Ken Cheng

Ken Cheng

Finalist in the 2015 BBC Radio New Comedy Award
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Ken Cheng: Best Dad Ever

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

Best Dad Ever marks an evolution in Ken Cheng’s style, away from the super-nerdy, often maths-based jokes, that are his natural metier and into the more personal storytelling style of show. He’s not mastered the new approach – certainly his delivery is a little too dry for pouring his heart out – but offers some interesting yarns and smart punchlines. 

He starts with a forensic deconstruction of why Toblerone are offering a Best Dad Ever version of their confectionary and who the target market is, which very much plays to his over-analytical strengths before leading into an appraisal of his own father, distant both geographically and emotionally. 

So, despite the title, his mother is a more significant figure in both his life and his show. She’s a hoarder and works as a translator for the immigration services, which gives Cheng an understanding of the subject beyond his first-hand experience as a second-generation British-Chinese man.

There’s a little on casual racism, and he confesses to sometimes playing up his ‘Chinese-ish-ness’, for while he doesn’t want to be defined by his ethnicity he recognises how it gives him a point of difference, not least in comedy.

As he picks away at his parents’ lives he finds more questions than answers – their actions not always clear or their motives understood. So he finds a little more comfort in the certainties of childhood nostalgia, recalling his large menagerie of stuffed toys.

On to this, he tags on some geekier elements, not always fluidly. These include examples his terrible pre-teen writing  – which is becoming an overused device in comedy and feels like padding here – to his spreadsheet routines, finding patterns in fractions he cannot find in real life. The take-out is that he cannot use his logic to explain the emotional.

Squaring this off proves something of a challenge for the show as well since there are no satisfying resolutions. But a tidy set piece provides the best narrative closure in the circumstances.

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Published: 26 Aug 2018

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Ken Cheng: Chinese Comedian


Edinburgh Fringe 2018

Ken Cheng: Best Dad Ever


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