Fringe comedy debut: Ronny Chieng

  • The List
  • 20 August 2013

This article is from 2013

Fringe comedy debut: Ronny Chieng

The comedian appears for the first time at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013

What do you think might work out as the best piece of advice you receive ahead of your Fringe debut?
‘Adapt to Edinburgh's weather by bringing outerwear that repels water but is easy to take off, and is warm, but not too warm.’ After considering my options, I think the only article of clothing that fulfils all those requirements is a Native American poncho. I'm sure that will fit right in in Edinburgh. Oh and I was also told to ‘have fun and remember to eat fibre’.

What do you expect will be the least useful piece of advice?
Someone recommended to me the best haggis place in town, which to me is like recommending the best body piercing place in town. I get that some people like it, but it's just not my thing. I was also told to try not to bring any Scottish pounds back to England with me because some shops in England might refuse to accept it. Are you serious? Can't you guys just get along? Braveheart was a long time ago. Last time I checked, this was the UNITED Kingdom. I don't know what beef you both have, but I don't want any part of it. I'm just trying to get my groceries.

Imagine this is September: looking back at August, what would constitute a successful Fringe?
A successful Fringe for me would be if people showed up and enjoyed themselves at each of my shows. And if I somehow manage to keep my figure and not become morbidly obese from one month of the ‘Festival Food Diet’ of crêpes, fries and more crêpes.

Back in the old days, there used to be a thing called ‘the festival shag’. Is this ancient tradition likely to play any part in your thinking during August?
‘Back in the old days’? Dude, have you been to this festival lately? It's like the Olympic athletes village just after the closing ceremony. I know several people who are planning on conceiving during this festival. And by several people, I mean me.

Back in the old days, comedians would drink alcohol solidly for a whole month and still manage to get out and do their show every day: how much are you likely to imbibe per day?
My body lacks the enzyme to process alcohol efficiently and so alcohol effects me very quickly. It would probably make my onstage performance a lot sweatier, louder, and redder in the face. For that reason I don't really drink much. Don't get me wrong, I can enjoy one drink as much as anybody else. I just don't understand why some people can boast about drinking. Alcohol is a drug, just like any other, albeit probably better tasting than heroin. But you don't see people bragging about how much crack they can smoke. Why are people able to take pride in how much alcohol they can drink without dying from it?

What qualities do you expect from a Fringe venue?
From the stories I heard, I expected most Fringe venues to be stuffy, moist and have some BO mixed with the occasional whiff of desperation embedded in the walls, with someone trying to flyer any appendage they can shove paper into. Luckily for me I am in a great venue, the Underbelly, with grey stone walls and theatre seats and stage lighting. And I had the place scrubbed clean of BO and desperation. All that remains is the smell of laughing.

Will you read your reviews before your run is over and if so, how do you think they will affect you as a comedian and as a human being?
I will refuse to read any of my reviews, and after I read them, they will absolutely dictate my self-worth as a comedian and a sentient human being. Depending on the review, I might immediately start researching prestigious post-graduate MBA programmes to enrol in.

Next year, will you consider returning as a double act?
Not unless I manage to form a comedic miming duo that combines elements of jazz, techno and interpretive dance.

If you are in a double act, will you consider returning solo next year?
I don't understand where you are going with the last two questions here. It feels like you are trying to perform inception by introducing reasonable doubt in the minds of comedians regarding their own act.

Do you undertake any superstitious rituals before going on stage?
I need to shower and go straight to the show to perform; to wash off the desperation before I hit the stage. Also I have to use the internet before I go on to make sure I know the latest cat photo and tweet, just in case it comes up during the show.

If you were about to perform at the Fringe for your tenth year, where would you expect your career to be at that point?
Tenth year? Wow. I would be stoked to have been able to visit the United Kingdom and perform at the biggest arts festival in the world ten times in a row! For the tenth time, just to mark the occasion, I'd like to be big enough to perform the show at Edinburgh Castle to the entire city. We could set the stage up on the battlements facing the town centre and I would get the Tattoo to open for me.

Underbelly, Cowgate, 0844 545 8252, 3–25 Aug (not 13), 7.50pm, £10–£12 (£9–£11). Previews 1 & 2 Aug, £6.

Ronny Chieng @ Cracker Night 2013

Ronny Chieng: The Ron Way

  • 2 stars

Soho Theatre & Century Entertainment. Winner Best Newcomer, Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2012. Ronny doesn't want to be liked. His bold matter-of-fact stance is a breath of fresh air among comics who just want you to love them. But he'll get you on side with his hilarious determination to show he has the…