Michael Hing is a pretty funny guy, even on preview nights of his 2016 Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, The Unbearable Whiteness of Being. I say “even” because every so often, he’ll finish a bit and then add, with a hint of apology: “It’s previews, okay guys?!” It’s endearing – but it’s easy to see it becoming a little annoying if he keeps qualifying his jokes; after all, all his material plays well with the audience, so there’s no real need to be on the defensive.
The Unbearable Whiteness of Being inevitably addresses race, and Hing sticks to personal stories over anything too political: anecdotes about being of Chinese heritage while in the Welsh mountains, his stint as a Cleo Bachelor of the Year contender, and – the killer closing bit – what to do when a little girl on a train is being racist to you.
It’s all great material, and Hing is likeable, charming and fun, genuinely drawing the audience into his stories. It is a preview (as we’re reminded), so while the stories and jokes are all there, and all funny, there isn’t really a central thesis or point he’s trying to make. Of course, comedy shows don’t have to have a moral to them, and neither are they required to hold onto some kind of central argument, but there are so many comics that tackle similar themes in such well drawn, fluid shows, it’s hard not to expect that of Hing’s show too.
These are completely artificial standards I’m imposing onto Hing’s show: plenty of comics don’t have any kind of real point to their stand-up shows, and Hing doesn’t need to have some kind of nuanced point to make about race in Australia, but a show called The Unbearable Whiteness of Being kind of asks to be critiqued in that context. That critique aside, The Unbearable Whiteness of Being is great. Hing may not be as polished as some of his colleagues in MICF 2016, but hey, I just saw the show at previews.
Michael Hing performs Tuesday to Sunday until 17 April. For more information, or tickets to The Unbearable Whiteness of Being, head to the MICF website.