INTERVIEW: Ronny Chieng on Singaporean and Malaysian comedians, "they're amazing"

Reta Lee
Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
Ronny Chieng. (PHOTO: Phil Provencio)

SINGAPORE – Ronny Chieng is no stranger to our shores; the Malaysia-born, Singapore-raised standup comedian travels to Asia three times a year from New York, where he’s currently based at. Chieng made a name for himself as a fan-favourite correspondent in The Daily Show and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in the US, as well as nailing an acting stint in the hugely successful romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians. 

Chieng lived in Singapore for ten years where he studied at Fuchun Primary School, Pioneer Secondary School and Pioneer Junior College. He moved to New York in 2015 when he was hired as a correspondent on The Daily Show, alongside host Trevor Noah.

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Like many who have lived abroad, Chieng misses his friends, family, and of course, the food. “When I’m back in Singapore, I go to Tong Ah Eating House, Ah Chiang’s Porridge, and this Peranakan joint near Raffles Place called Chong Wan Ge Cafè. I’m everywhere; I’m trying to get prata and chicken rice from Boon Tong Kee, which is great,” Chieng shares with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore. We can tell he’s a real foodie based on his food diary.

Having performed alongside television host and comedian Noah earlier in August at The Star Theatre, Chieng is scheduled to perform a sold-out show, Tone Issues, at the Esplanade Theatre this November. The response to his homecoming show was so overwhelming that organisers have added a second show so fans will not miss his act: “You’ll most probably get the same vibe (as on The Daily Show) for this tour,” Chieng hinted on what to expect. 

Ronny Chieng stars in Netflix special, Asian Comedian Destroys America! (PHOTO: Netflix)

As an international man of mystery, he remains numb on the themes he will be discussing on the show: “Yeah, the natural instinct is to ask, what will you be showing? If you’re really sitting there going, have you talked about this, then you’re probably not gonna like standup comedy. So I don’t know how to talk about, what I’m going to talk about.” What’s known for sure, is that Chieng will be adding a Singaporean act to his show: “I know all the Singaporean comics, so I’m definitely gonna get one of them to open for me, yeah.”

Chieng feels the comedy landscape in Asia is growing, and he often meets with comedians from Malaysia too: “In 2010, I started doing comedy in Singapore, and the local comics like Shahrul (Channa), Rishi (Budhrani) and Jinx Yeo are amazing. From Malaysia, (Dr.) Jason Leong is great; so are Douglas Lim and Jen Han.”

Even with TV and touring taking up most of his time, Chieng managed to record his first-ever Netflix comedy, Asian Comedian Destroys America, which is premiering 17 December. In his comedy special, Chieng will dig into the effects of consumerism in the United States, while it’s being governed by an Asian-American resident: “I’ve been touring US for two years now; it’s the stuff I've been writing and performing since I moved there, and it's my first comedy special filmed in the US. I guess that makes it kind of special, hopefully. I hope it's the best hour I've done so far.”

Ronny Chieng brings his Tone Issues tour to Singapore and Malaysia: Performing 29 November 2019 at Esplanade - Theatres on The Bay Singapore at 7pm and 9.30pm and on 30 November at The Platform @ Menara Ken TTDI in Malaysia at 7pm and 9pm. For more information, log on to this website.