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Maybe it’s his law school training, but relative newcomer Ronny Chieng is already a consummate professional. The 27-year-old comic is blunt, full of bravado and not aiming to be liked; he’s got a job to do, and he’s putting forward a strong case.
Born in Malaysia, based in Australia and raised in Singapore via the US, Chieng has a blurred sense of national identity. ‘I belong nowhere,’ he says, explaining that Westerners just see his Chinese roots, and back home he’s considered ‘the whitest guy in Malaysia’. But Chieng feels passionately about his heritage and aims to change the opinion that Chinese people aren’t cool.
‘Cool’ isn’t exactly how you’d describe Chieng; he’s a permanently pissed-off germaphobe. But he smartly attacks Chinese stereotypes while mockingly reinforcing them, and just when you think he’s slipping into cliché, he’ll flip the joke on its head and find a fresh, sharp punchline.
Not that race is the only subject Chieng’s an expert on. He’s a master BitTorrent user, a penis-hygiene specialist and regular IT support for his mum. We’ve all heard young comics mock their parents’ inability to grasp technology, but Chieng’s extended routine about providing tech help over the phone wins through his outward frustration.
It’s this honest indifference to being liked that makes Chieng stand out. Refreshingly, he’s neither charmless nor charming. All that matters is there’s sharp comedic mind at work here – why should we need anything more?
See 'Ronny Chieng – The Ron Way' at the Edinburgh Fringe