Ronny Chieng

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You’re just wrapping up your Melbourne International Comedy show ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About’. How’s it been going Ronny?
Going well man, I’m happy with the show I’ve been doing and people have been showing up. At the end of the day, that’s really the two things you want to have.

You’ve played at both the Forum Theatre and the Melbourne Town Hall, do you prefer playing to larger crowds?

Yeah, it’s great, larger crowds are good. You get more energy in the room if you’re doing well but it’s definitely a different vibe.

Ronny Chieng
Photo: Jim Lee
You’ve opened for the likes of Bill Burr, Dave Chappelle, Mike Epps and Bob Saget on their national Australian tours. What was it like jumping on stage before those large American acts?
I think I spent the most time with Bill Burr and Dave Chappelle. It’s fine because I always feel like in that situation; the audience is waiting for the main act so when I go on they’re not interested in me. I just have to go up as quickly as I can but really that’s just in my own head. In reality, they don’t really mind as long as you’re doing well and you don’t take up too much time.
How does it feel? I get really nervous obviously because not only am I performing for the audience, I’m also performing for guys who are my comedy idols. After the first two jokes, you find your flow and then I just try to get off as quick as possible. I told Bill Burr that and he goes “you’re being crazy, you do your show, if you do well it’s a bonus but seriously, no one’s complaining”. Even with Dave Chapelle I always thought when I was performing for him the audience would be a little hostile because they’d be like “where’s Dave Chappelle?” But that’s not the case, they understand you’re warming up for them.
What got you to jump on stage at your first gig six years ago? And were you expecting to succeed this quickly?
I jumped on because I felt I could do it. It was just something I wanted to try, it’s more like I was trying to confirm my suspicion. It felt like it was something I could do so I jumped on and did it. I’ve had a pretty good run the past six years, and I never expected that. I wouldn’t have kept doing it if I wasn’t any good but I never would have thought I’d be playing 1500 seats, 5 nights in a row, in Melbourne. Getting to meet Bill Burr and Dave Chapelle and having them say my comedy’s good. It blows my mind.

Ronny Chieng
Photo: Jim Lee
If you could open for anyone in the world, whether that be a singer, band, comedian, artist, etc. Who would it be?
That’s a weird question, I don’t think of who I can open for next. It’s a real honour when people ask me to open for them. In the case of Bill Burr it wasn’t like our managers hooked up the gig, he messaged me directly and that was a huge honour. I’d love to meet guys like Chris Rock and Louis CK, but there’s guys I’d love to meet anyway who are lower profile but have being doing it for decades. To answer your question, I’d love to meet and work with anyone who I respect and anyone I think is very talented. I just love good standup.
Ronny, you’ve sold out solo shows in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as toured Asia and India, how do you think your style of comedy translates to international crowds?
It translates okay. I went to Signapore and Malaysia last year to do my one hour show. I went there with very Australian influenced (not from a local reference point of view, but stylistically) comedy. The style of comedy Singapore and Asia used to is slightly different. They’re still in the standup infancy, they’re very Russell Peters heavy, very racial, very slapstick and that’s fine, comedy evolves like that. It was like that in the US and the UK in the 70s & 80s. When I went there, I wanted to do my own show and I was willing to sink or swim on that and it went well. I didn’t really adapt to what people think Asian comedy is like. Maybe people don’t know what Asia wants, standup is very new to Asia and people are trying to work out what style of English standup comedy works there.
To answer the question, it seemed to work. I’m at a point now, where I know what style of comedy I want to do and I’m happy to do that in Asia and have it find my audience. I managed to sell out a theatre, which I’m not saying is a massive deal but it’s definitely a positive sign. I think it resonates a bit, I’m not doing anything that’s super ridiculous or boring. So I think it goes down well.

Ronny Chieng
Photo: Jim Lee
Here’s a strange one, what does your pre-show warm up routine consist of?
I get a little nervous and drink a lot of water. I pace around and use the internet to calm down. But when you’re doing it 24 times in a row, it get’s a little less nerve racking but nothing excited.
Following up on that, I’m sure you’ve heard of the celebrities who ask for things like an assistant to dispose of their gum, what would you’re wackiest demand be?
I’d heard of a band that asked for only blue M&Ms. It sounds kind of wanky but the reasoning behind it was to find out how much the venue cared. If they went to a venue and the people there had done that they wouldn’t have to worry about the sound technician, but if they went there and there was no blue M&Ms, they’d need to really make sure their sound was okay because it shows the amount of care the venue puts in. I’d never do it but it’s just interesting to see how you’re valued by the venue. For me, I always request the WiFi password.

Let’s have a bit of a speed round, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney or Perth Comedy Festival?
I think it’s fair to say Melbourne takes the cake, I live in Melbourne so I can go home everyday which is awesome.
Being blind or deaf?
Deaf. I’d rather neither but if you make me choose, I’d rather be able to see.
Venus Flytrap or a Cactus?
Cactus, I had a venus flytrap but it died really easily.
If the world was ending, would you prefer it be by Zombies or Aliens?
Oh shit. Aliens.
Lastly. Everyone’s always curious, what’s next for you?
Well I’ve got this national tour, I’ve got to finish up Perth and Sydney. I’m also going to New Zealand comedy festival, I’m doing Singapore and Kuala Lumpa, then after that I’m going to Montreal comedy festival, which is cool to be invited. After that I’m doing Edinburgh fringe festival.
Thanks heaps for your time Ronny.
No worries! Thank you.
※ Liam Barr

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