Ronny Chieng: Speakeasy 2022 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Ronny Chieng, who first became known to American audiences as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah since 2015, has enjoyed greater success with supporting roles in movies such as Crazy Rich Asians, Godzilla vs. Kong, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. He’s also popped up regularly on the TV series Young Rock and Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.
But Chieng remains most passionate and at his most vital onstage as a solo stand-up.
He delivered ugly, funny truths in his 2019 Netflix debut, Asian Comedian Destroys America! For his follow-up, filmed in New York City’s Chinatown at the Chinese Tuxedo, a former opera house turned Cantonese Speakeasy, Chieng reveals truths about himself and his past jokes, while still turning the tables on the morons in the U.K. and the U.S.A. who cannot seem to handle the truths about themselves.
But who are we to judge, right? Chieng forces us to confront that, too.
On the one hand, handing out stars to review stand-up comedians, as many UK publications do (and Chieng references by jokingly comparing his two-star review to four stars for Nish Kumar, five for Jack Whitehall and 10 for Mr. Bean!) feels like it’s oversimplifying what’s already a subjective art form. I’m not crazy about doing year-end Top 10 lists, but at least Decider goes with a pass/fail option for the most part.
Chieng implores that anyone who thinks “there’s no artistry to this” should go and try stand-up for themselves, putting himself in the century-old tradition of artists and others who’ve loved to quote Theodore Roosevelt’s speech to the Sorbonne in 1910:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Chieng’s defiant defense of stand-up isn’t quite as eloquent as that. Instead, he asks: “People reviewing comedy. Can you imagine that? Who the f— reviews comedy?”
I know he’s not attacking me or even my colleagues at the Times or Vulture specifically, obviously, especially since he directs his ire specifically on the “amateur hour” nature of Internet culture where people we’d otherwise ignore somehow gain relevance merely by starting a Twitter or Yelp account. And yet, there’s a reflexive defensive streak that pops up. I suppose that allows me to know how Chieng feels. And I respect that.
Even if I think his message does us all a disservice by distracting from the more potent points and funnier observations he made earlier in the hour.