“My goal tonight is to beat you up” or “I hope you stay quiet” are statements the guests of Meenoi’s Yorizori can usually expect to hear on the show. And yet, every time, the 25-year-old Meenoi manages to win the hearts of her viewers and guests with this bizarre approach to hosting the show. Delivering funny, honest and at points chaotic content, Yorizori elevates the viewing experience while making a significantly fresh contribution to Korean TV. Ever since the groundbreaking success of Showinterview with Jessi, more shows feel inclined to try a new, less restrictive format. After years of similar, heavily directed programmes which showed the guests doing the most extreme gags for the laughs of the public, a new, more authentic and raw approach is slowly gaining popularity. This still young revolution is led by a variety of artists, from Jessi to Super Junior’s Kyuhyun. Recently, some new faces have joined the frontlines, with singer Meenoi making one of the most notable contributions in the past year. Her “cooking” show, Meenoi’s Yorizori, premiered only last year, but is already on its third season, attracting unexpected levels of attention and acclaim right from episode one. This success is seen as unexpected by the host herself, as she often jokes that the show’s unusual format and sense of humour make for an unlikely hit. Despite the joking pessimism of the host and the guests, Yorizori became a wildly popular feel-good series, delivering fresh and immaculate content about fan favourites.

The particular format of the show is vaguely explained in its name. “Yori” comes from the Korean verb for “cooking” while “zori” means “this and that”. The goal of the show is for Meenoi to cook for the guests in the “yori time” section, before moving on to “zori time” – a (supposed) in-depth interview. However, it’s not as simple as it seems. The sections often end up not going according to the plan, depending on the guests’ behaviour and personality. Sometimes, Meenoi’s cooking is interrupted by the guests’ unsolicited advice (e.g. Giriboy‘s excessive critique of her cooking skills), sometimes the “deeper” interview ends up being a cussing class taught by Meenoi, like in the first episode featuring Loco. Additionally, the host spares no effort on nagging the guests or having friendly arguments about irrelevant topics, just as she would do with her closest friends. The show’s format goes well with the relaxed style of directing. Most of the time, the prompt for the guests says “Talk like friends”, leaving the rest up for their interpretation. This way of producing the show allows for entertaining and easily digestible promotion of the artists’ work, without compromising the natural flow of conversation.

The results are magnificently goofy, with conversations ranging from absurdly awkward (the episode hosting Chang Kiha is filled mostly with scoffing and long silences) to straight-up adorable (the silly dancing in the newest episode with Loco and Hwasa). No matter what the personality of the guests, Meenoi manages to put them at ease and showcase their best side, often hidden from the view of the public. She adjusts the vibe to the person, to be intense, brash, or delicate, but never boring. The varying nature of each interview makes the episodes feel organic as if they were real conversations between friends. No matter how weird the show gets, after watching each episode, the viewers are left with an uplifted mood and a warm feeling of belonging. They can feel like a part of the friend group as if they’ve just finished hanging out with their favourite artists. This comes from the guest-friendly format as well as Meenoi’s magnetic personality and skill as a host. Meenoi’s Yorizori sets a high standard for not only the viewer’s enjoyment but also for the guests’ own amusement. With her unique, unscripted way of running the show, Meenoi invites the viewer to spend some quality time with her and her guests, as if they were friends, creating a rare feeling of connectedness.

Thanks to this, the show has countless iconic moments. The celebrities are allowed to tell stories they’ve never told before, as they were probably deemed not exciting enough for a fast-paced variety show. The often underwhelming stories (including Giriboy’s long tale about eating fried chicken a bit faster than usual) are often told just to be told or only found funny by the guests themselves. However, those are the key elements contributing to the impression of Yorizori being just a sleepover with friends, rather than an interview with famous celebrities. This fresh look at the celebs is quite a satisfying experience for the fans.

At the same time, the show is engaging, even the episodes with people who the viewer knows nothing about are fun to watch. At the beginning of the show, the guests were mostly hip-hop artists which Meenoi knew through her career in music, but the fan base immediately expanded beyond just K Hip-Hop. Engaging with the audience is all about creating the feeling of familiarity and friendship and Yorizori achieves that with simple effort, choosing authenticity over big production.

The viewers are not the only ones benefitting from Yorizori’s unique format. The guests showed their appreciation of the more “comfortable” interview time and time again on the show. Especially the idols often feel touched by Meenoi’s honesty and the safe space she creates for her guests.
A very touching episode is the one with Soyeon from (G)I-dle, who is a full-scale idol, used to fast-paced interviews in which she always feels the need to act appropriately and not show too much of her introverted, off-beat personality. Throughout the episode, the viewers can clearly see the range of emotions going through the rapper’s face, from initial surprise to being touched by how personal and loving the interview has become. It is true that the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, but in the case of Meenoi’s Yorizori it’s also through brash jokes and occasional yelling.

There is rarely an episode which happens without Meenoi saying “I’m getting angry” at least once. Still, the guests seem to love the experience. “I’m not lying, but I’ve never been myself this much on a show” – says Soyeon, while seating comfortably at Meenoi’s kitchen table. Over a bowl of Shrimp Gambas, the rapper discusses how her low-key personality is often misread as cold and “soulless”, however on Meenoi’s Yorizori she is not afraid of that kind of judgement. The viewers, in turn, get to experience their favourite celebrities in a way they’ve never had before.

As the show is hosted on Youtube, there is more freedom in employing off-beat formats and causal scenes, compared to programmes broadcasted on more restrictive, major TV networks. Besides that, the unusual format does not come as a shock to viewers, who already associate the platform with more casual content. However, it is important to point out that Meenoi’s sharp personality and her skill as a host are mostly what make the show’s unusual format work so well. Even though she admits to putting on a character for the show, it feels more like the show is hosted by Meenoi’s cheeky alter ego, still connected to her original personality. This snappy version of Meenoi is the opposite of high energy and never seems too bent on setting the tone of the conversation, allowing the guests to lead the way. She accepts the interviewees just as they are and is not afraid to tell them when she’s not. However, even when she’s annoyed at them the goal is not to change their behaviour. Meenoi’s philosophy goes more in the line of “well if this is how you are I guess we’ll just have to go with it”. This attitude towards her guests is the secret to her success in putting them at ease. No matter the guest’s age, personality or profession, she is able to become friends with them in a span of a second. This chameleon-like ability to adapt to the guests, while staying herself is truly marvellous. After taking into account that she has never hosted a show before and her main career is in music, her skills become even more impressive.

Meenoi’s Yorizori offers a lot to the Korean entertainment industry. By putting the guests at ease, Meenoi allows them to enjoy themselves while creating highly engaging content for the fans. By adapting the element of relaxed camaraderie, even big variety shows could allow the guests to be more carefree during the interviews, encouraging them to showcase their unique personalities. What is more, this format does not compromise the commercial aspect of such interviews. The artists can still talk at length about their projects and take part in product placement, showing that elements of this format could be easily adapted by bigger shows, without compromising their commercial objectives but making the experience more enjoyable for the guests. The praise of Meenoi’s Yorizori can be heard equally from the viewers and the guests, proving the efficiency of this show as an entertainment medium. Meenoi’s Yorizori provides the entertainment industry with a recipe for an engaging and interesting show, which is enjoyable for everyone involved.

(Sources: MyDramaList, Youtube [1] Images courtesy of 8BallTown, AOMG)