Review: Ken Cheng, Chinese Comedian

Leyla Gumusdis 30 January 2016

Ken Cheng’s smart humour, perfectly placed pauses and endearing awkwardness charmed the sold out ADC audience. Ken knew his audience well and rooted his show in Cambridge references that truly hit home. He bemoaned the sogginess of Nanna Mexico burritos, encouraged dancing at danger spoons and taught the audience how to master the art of the Sainsbury’s meal deal.

The lesson, in case you were wondering, is never to choose the egg and cress sandwich for £1.10 because then the meal collectively adds up to less than £3 – “Technically a meal, but not technically a deal”. Witticisms like these punctuated the show and elevated the observational comedy. Early on in the evening, Ken whipped out the visual aids in the form of a parabola-shaped graph on shame. The premise was that too little shame is just as bad as too much shame, but there is a happy medium, which he termed “shamesome”. Following on from this joke he pondered the nature of the word ‘awesome’ and came out with my favourite joke of the evening, “Awesome. Awe is a pretty good thing, but not too much of it. Too much of it and it’s awful.”

Ken played with language, as most comedians do, but what differentiates his act is his background as a dropout Mathematician. Indeed, this aspect of his act came out in more places than the parabola and meal deal calculations. One of the best sentences spoken on the ADC stage followed Ken’s consideration of having a threesome in a bunkbed, to which he concluded: “If it's not happening in the same orthogonal plane then it's not group sex”.

He had some great lines, but his style of comedy was more disjointed and self-aware than the quotations I’ve used suggest. This self-awareness is best demonstrated by Orlando Gibbs’ impression of Ken Cheng, which started the show. The effect of following a caricatured portrayal of a comedian with the comedian itself was an odd reversal of the usual order, but it proved to be a great warm up act and most of the audience certainly seemed to get the joke. Laughter continued almost non-stop throughout the evening and Ken’s material certainly didn’t disappoint the loyal base of fans that he has in Cambridge.