Jenny Tian: Chinese Australian: A Tale Of Internet Fame | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review
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Jenny Tian: Chinese Australian: A Tale Of Internet Fame

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

‘What did you do during the pandemic?’ Jenny Tian asks her audience. ‘I got famous.’

Chinese Australian is essentially a show about how great things are going for the Sydney-raised comic, thanks to her TikTok videos. The girl who caught the stand-up bug when Ronny Chieng came to perform at her university orientation week is now filling sizeable venues of her own with her likeable routines.

A straw poll reveals that most of the audience did, indeed, come here because of her online content, some of which punctuates this show. Imagining how Dua Lipa would be if she were Australian was her breakout, and notions of Aussieness run through many videos. Others, meanwhile, celebrate Tian’s ethnic background as she thumbs her nose at tired stereotypes such as the submissive Asian woman

Her growing success became enough to quit her day job, but, with sad inevitability, drew out the racists. The hateful comments got to her, as did the feeling of being a slave to an algorithm that demands constant content with little originality. And when she started coining it in with brand partnership deals, the corporate sellout reminded her a bit too much of being a management consultant. 

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There’s a cautionary tale here for those who would wish to be an influencer, although when Tian recalls her genuine emotional lows, it unfortunately comes across as rather wooden acting. But she’s now loving the online world again, a change of heart ascribed to a therapist convincing her not to read comments and turn off notifications – a relatively simple dramatic pivot on which to rest the show.

On stage, Tian is a charming, understated presence with a cheerful tone and in far more control of the room than her modest demeanour suggests. 

Her self-effacing anecdotes come with some decent jokes, although follow-up tags often go begging and she could definitely do with more punchlines. That said, throwaway gags about taking ketamine or being a homewrecker feel like pat punchlines, out of character for her reserved persona. If they are true, she ought to more thoroughly explore that disconnect.

Her story of finding success online is also relatively straightforward and superficial and with a ‘follow your dreams’ message that seems glib. But having got this ‘how I got here’ show under her belt, it will be interesting to see where the amiable Tian goes next.

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Review date: 16 Apr 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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