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Michael Hing: An Open Letter...

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Inexperience wafts through Michael Hing’s debut show, to the great detriment of the great story he – eventually – has to tell.

He falls into an easy stereotype – not so much as a Chinese man but as another member of the swelling ranks of geeky comics with an apparently limited social outlook. He teaches social media – insisting that’s a real job – is a champion player of Starcraft II, appears on stage in a Where The Wild Things Are T-shirt, and gushes how he loves the fact his venue is accessed through a bookshop.

Such mild-mannered pursuits mean he can never live up to the deliciously provocative title he came up with. Rather than being hard-hitting, this is the softest of liberal shows, in which he explicitly spells out his principles – such as ‘homophobia makes no sense to me’ or ‘I guess I’m trying to make a point that it’s easy to have stereotypes’ – rather than letting material speak for itself. That indicates naïve writing.

With similar lack of focus, incidents such as the white food stall holder who put on a stupidly racist ‘ching-chong’ voice when serving noodles are told rather too straightforwardly, with not enough twists, surprises or jokes.

He also peppers his routine with the tics of a million post-ironic youngsters, assuming those speech patterns are enough to be funny, while his conversation – and it does feel like a mildly witty conversation more than a polished routine – is filled with pointless ‘y’know, like, whatever, y’know?’s, To complete the picture of the nerdy stand-up, he falls into the now clichéd trick of occasionally putting on cheesy hip-hop-style misanthropic airs to describe his sex appeal, or lack thereof, in the certain knowledge he can’t pull it off.

Yet for all this soft,over-familiar style, for the final part of the show he produces a genuinely surprising story from his youth, which shows him in a whole new light. It’s not really connected to the themes of the rest of the hour and is a step up in his storytelling ability. This game-changer is still not perfect, but the gravity of the situation he describes gives it oomph.

But it’s a shame it comes amid so much lacklustre material – and is told now, when he still hasn’t got the stand-up skills to really exploit it to the full. The cautionary lesson to learn is that a comic you only get one chance to reveal your biggest life stories, so you should probably make sure you’re skilled enough before you do.

Review date: 22 Apr 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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