Observing the audience of You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About, it’s clear that Ronny Chieng has a universal appeal. His audience is wonderfully diverse, with all ages, races and genders present. It broadly speaks to Ronny’s appeal – he’s amazingly polished, versatile and confident, and the audience feels safe and secure knowing that he’s got his performance on lock. There is a large amount of appeal in this, if you’re looking for a single comedy show to go along and have a laugh at, this show won’t disappoint.
But as I write this I am reminded of a criticism that gets levelled at Chieng with some regularity. Watching him perform is like driving a brand new BMW, comfortable, pleasurable, but maybe not as exciting as that old Toyota MR2. I sat in his show, chuckling away, thinking at some point I’m going to have to find something to dislike to justify why I’m going to be critical of this performance. And maybe that’s the problem, Chieng brings a lot to like, but not a lot to love. He’ll entertain, but he won’t astound. He tackles topics of Facebook, dating and ironing intelligently, but really only scratches the surface of these relatively banal, well-trodden topics.
At one point, Chieng threatens to do some crowd work if people move around during the show – this makes the audience noticeably uncomfortable.
Chieng strikes me as a high achieving lawyer who has turned his hand to comedy, and done it very well. That sounds like a compliment but there is also a gentle jibe, namely that the set lacks a certain originality and personality; Chieng has substantial room to find his voice and refine his material. Really, all I can say is that he’s not as daring as he could be, hopefully he will continue to develop as a comedian and tackle more complex topics with the skill and wit that he demonstrates today. This show is thoroughly good, if not great, but you will enjoy yourself and maybe that’s all that matters.
Ronny Chieng’s You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About is at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival until the 19th April (extra shows on 18th and 19th April), at Melbourne Town Hall. Get your tickets online or at the door.