An Asian Queer Story: Coming Out to Dead People | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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An Asian Queer Story: Coming Out to Dead People

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

By their very nature, coming-out stories tend to focus on the person declaring their sexuality rather than who is receiving the news.

But New York-based comic Ricky Sim was forced to consider more deeply than most just what impact his disclosure would have on his conservative Malaysian-Chinese mother. For she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer just as he was set to come out. Should he still tell her the truth or let her remain blissfully unaware until the end? That’s the question posed by this affecting and tender show.

The first, funniest, part of An Asian Queer Story charts Sim getting to grips with his sexuality. He shares frank stories of presenting as straight – trying to masturbate to heterosexual porn with his mates – before accepting he was gay and using his love of academic study to learn how to give a better blow job. A Sean Paul song that you will never quite hear in the same way again, could help

There are some solid gags here, though the foundation is of stories that are amusing in themselves, told engagingly but with what seems like minimal comic embellishment – as per a good half of Fringe shows.

Sim's tone gets more serious later in the show, when he’s forced to confront how declaring his sexuality would affect his parents. They were originally vegetable sellers in Malaysia, their attitudes shaped by the anti-sodomy laws introduced by the British in colonial times and still in place. And they say we never gave anything back to the nations we plundered…

Sim understands their desire to maintain a traditional, below-the-radar life in their new American home. ‘If you’re an immigrant, you get no second chance if you fail,’ he says, acknowledging that some people have the privilege to be able to rock the boat, and some do not.

His mother’s attitudes are formed by fear of what the community might think, and by tradition. But as Sim puts it: ‘Tradition is intergenerational bullying.’ It’s a lovely line – no wonder it features on his merch.

Sim has an arms-length emotional relationship with his mum – typical for Asian families, he says – in which saying ‘I love you’ would be considered weird. Saying ‘I love men’ is unchartered territory. Dare he risk breaking his mother’s heart on her deathbed?

In this, the comic delivers an intimate performance, so heartfelt and sincere it barely feels like a show at all, building to an emotional final scene that packs a punch.

Review date: 23 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Just the Tonic at The Mash House

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