It's Saturday night in Korea! People sit down in front of television screens and start browsing through the channels, trying to find something engaging and exciting to watch, while simultaneously relieving themselves of the tiredness that the day's activities had caused. Suddenly, they stop at JTBC broadcasting what looks like a variety show set in a school? Huh? That's weird. It also looks fun. No way, it's Knowing Bros!
Aneun Hyeongnim (아는 형님), also known as Ask Us Anything or Men On a Mission, and most commonly known to international audiences as Knowing Bros, is a South Korean variety show, which has taken the country by storm, and despite being broadcast on a cable TV channel (which requires paid subscription, hence fewer audience) has continued to uphold decent ratings throughout its four year run so far.
This article serves as a guide to everything Knowing Bros related. From the hosts to the format, to the best episodes, and different activities associated with the show, you'll get to know all about the funniest, no-holds-barred, entertainment program in South Korea.
However, before I start with my take on the show, here's the show's unofficial, official OST made by the Brothers themselves. It's a catchy tune that quite literally details everything the show's about! Be sure to take a look, and don't forget to turn on the subtitles!
So take out your popcorn (choking hazard, you've been warned!), and get ready for the wild ride that is Knowing Bros! 가자!
Since the program is a mock-up of a regular (Korean) school day (sounds boring right? Don't worry, it's the students who make the school *wink*). It all begins with the Brothers making their (thunderous and sometimes over the top) entrance into the classroom, where they either discuss (or rather make fun of) recent happenings or latch on to one particular Brother for their amusement. This discussion is always interrupted by the episode's guest(s) making their entrance as transfer students to the school.
A distinctive feature of the show is the use of banmal (반말) or as it is known, 'informal language'. Everyone, regardless of their age differences, speaks casually to each other. This is very different from the usual conventions of Korean society where one has to be strictly mindful of how they address others. This particular feature makes the guests feel more at ease, and outspoken, resulting in the audience witnessing hilarious situations that would otherwise never happen IRL or on another variety show.
Among the various segments of the show, two have remained constant throughout the years:
Entrance Application: The part where the guests hand over a pre-filled application form (detailing their nicknames, various traits and interests) over to the Brothers, which usually results in a mini talent show where they end up showcasing their talents. This segment also allows the guest to choose which of the Brothers they'd like or dislike as partners, the competition for which gets especially tense with female guests.
Guess About Me: A Q&A segment where the guests ask the most random and personal questions (regarding their own life, which quite often they have never revealed to the public before then) which result in semi-serious, ridiculous, risqué, and some rare, controversial answers from the Brothers.
The other segments (usually two) follow the pattern of class periods, and range from Theatre Class (The 3 No's: No Script, No Basis, No Concept), Music and Dance Class (Songstagram, Dancestagram), History (Classical Culture Class: A segment that pays tribute to pop culture of the bygone days), Art (Imagination Time: Starts from Pictionary, ends at Charades), lunchtime (Knowing Lunch: Recognizing various dishes with blindfolds on for a chance to eat them) and Physical Education (Let's Play Segment & 99 seconds Teamwork Challenge: Usually in the presence of idol groups, where proper team formation is possible. This challenge consists of a mesh of random activities from general knowledge to sports, all to be completed within the 99-second time frame. Cheating is the way to win here!)
There are, of course, some sporadic cases where episodes break free from the typical framework, usually for anniversaries or some exceptional guests. There are only nine such episodes so far (two-episode specials have been counted as one.)
A motley crew of singers, sportsmen, comedians and entertainers, united as students in the "Knowing Bros School." Sorted from oldest to youngest, let's have a look at each of the Brothers, shall we?
The Loud One
The oldest and the strongest (due to his past career as a professional wrestler) member of the cast, Ho Dong is the self-proclaimed "Captain" of the show, and is notorious for shoving his authority in everyone's face, thus becoming the school's resident bully.
He is always made fun of for his outdated sense of humour, his rivalry with comedian Yoo Jae Suk, his lousy treatment (allegedly) of guests on Star King (another of his shows), and for being extremely loud, and overly obnoxious.
The Sad One
Former singer/song-writer and currently a television host, Lee Sang Min is the designated emo kid in the class (though without the full-on get-up of course.)
He is often teased for being debt-ridden and divorced, as well as a musician way past his prime (all in good nature of course.) As a result, he is the go-to person for advice on all things finance and entertainment industry-related for young idols.
The others often imitate his famous "crying rap" from his days with K-Pop group Roo'ra.
The Lonely Giant
Former national basketball player, and the tallest member of the cast, Jang Hoon (besides his height) is continuously teased for taking things too literally, his enormous amount (allegedly) of accumulated wealth, and his high profile divorce.
Jang Hoon, the gentlest member of the cast, is also famous for his incredible guesswork in the "Guess About Me" game; however, he always ends up falling short (ironically) when it comes to the actual answer, and the others steal his guesses.
