Chiu Chi Ling as Michael Fong

I’d seen Grandmaster Chiu Chi Ling in Steven Chow’s masterpiece “Kung Fu Hustle.” Chiu was hilarious as The Tailor, who doesn’t seem like much of a warrior until he flies the brass rings from his clothes-rack onto his muscular forearms.

But I had no idea how to find him, or if he spoke any English, until I discovered he was teaching Hung Gar Kung Fu in Northern California. He sent me a very formal audition tape, in which it seemed like he had no idea I was actually making a comedy about air-drumming, so I went up to visit with him and clarify. He made me tea at his home, and we did our best to communicate. When I finally tried to ask if he knew this was a comedy about air-drumming, and not a serious kung fu film, he stood up and air-drummed for me, laughing.

He is a warm, loving, lovable guy, and I loved getting him to beat up Tim & Eric with an apron as a bonus scene. A few years after making the movie, he even did an improvised air-drum-kung-fu dance performance with me to Steely Dan’s “Aja,” with drumming by the invincible Steve Gadd.

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