The Mark Liu Story
WILL POPPLEWELL does not entirely get into this hour of exam-term standup.
Ken Cheng gave an amusing, if inconsistent, performance in his stand-up lateshow at the ADC. The comedy was, on the whole, good; however, it was interspersed with awkward technical difficulties and some off-key moments of reminiscing on his time at Cambridge.
One of Cheng’s more successful techniques was an amusing combination of geeky humour and crudity; in particular his conclusion that “I think, therefore my mum had sex” was both cringe- and applause-worthy. From the description of his mum as “offensively Asian”, to the image of him having to describe “two girls one cup” to her, Cheng kept us laughing and squirming in equal measure.
Unfortunately the opening slide which bore the subtitle ‘click to add text’ was an unintended sign of technical problems which plagued the show throughout. Most prominent was Cheng’s inability to make the powerpoint remote function, which was amusing at first but soon became irritating and continually broke his comedic timing. There were a few too many moments when we would be left awkwardly with Nick Clegg’s massive face filling the screen, for example, and Cheng gesticulating at the projector.
The crowd was very vocal in their appreciation for Cheng, and despite the theatre not being that full, the noise they produced was impressive. That said, the majority of the noise came from the second and third rows filled, as we later discovered, with his friends from Cambridge. Indeed, during one of the sections with audience interactions, when Cheng told us to sit down if we did not know him personally, I was one of the very few people to do so. My friend compared the incessant laughter, which often came before the punchline, as ‘the laughter track on a bad episode of the Big Bang Theory’.
At times, the show resembled a group of students playing a risqué game of Cards Against Humanity; Cheng’s mention of the “holy trinity”of sexism, racism, and homophobia encapsulates the general reach of his humour. It was amusing, and at times verging on hilarious, but one hour was sufficient, and the punchlines became fairly predictable. Furthermore, Cheng’s dependency on ‘callbacks’ (referrals back to previous gags) worked at times, but the fifth mention of Monroe’s ‘if you can’t take me at my worst’ line was a little too much.
Cheng is a good comedian with a fluid and easygoing manner, and despite the fairly restricted repertoire there were glimpses of a more diverse and amusing set. For instance, his political commentary, borrowing from his Mark Liu persona, was insightful and refreshing after 20 minutes of dick jokes (perhaps inspired by the recent STIFF controversy). In my opinion, a few more of the current-events satire, and other differently themed jokes, would have gone a long way to tightening up the set. Overall, as Cheng might say himself, his show elicited one green plus over my head, and I had a good evening, but I wasn’t quite hooked.