If we cast our minds back only a few decades. comedy on our television screens was largely comprised of white Australian, English or American actors.
Thankfully, the face of Australian comedy has changed for the better, now reflecting our multicultural society. Much of this change is due to a wave of brilliant stand-up comedians such as Anh Do, Lawrence Leung and Jennifer Wong, whose quick-witted comedy has made it from the stage to the screen.
The latest addition to this very welcome comedy wave is Ronny Chieng, currently starring in an ABC series he has co-written with Declan Fay called Ronny Chieng: International Student.
A series about a Malaysian student who comes to Australia to study law is intriguing because it’s both fact and fiction—Ronny Chieng, comic character, is actually Ronny Chieng in real life.
While it does have lots of coarse language, this is a very funny show, full of sharp observations about Caucasian and Asian students alike.
This is not a series where everyone keeps to their own ethnic groups. In the episode with the annual battle of the medical school footy team versus the law school team, there is no such thing as Aussie or Asian—the ‘them and us’ factor is the baby legal eagles versus the would-be medicos.
There are some wonderful comic lines, especially when Ronny’s Caucasian female friend Asher is explaining a mystifying game of Australian Rules to him.
When she tells him that if you kick the ball between the big sticks you get six points, but if you kick it between the small sticks you get one, a perplexed Ronny shoots back, “So you get rewarded for missing?” Cue a genuine chuckle from this viewer.
More humour comes from the opposing coaches, once married now bitterly separated.
When the law football coach Professor Dale spots the foot-knee-ball coordination the Asian students have due to a popular Asian juggling game with feathers, he demands that they join his team. When they demur due to the pressure of group assignments, he immediately (and unethically, but hey, this is comedy!) guarantees them a pass in the group assignment if they join the footy team.
And when the med team looks like losing, coach Joy-Anne threatens to give them student-on-student catheter practice for the next week.
The strength of this comedy is that it reminds us we are all the same when it comes to being human and ridiculous.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus“ (Galatians verse 3 chapter 28).
Watching Ronny Chieng: International Student, I was reminded of this apt wisdom.