The Unfunny One
Portraying the character of the resident awkward and unfunny student in every classroom, comedian Kim Young Cheol (a very entertaining person IRL) is the butt of many jokes and is constantly reminded of his promise to leave the show after it successfully reached 5% viewership ratings.
A fluent English speaker (compared to the rest of the cast) he is also famous for his English jokes (not funny of course), most famous of which being, "I'm a comedian, not a Canadian."
The Jack of All Trades
Also known as the Ace (due to his astounding ability to excel in anything he does), comedian Lee Soo Geun serves as the class clown, notorious for his spontaneity and witty remarks.
Also known as Kang Ho Dong's right-hand man, Soo Geun is the only person who can keep Ho Dong at bay, a task that is otherwise daunting to fathom.
He is made fun of for his short height (nicknamed Smurf), and his past with gambling, for which he always has terrific rebuttals ready.
The craziest member of the cast, singer (a member of K-pop group Super Junior) Hee Chul is a fan favourite, and the most popular brother among female guests.
He is famous for having fantastic recollection abilities, with his outstanding pop culture knowledge, dancing to all-girl group songs according to choreography, as well as his incredible imitation skills.
He is teased for his effeminate ways (wanting always to be the girl in any skit), his otaku tendencies, and his celebrity acquaintances (whom he is always teased about being romantically involved with.)
The Human Trash/ Ssamja
Lead vocalist of rock band Buzz, and the youngest member of the cast, Kyung Hoon is notorious for his risqué and suggestive jokes, and being rebellious towards the older cast members.
Because of his terrible dancing skills, being a little thick in the head, and lack of knowledge regarding the entertainment industry, Kyung Hoon is consistently made fun of, and as a result, it is a running joke that celebrities are only really famous if Kyung Hoon knows who they are.
Kim Se Hwang - The Folding Screen (Episodes 1-7)
The lead guitarist of rock band N.E.X.T, and regarded by the show's staff as one of the three best guitarists in Asia, Se Hwang made his exit relatively early in the show's formative phase.
Hwang Chi Yeul - Kang Ho Dong's Right-Hand Man (Episodes 1-6)
A singer, and popular variety show personality, Chi Yeul made his exit after just six episodes because of his participation in "I Am a Singer 4" in China. Needless to say, his performance in Knowing Bros won him the hearts of many, and he returned twice as a guest.
A show centered on comedy is only as good as its running jokes. This is important to keep long-time audiences hooked in, and provide newer viewers with an idea of what the show does really well. However, running gags seldom make it in the long run, falling victim to unnecessary repetition and over the top efforts to execute them. Thankfully, Knowing Bros hasn't fallen victim to this yet. The humour that resonates well with Korean society has successfully meshed with humour that panders well to international audiences too, and while there are some eyebrow-raising moments, they only help in further establishing the show's uniqueness. Some of the funniest running gags on the show are:
DFDB (Do you want to Fight? Do you want to Bleed?): Kang Ho Dong's magnum opus (according to himself.)
Seo Jang Hoon's Five Buildings: The truth stretched by a mile of course.
The Girl Inside: Kim Hee Chul's alternate persona, Kim Hee Mi.
Min Kyung Hoon is trashy: When your risqué comments land you in hot water.
Lee Sang Min's Debt: Title speaks for itself.
Divorce: The only thing that Seo Jang Hoon's wealth couldn't save him from.
TOP 10 EPISODES
A Knowing Bros article would be incomplete without an episode rank list (since ranks matter a lot to the Brothers.) Keeping in mind that there's room for debate, here it's a list of the top 10 most complete (in terms of hilarity, entertainment, and overall impact) episodes of Knowing Bros according to yours indeed. Let's speed through them, shall we?
#10. Episode 67: Henry Lau and Han Eun Jung
There's no better way to start this list than with the iconic episode that gave us the 'Knowing Bros' OST/ theme song. Singer-musician Henry Lau tries to showcase his charms as a ladies' man who turns out to be an epic fail. Actress Han Eun Jung is good at a few things, and hilariously bad at most, but her self-confidence is something to indeed envy.
#9. Episode 73: BtoB
Text translation: A somewhat weird kind of feeling.
You'd think voice impressions and character impersonations are all they're good at but have you seen Min Hyuk imitate a real-life scorpion? (It's hilariously good.) From the acrobatics of Old Boy and Ninja Assassin, to singing So Chan Whee's 'Tears' in the original female key, to pinching Kang Ho Dong's cheeks as an act of authority, to explaining why nicknames may or may not be affected by NSFW content, to sharp-shooting with a catapult, there's so much happening here, it's chaotic in a significant way!
