I saw three comedians of Asian ethnicity at Just For Laughs and Zoofest in Montreal. The festival always has great shows to offer but this year’s lineup seemed particularly impressive overall. Here are my reviews of the solo shows of Ronny Chieng, Steve Byrne and Margaret Cho.
Ronny Chieng was born in Malaysia, grew up in the US and currently resides in Australia. I saw him at the Ethnic Show and also at his solo show. His solo show is definitely worth attending. His comedy is pretty general with only some Asian related jokes. His style of comedy is to rant a lot and loudly. He’s very animated and gets worked up really quickly as he points out the absurdities in life. A fair bit of his set was related to internet and technology jokes like what annoying people post on facebook and the android vs apple debate. He also goes on to suggest an alternative to Valentine’s Day and how paranoid he is about leaving the iron on when he’s out of the house. Asian related jokes included his dread when he has to wait at customs behind an Asian family and what do his parents think about his job. The smallish venue at Yuk Yuk’s was fairly full except for the front row and he really killed it and could’ve gone overtime if they let him.
Steve Byrne is a half Korean, American born comedian. I thought his show was okay but granted he was trying out new material and part of it was due to me not getting some of his jokes or references. The show was also at Yuk Yuk’s and was maybe about half to 3/4 full. I was a bit surprised because I thought Byrne would’ve attracted more people. His jokes range from his friends and their fratboy/dudebro hyper sexual text messages that are sent to him in jest to family life as a 40 year old who has a daughter with a son on the way. One particularly funny part was when he describes the way in which he reacted to his wife’s shorts while folding the laundry. Other than introducing himself as the Asian looking Kevin Spacey, he does not do any Asian related jokes. Although he does make a request that trend setting fat, white girls start f*cking Asian guys.
Margaret Cho is a Korean American comedian and needs no introduction. I capped off the week to watch her new show, “There’s No I in Team but there’s a Cho in Psycho” which is so funny it guarantees the show will be great. Granted I was never very familiar with her comedy but I knew she was a pioneer and long time veteran known for not shying away from controversy. This show was worth the $50 or so and that is not something you will hear me say about many things that cost that much money. She started the show off by talking about the TV show Fresh Off the Boat (the second all Asian American sitcom) and made a joke about her own doomed TV show (the first Asian American sitcom from 20+ years ago). She effortlessly covered racism, bisexuality, sex, police shootings, dicks, vaginas, Jian Ghomeshi with both astute observations and biting punchlines. Her set just flowed so well, I don’t recall any significant pauses as she segued from topic to topic. I definitely recommend her show and she was definitely a hit at the Olympia theatre, which was pretty much fully packed from what I could see. The Olympia is not a small place at all and is proof of Cho’s popularity.
If you’re wondering how long Cho has been in the comedy game, check out this Just For Laughs clip of Cho from 1995!