Interviews

Ronny Chieng, international man of comedy

By Anjali RaguramanEvents - 03 September 2014 3:11 PM | Updated 1:28 PM

Ronny Chieng, international man of comedy

Born in Johor Baru, schooled in Singapore, and now based in Melbourne, 28-year-old comedian Ronny Chieng is an international man.  

He dove straight into stand-up comedy five years ago and has not looked back since, becoming one of a handful of Asian comedians with their own Comedy Central specials in the US.

While he never fails to remind his audience how educated he is (he did a double degree in commerce and law at the University of Melbourne), his onstage arrogance is strangely a fresh break from comedians who ply their trade through self-depreciating comedy.  

These days, Chieng has scored gigs opening for legendary comedian Dave Chappelle and sells out arenas on his live shows.

Due to play in Singapore on his ‘Chieng Reaction’ tour on 17 September at the Drama Centre Theatre, the comedian tells inSing about growing up in the Lion City, plying the comedy circuit and his vendetta against Apple store employees.

Hi, Ronny, where are you?

Hey, I'm in Melbourne, Australia right now. Thanks for having me.

You went from studying commercial law to comedy. What was the tipping point? When did you know you wanted to do this for a living?

I didn't really "know". I started doing stand-up comedy in my final year of law school, and one gig led to another and I just kept going with it. So I didn't give up a legal job to do it. In effect, stand-up comedy was my first job.

Was it hard transitioning to this new career path in the beginning?

Like I said, not really, because I didn't "give anything up" to do comedy. It was my first job out of university. At the start, it's pretty tough, there's not much money in it and there's no guarantee of money ever getting better. But things kind of worked out for me.

What was it like writing your first full show? Are you used to it by now?

Writing material is always tough. That jump from being a 20-minute act to doing a full one-hour show can be daunting. It took me a while to get the hang of it and I'm still learning about it. I'm only five years into this, and this is only my third hour of comedy, but I think I have a method to it now, and I know what it takes to write a good hour of comedy.

In your material, you seem to avoid self-deprecating comedy, which is what most stand-up comedians reach for. Was that a conscious decision?

It was something that evolved over a couple of years of doing stand-up. I thought it would be funny having this justified arrogance on stage and I guess it worked.

Who are some of the comedy greats you look up to?

I could name names for days! The ones that spring to mind are Bill Burr, Louis CK, Todd Barry, Dave Chappelle, Tom Gleeson and Andy Kindler.

What was it like opening for and touring with Dave Chappelle during his Australia tour?

It was a dream come true. He's a very down-to-earth guy and very profound. I was very grateful for the opportunity, but I had to suppress the inner fan-boy in me because I needed to be a professional backstage and on stage. He was very kind and encouraging. And going out with him was very "A-list", people going nuts everywhere and every venue opening their doors for him immediately.

So what’s a “Chieng Reaction” like and what can we expect? Are you going to break down KanyeWest lyrics?

A "Chieng Reaction" is an over-reaction to minor annoyances that most people would let go. There might be some breaking down of Kanye West Lyrics.

Why do you have a vendetta against Apple store employees? What did they do to you?

Some of them are smug and condescending. Find out how in the show.

Your mum lives in Singapore now. Have you spent much time here?

Yeah, I lived in Singapore for almost a decade! I went to primary school all the way to junior college there.

Singapore and Malaysia have always had a healthy rivalry. As a Malaysian-Chinese comedian, can we expect any cheeky jibes at Singaporeans in your show?

Absolutely not. That's not my style.

You’ve done a lot of TV as well, ‘Legally Brown’, ‘It’s A Date’ etc. Which do you prefer? TV or live shows?

I like them both. Live performance is unpredictable whereas TV work can be more measured since you often get multiple takes at a scene. But they both feed into each other. Live work gets you TV work, and TV work helps get people to come watch you live.

So why should people pay good money to go watch you?

This is a multi-award winning stand-up comedy show in which I aggressively trash people under 25 and Apple Store employees, and I talk about the first time my parents watched me perform comedy live in Singapore. But if that doesn't sound like something you might like, that's okay, too.

'Ronny Chieng - Chieng Reaction'| Date: 17 September 2014 | Time: 7pm | Venue: Drame Centre Theatre, National Library, 100 Victoria Street | Tickets at $40, $35, $30 via Sistic.com (excludes booking fee)

Viewers in Singapore may catch 'Ronny Chieng: The Ron Way' TV special exclusively on Comedy Central Asia on SingTel mioTV channel 324 (HD) on these dates and times:

8 September: 7.30pm
9 September: 12.30am
20 September: 8pm
21 September: 2pm

Ronny Chieng - Chieng Reaction

Ronny Chieng - Chieng Reaction

Date Sep 17, 2014

VenueDrama Centre

Ticket PriceS$30.00 - S$40.00
 (excludes booking fee)