#8. Episode 83: Jung Yong Hwa (CNBLUE) and Zico (Block B)
Lovably narcissistic Yong Hwa gets a run for his money when he becomes the subject of all the Brothers' jokes. Zico gets more than he bargained for when he loses his expensive, brand-name watch in a bet against Soo Geun. Some grotesque talents are revealed, and the Brothers and guests compete for the affection of Kim Hee Mi.
#7. Episode 85: EXO
A team effort towards entertainment is excellent to see, sure, but it is especially impressive if one person quite literally hard-carries the entire episode! The first of EXO's appearances on the show, this episode was crazy on many levels, all thanks to Byun Baek Hyun. Topics that are NSFW and not meant for television were hilariously and somewhat innocently discussed, and some fascinating and shocking secrets were revealed. This goes down as one of the more mature episodes of the show.
#6. Episode 50: SHINee
One of the most iconic episodes of the entire show! Whenever a male idol group makes an appearance on the show, they always have to give their 200% (hence the reason why these episodes are better) because the Brothers couldn't care less about them (their words, not mine.) In an episode where the Brothers were continually expressing their disappointment over having to celebrate their 50th episode with a male idol group, SHINee proved themselves, and their fiery spirit of course. When the Brothers resorted to full-fledged cheating in the games, all hell broke loose over the injustice, and it was amazing to watch!
#5. Episode 48: Davichi and Kang Ta (H.O.T.)
Hae Ri: I am a fan of God Yoo Jae Suk.
Ho Dong: *fuming*
So far we only had the Brothers make fun of the guests that appeared on the show, but this time they kick things up a notch! Davichi's 'Beside Me' falls victim to the Brothers' teasing, likening it to trot songs and even Buddhist hymns. Kang Ta is in a tough position due to him being an executive in Hee Chul's company, the girls fight back with Hae Ri roasting Ho Dong by picking Yoo Jae Suk over him and Min Kyung's excellent shooting skills and perfect aim, while Kyung Hoon is in a constant state of giggles because 'Davichi' is similar to the Korean phrase for 'see-through'.
#4. Episode 100: Super Junior
Lee Teuk: A boy group came on the show, and two of the members were your exes.
Hee Chul: *crying laughing emoji*
Text on screen: I'm doomed!
Super Junior and the Brothers are practically families since Hee Chul is the crux of both, so it was a no-brainer that this episode would make the list. Though less than half the members make an appearance (Hee Chul is also a guest for the day), they storm the place and claim it as their own! With his members here to expose his secrets and roast him at every turn, Hee Chul finally gets a taste of his own medicine, while Ye Sung forces Ho Dong to resign from the show.
#3. Episode 39: Kim Jin Kyung and Sung Hoon
Model turned actress Kim Jin Kyung, and actor Sung Hoon join hands to take on the Brothers in a respectfully savage way which is both ludicrous and hilarious. Sang Min gives survival advice for thrifty people, Sung Hoon shows what a swimming zombie looks like, Jin Kyung offers a (disastrous) crash course in modelling, and Kyung Hoon seductively poses with seaweed as the 'innocent' Little Mermaid who (according to him) knows everything. *insert Lenny's face*
#2. Episode 22: Jun Hyo Sung (Secret) and Park Kyung Ri (Nine Muses)
There were many contenders for this position, but this particular episode (with risqué talk galore) takes the cake because of how awesome the guests were. Jun Hyo Sung and Park Kyung Ri, are the two young ladies who stole the show and transfixed everyone with their personalities, talents and humour. The Brothers lost their glory when round after round the girls one-upped them with how bold and outgoing they were, and the final segment of The 3 No's which became a crazy makjang was the highlight of the episode.
Honorable Mentions: INFINITE (Episode 46), TWICE (Episode 27), Kim Hee Sun (Episode 66), Kim Ok Bin (Episode 79), B1A4 (Episode 93), Red Velvet (Episode 84), Sung Dong Il and Goo Hara (Episode 102), TVXQ (Episode 97), Song Ji Hyo and Lee El (Episode 120), Joon Park, Bam Bam, Lucas and Yuqi (Episode 141)
#1. Episode 18: Kang Kyun Sang (Noel) and Eun Ji Won (Sechskies)
Let's go way back to early 2016 when the show had only just started. It was gravely struggling to find its footing in the sea of numerous successful variety shows when along came this very episode. The episode that not only saved the show from the brink of cancellation but transformed it entirely from what it used to be, to what it is today. Before there was the Psycho Kim Hee Chul, there was Kang Psycho; a man who instilled legitimate fear into the hearts of the Brothers. No other episode of Knowing Bros has ever been and will ever be like this again.
It is still a mystery whether this was all an act on our guest Kang Kyun Sung's (check him out, he has a beautiful voice, an equally charming personality, and a similarly beautiful face) part or not. Evidence suggests that it wasn't since our other guest Eun Ji Won was equally flabbergasted as the Brothers. I won't go into details about the episode itself, but if you ever want to watch an episode of the show, watch the one that saved it! No other episode will ever top this one!