Tristan Swanwick | 23 February 2015

2014 was a massive year for Ronny Chieng. The Malaysian-born Chinese comedian blitzed the national stand-up circuit, winning the Directors’ Choice Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Best Show at the Sydney Comedy Festival. He was nominated as Best Comedy Performer at the Helpmann Awards and released his debut live comedy album The Ron Way, which received an ARIA Award nomination for Best Comedy Release. The Melbourne-based comic also opened for international comedy greats Dave Chapelle, Bob Saget and Mike Epps. Last year also saw Ronny co-host the Triple J national drive show over the summer break.

He’s a familiar face on national television featuring on shows such as Legally Brown, Have You Been Paying Attention, Dirty Laundry, Agony of Modern Manners and It’s a Date. Ronny was even nominated in the top 30 for Cleo Magazine’s Bachelor of the Year Award. Not bad for a guy who only made his debut four years ago. MyCityLife sits down with Ronny Chieng, who returns to the 2015 Brisbane Comedy Festival with brand new show You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About.

What have you been up to recently?
I’m in LA right now to get some meetings and figure out this place. In the US at the moment it’s pilot season - when potential new TV shows are cast and produced - so I’ve come over to participate in that crazy thing and also do some stand-up. I don’t have the skill set for serious acting so I’m just looking for comedic work.

Last year you opened for some of comedy’s biggest international names including Dave Chapelle, Bog Saget and Mike Epps. What did you learn from them?
They were all really cool. I learned a lot, especially from how they conducted themselves. The one draw besides the fact that they’re very funny is they’re very down to earth people, very encouraging and friendly. Even at that level they’re not only normal human beings but also encouraging people and really positive. I think there’s something to that.

You’re headed to Queensland for the Brisbane Comedy Festival 2015. What will your show be about?
I just try to do stand up rather than a themed show so it’s really hard to pick what the show’s about overall but a lot of my comedy comes from conflict. There are a lot of stories about fighting on the internet, the occasional twitter battle as well as my battles with YouTube comments and what people post on Facebook.

Do you find yourself copping a lot of criticism via social media? Do you enjoy using it?
I get some people criticising me but I think I get more who either like me or just don’t care. The people who critique me are the vocal minority. I’ve got this weird thing with social media because I consider myself pretty tech savvy. I accept all the criticisms of social media but I also get the benefits of it. So I’m somewhere in between with social media: I don’t get lost in it but I don’t avoid it either.

In this day and age of of broadcasted comedy shows and YouTube, do you find it hard to keep your material fresh?
I was really paranoid about that at first but I’ve found it’s not too bad. It’s a bit of a weird blessing in disguise because it gets your best stuff out there so people know about you but at the same time it forces you to write more good stuff. You can’t live on the same ten minutes for eight years, you’ve got to keep pushing.

You’ve studied commerce and law at Melbourne University, so how did you end up in comedy?
My last year at Uni in 2009, I just thought I could do it so I gave it a try. I was at my university campus comedy competition and I won it and just kept doing it. I really like making a group of people laugh. Doing comedy is almost like a drug: it’s addictive and very hard to stop.

What are your thoughts on the Brisbane Comedy Festival?
It’s genuinely cool. The shows are curated so you know what’s on is going to be good and everyone in Brisbane comes out to support it. It’s all in one place so it’s easy to get around and see other people’s shows. I’m looking forward to seeing Matt Okine’s show, I think he’ll be great and I always love Tom Gleeson and Will Anderson. I also really want to see Damien Power and Nick Cody.

Ronny Chieng performs at the Brisbane Comedy Festival 
7pm Saturday March 14 and 7.30pm Sunday March 15
Brisbane Powerhouse, 119 Lamington Street, New Farm

Photo Credit: Kristian Dowling

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