Ken Cheng: The Man Behind Mark Liu
FELIX NUGEE uncovers the man behind the Mark.
You may not have heard of Ken Cheng but I’m sure a lot of you will have heard of Mark Liu. After watching an Imperial Student who claimed to be nervous a couple of weeks before he started University, Ken decided to make a spoof along similar lines about coming up to study Maths at Cambridge.
This quickly went viral and, much to his surprise, many people didn’t quite seem to grasp the fact that it was a joke: “I was surprised by how many people actually believed it, because I made the whole thing quite ridiculous.”
With 25,000 views on his most popular video, Ken did enjoy some short lived fame as Mark Liu but others were completely oblivious. “Some people weren’t sure if I was him [Mark Liu] but were worried about saying anything in case they got the wrong Asian.” Ken says that it didn’t take long for most people to get that Mark was a persona since they “realised we were really quite different.”
I ask if he has ever considered himself to be a BNOC after the videos. “I never really cared about it but Mark Liu did get quite famous… and it was kind of cool when people knew who you are for doing something good. A lot of these BNOCs running around don’t seem to have contributed anything, just get mentioned a lot by their friends in the Tab comments.” (You know who you are).
All of this is only really a sideshow from his work as a stand-up comic and he’s happy to admit that “with regards to Mark Liu that’s pretty much done now, I feel pretty dissociated from that now.” Despite enjoying it at the time, he’s willing to admit that “it might have hurt me if anything, having that crutch of being able to edit and it’s a very different skill set to going up there and performing.”
Ken was a late-comer to the comedy scene and only really got involved once he had left the university to focus on being a professional poker player. He got into comedy by once going to see Chris Addison at a Wolfson Howler and just thought “it was very cool”. A couple of weeks later he went to a Clare Comedy night and decided to sign up.
He soon became a regular with the Footlights, and found that working with stalwarts Pierre Novellie and Phil Wang (who he boasts about being confused with) was a big inspiration. “I don’t think there’s any competition within the comics, it’s very much a team effort, nobody really cares about being ‘the best’. We all just come together and put on a gig.”
Ken is really positive about the comedy scene within Cambridge. “You hear horror stories from London about gigs in a dingy cellar where there are 10 old, drunk men looking to start trouble,” he says, but he doesn’t think Cambridge is really like that: “I’ve never really seen anyone get heckled…the audience just come because they love comedy.”
The last couple of summers, he’s been part of the Footlights Free Show and so I ask what the future holds for him now. “Comedy is a part time thing for me; I don’t have any real aspirations career wise for comedy, it’s just something I really enjoy. Part of me does want to try building towards an hour and taking it to Edinburgh but it’s not something I need to do, it would just be quite cool if I did.”
On Tuesday, he is taking his show from Edinburgh Fringe, Ken Kardashian, where he’ll be supported by the critically acclaimed Zoё Tomalin, Siân Docksey and Ian Samson for just one night. As we finish I ask him to say in one sentence why we should come on Tuesday: “it will be funny…I hope”. He laughs, “well, seriously, I don’t think there’s enough standup in Cambridge and it’ll be a good chance to see some at the ADC.”