Johor guy Ronny Chieng's a riot, makes it to ‘The Daily Show’

It's a dream come true for Ronny Chieng, making his appearance in Comedy Central's The Daily Show. — Malay Mail pic
It's a dream come true for Ronny Chieng, making his appearance in Comedy Central's The Daily Show. — Malay Mail pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — Amid the political quagmire and profuse debate of this year’s presidential election race in the United States, Johor-born comedian Ronny Chieng is stepping up to save the day for voters.

A correspondent for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Chieng appeared in a five-minute skit discussing America’s imperfect voting machines with election officials.

Crushed by the faulty, out-dated process in the “world’s greatest democracy,” Chieng pitches his lucrative money-making app only to told “We’re not in the business of making money off voters.”

The award-winning comic’s solution didn’t tick the box on this occasion although his stand-up is something US audiences are taking to.

“I hope it’s easy for a US audience to embrace my routine,” said the 30-year-old who considers himself a product of international comedy.

“What I hope I offer as a comedian is an Asian from Asia and coming across authentic in that way.”

Born in Johor Baru in 1985, Chieng spent most of his childhood in Singapore after moving there at age eight.

In 2004 he ventured to Australia, graduating five years later from the University of Melbourne with a double degree in law and commerce.

Having triumphed in the annual comedy campus competition during his final year, Chieng’s career path would see him crack the whip on festival stages around the world as opposed to courthouses.

His irate persona about life’s protuberances, such as trying to resolve your mother’s computer troubles over telephone, saw him awarded best newcomer at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2012.

Four global sell-out tours later, Chieng secured a role on The Daily Show last September.

“(It’s) a huge accomplishment,” he reflects, in a promising spot that has paved the way for Stephen Colbert and John Oliver within the past decade.

“Living in New York is a dream come true, there’s a great comedy scene here in Manhattan. Being part of the show is a huge achievement.”

Chieng enjoys returning to Malaysia, most recently presenting his last tour You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About at PJ Live Arts last June on the back of Chieng Reaction in 2014.

Between visiting his parents, he catches up with local stand-ups on the circuit.

“From what I see there’s a great comedy scene in Malaysia and Singapore. I was lucky to begin my comedy career in Australia but I think a lot of the guys on the Malaysian circuit are happy where they are.”

Chieng could only oblige when proposed to tackle US politics for his latest television appearance.

“The US politics is a constant source of entertainment. I mean, Donald Trump can say anything he wants and surprisingly more and more people keep voting for him.”

He recalled George Bush’s run for the presidency in 1992, whose campaign suffered at the hands of Republican running mate Dan Quayle who infamously misspelt the word “potatoe.”

“It’s great to tune into the election race with others over here. It’s not like Americans will be tuning into Malaysian politics.”

Quizzed about “the real Ronny Chieng,” the funny man agreed his on stage tirades were fuelled by off stage occurrences despite trying to uphold a positive outlook on life.

“It’s somewhere in between. I mean, I do try my best in social situations so obviously when I feel like the other person is giving up that’s when I give up too. That’s what you see on stage.

“I can’t hide — there’s a lot of truth and realism with my act.”

In conversation Chieng is naturally humorous, speaking in a dry, to the point manner. He’s baffled when I ask for his best joke, saying he was hoping people would be able to watch his YouTube channel and tell him.

As for his biggest life lesson learnt during his seven-year excursion into comedy?

“There’s no substitute for experience.”

Comedy Central is on Channel 609 on Hypp TV. The 100th episode of the show was aired on May 3, 2016 at 12.20am. 

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