Words by Kevin Hawkins
If there’s one thing to take away from Ronny Chieng’s show Chieng Reaction, it’s that the University of Melbourne is the fifth best law school in the world. Throughout his set, Chieng feels no hesitation in labouring this point, eager to remind the audience of his academic credentials.
Chieng’s unashamed arrogance is part of his comic appeal. He presents himself as far smarter than the average person, and sets out to belittle those who can’t match his wisdom. That said, you don’t need to be a genius to enjoy Chieng’s material. His rants about Asian parents, feminism going too far, public transport etiquette, and poor customer service manage to tap into universal attitudes and everyday situations. The only people who might feel a little peeved by Chieng’s offensive are under 25s, a demographic Chieng dismisses for knowing nothing.
Inevitably, some won’t be able to stand Chieng’s self-righteous demeanour, or his overtly blunt delivery. He even acknowledges this himself by drawing an imaginary bell curve for his crowd (which incidentally draws more attention to his learned nature). But Chieng’s show is hardly about pleasing everybody; indeed, Chieng clearly derives personal pleasure from gloating and complaining in front of a large crowd, and that alone is enjoyable to watch.
Ronny Chieng’s Chieng Reaction is on at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at the Hifi Bar until 20 April.