he didn’t reply to the first message), Geun-seok pipes up, “But weren’t you in Jeju?” (Because you couldn’t leave a phone in Seoul and reply that day if you were in Jeju.) The guys point out that this proves he asked around, to know why Ho-dong hadn’t replied for 9 hours.
girlfriday: It’s hilarious how sensitive he really is. He admits it freely too (though blaming it on being blood type A). The fact that he knows that he spent 15 minutes waiting for Min-ho and 9 hours waiting for Ho-dong is so telling.
javabeans: Which is not even a long amount of time (the 15 minutes). He says he had to shoot his movie the day he was waiting for Ho-dong’s message, but could hardly pay attention to the dialogue because he was so preoccupied. When he got the call, “It felt like the car was flying.”
girlfriday: And then he tells the story of going to a Rain concert in Busan, which was the first time they saw each other in ten years. He got all excited that they were doing this dance he loves (which he demonstrates for a jaw-dropped Ho-dong) and got called onstage to dance. He admits that he was so thrilled that he danced in front of Rain: “He’s the Dance King, but I was like, ‘I’m the Shuffle King!’”
javabeans: How funny is it that Geun-seok smashes into his own photobook while demonstrating his dance? They even show footage of the concert, and yup, there he is. He explains how at first Rain was like, “Cool, look at him go” but the longer he went on, the more astounded he became, to the extent that Geun-seok was worried he’d worn out his welcome and offended Rain. “Thankfully, there were a lot of Japanese fans there.”
girlfriday: They’re embarrassed for him, just listening to the story, but it makes me wonder if people like Jang Geun-seok become the stars they are because they lack that… embarrassment?
javabeans: Sense of shame? It could be. It’s amazing how incredibly self-absorbed Geun-seok is, yet while being adorable all the while. (Example: Him wanting to meet Seung-gi. Is it because he admires Seung-gi, or is a fan? Nope, it’s because he wants Seung-gi’s appeal with both genders for himself!) It’s weird — you’d think you’d hate him for being so into himself, but he’s just so durned cute. It’s probably because he laughs at himself too.
girlfriday: I think it’s because he’s so delightfully clueless as to why everyone else isn’t as into him… as he is. It’s so funny.
javabeans: I think it’s also that he’s candid about his ego. A lot of people try to do the false modesty thing or play down their ego, but he’s sorta brash-as-you-please about it. He has this gift for making every situation about himself. Can you imagine seeing somebody else’s fans and deciding that the way to give them something special is to take a picture of yourself with them? (The story: He’d been invited to Rain’s after-party following a concert, and seen a crowd of international fans waiting around for a glimpse of him. That made him think that somewhere in the world, there were fans waiting for a glimpse of Geun-seok, so he wanted to do something for them. The answer? A sel-ca with them!) Yet he’s completely serious about his thought process.
girlfriday: And even Ho-dong, who’s encountered some of the silliest actors ever, is floored at the absurdity of receiving someone else’s photobook as a gift. It’s so awesome.
javabeans: I think Ho-dong is floored at the absurdity of Jang Geun-seok himself, frankly. He looks so confused at some of the cheeky things he says.
girlfriday: He looks at Jang Geun-seok half like an alien, half like a shiny new variety wind-up doll, wondering what crazy thing is coming out of his mouth next.
javabeans: He tells a story about Rain, framing it in terms of, “There’s one thing I have that he doesn’t…youth.” It’s only five years between them, but he explains that Rain can’t outdrink him, and the hangovers basically keep him down all day the following day. Geun-seok points out the virtues of having a younger, less damaged liver. Now, that I can relate to.
girlfriday: It’s hilarious. It basically amounts to: what I have that Rain doesn’t have is a healthy liver!
javabeans: (I have to admit, though, that as the show goes on, it starts to get tiresome hearing someone talk, without irony, about how great he is for an hour. Go figure!)
girlfriday: HA. Maybe he’s one of those people who’s only good in small doses. Or not playing himself? Jang Geun-seok says that people assume he’s come back from Japan with a big ego, but he tells them that he’s the same. So Ho-dong quips, “You hear that? Jang Geun-seok has ALWAYS been this way!” Hee.
javabeans: Se-yoon even advises him, “Geun-seok-ah! You can’t say these things with your own mouth!”
girlfriday: Sometimes when he talks you can literally see Ho-dong’s eyes glazing over, like what the hell is this kid talking about? But he’s just this ball of energy that keeps rolling along, totally unfazed by their lack of understanding. He really is, as Ho-dong says over and over, “A piece of work.”
javabeans: And that’s it for Part 1 of this interview. Note that we don’t plan to cover Part 2, because the point behind our “Variety Roulette” project is to dive into various shows by sampling one of its episodes, randomly and out of context. For those of you interested in catching the rest, it’ll broadcast on the next episode of Murupak Dosa, which airs tomorrow.
- Kang Ho-dong takes break from showbiz, 1N2D to shoot farewell episode?
- Variety Roulette: Strong Heart
- Jang Geun-seok as Kim Haneul’s pet
- Jang Geun-seok and Kim Haneul wrap You’re My Pet
- Han Hyo-joo rumored to star opposite Jang Geun-seok
- Jang Geun-seok celebrates his 24th birthday
- Jang Geun-seok to star in new Yoon Suk-ho drama