'Personal, raw, and emotional, with hilarious punchline after punchline' | Ricky Sim shares his comedy favourites ahead of his Soho Theatre run

'Personal, raw, and emotional, with hilarious punchline after punchline'

Ricky Sim shares his comedy favourites ahead of his Soho Theatre run

Ricky Sim is bringing his solo comedy show Coming Out to Dead People to Soho Theatre next month. It’s a coming-of-age story about the comedian’s decision whether to come out to his conservative Chinese-Malaysian immigrant mother after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Here he shares six of his comedy favourites that have influenced his career.

Notorious C.H.O by Margaret Cho

Margaret Cho is the reason I fell in love with stand-up comedy. I had emigrated from Malaysia to the US a few years before her 2004 special Notorious C.H.O. came out.

Her jokes about how her mom has this ‘gay story about Daddy’ were purely revolutionary for me. I had never seen anyone talk about the intersectionality between sexuality and Asian identity before that. I remember thinking, 'Wait, we can talk about that? And people unfamiliar with the Asian family dynamic can still understand and laugh with her?' It was the first time I understood the power of comedy and storytelling.

Also, the ‘gay story about Daddy’ joke brought me a lot of hope when I first saw it, as I was still in the closet at that time and struggled to come out to my family (a time in my life that inspired me to write my solo show Coming Out to Dead People). You have no idea how many times I have rewatched that clip since it first came out.

Whiskey Fist by Rosebud Baker 

I love how dark Rosebud Baker can take the audience, willing to make them uncomfortable with the emotional and vulnerable subject matters (abusive relationship, death in a family), and still surprise them with perfectly crafted punchlines.

Rosebudd Baker's special is one of the first comedy specials I watched dealing with death and grief with honesty and humour. It changed how I think about the topics to talk about on stage and taught me how to approach dark topics with comfort and sensitivity.

Here’s the full special:


Ramy Youssef has always been my comedy inspiration. His semi-autobiographical comedic drama Ramy showcases the conflicts the first- and second-gen Americans face with honesty and hilarity. I had never seen any show like that before.

Having emigrated from Malaysia, where Islam is considered the country's predominant religion, watching all the multi-dimensional characters who want to practise their faith earnestly while dealing with human wants and desires on screen is incredibly relatable and fresh. It's one of the comedy shows that I wish it was around when I was growing up.

One particular episode stuck to my memory is in Season 3, where Ramy's sister and mother were receiving therapy from a white therapist, who made a generalised statement like, ‘everything you've told me about your family is emotionally abusive’, to which Dena replied, ‘I thought I was just Arab.’ I have had the same exchange with my ex-therapist, but replacing ‘Arab’ with ‘Chinese-Malaysian.’

I have never seen a TV show that talks about some therapists in the West who may lack the understanding of the intricate dynamics of an immigrant family until Ramy, and I am so grateful they wrote that episode. The show brilliantly illustrates the challenges of the self-examination journey embarked on by immigrants under the white gaze.

Broad City

I am a huge fan of Broad City. One of my favourite episodes is where Abbi was asked to peg her hot neighbour Jeremy and she later ruined the Shinjo [dildo] by throwing it in a dishwasher. The episode left me laughing in tears. It’s super well-written and silly, and there's never a dull moment in that episode.

And man, doesn't everyone wish to have a ride-or-die bestie like Ilana, who always encourages you to ‘plough it like a Queen’. 

What was brilliant about the episode was that it not only normalised the reversal of sexual roles in a heterosexual relationship, but it also followed with so many comedic twists that make the show equally powerful as a commentary and hilarious as a comedic scene.

Watch the scene here.

Rothaniel by Jerrod Carmichael 

Jerrod Carmichael  has this uniquely natural way of delivery - it is a mix of personal, raw, and emotional, with hilarious punchline after punchline. The show is intimate and perfectly examines the intersectionality between queer and African-American identities with vulnerability and honesty.

Moreover, it has one of the best and funniest closing lines I have ever seen in recent years, which was well crafted and nicely built up. It's just a perfect comedy solo show. He is such a special comic of our generation. 

Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show

Love, love, love Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show - created by my favourite sketch comedians from the Upright Citizens Brigade.

Each of the parody and satirical sketches was well-written, absurd, super silly, with so many unexpected twists. I found it super relatable with their nerdy humour.

There are so many memorable and hilarious sketches, such as the Missy Elliot music video/Animaniacs parody, Marry Poppins for a black family sketch, and a sketch about a boy whose parents encourage him to watch only black porn.

• Ricky Sim: Coming Out to Dead People is at Soho Theatre from January 22 to 24.

Published: 3 Jan 2024

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.