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Comedian Ronny Chieng talks coronavirus, Asian storytelling

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Comedian and actor Ronny Chieng performed stand-up on Stanford’s Family Weekend, touching on topics such as coronavirus, birth control and white supremacy. 

Chieng kicked off the Saturday performance by addressing the coronavirus outbreak. He jokingly blamed the illness for ruining the positive “streak” Asians have on the global stage with acclaim for the film “Parasite” and Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign. 

Chieng also poked fun at gender norms. He praised women for using birth control pills, alluding to the “military precision” it takes to stay on track with birth control. 

“No one would trust men to take the pill if that was an option,” Chieng said. 

Chieng, who was raised in Singapore, also commented on American stereotypes about the country. The comedian compared questions about caning used in Singapore as a means to prevent vandalism with the attitude New Yorkers might have toward people spitting in their house. Chieng said both populations would have similar reactions but Singaporeans “outsource beating to the government.”

When talking about his experience working as a senior correspondent for “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah, Chieng mentioned interviewing white supremacist Richard Spencer. Chieng said he was prepared to face one of Spencer’s arguments on “scientific racism” — the belief that some races have evolved to be smarter than others — with statistics about the IQ of Asian population. 

Chieng told the audience that Spencer actually embraced Asians’ intelligence.

“I’m not endorsing white supremacy but it feels good to be wanted,” Chieng joked.

Chieng later asked the audience questions about life at Stanford. He wondered whether fraternities are “still a thing” and proceeded to question the reasoning behind rushing to live in a house “full of smelly people playing beer pong in the basement.”

The performance was followed by a Q&A session with business school lecturer and four-time Emmy Award nominee Allison Kluger. 

Chieng discussed his struggle to reconcile his desire to become a comedian with the cultural expectation to enter a prestigious profession like law or medicine. He sought to stress the importance of being willing to face uncertainty as a college student. 

“The fact that I don’t give a fuck about my friends was useful,” Chieng said. 

When Kluger asked him about the success of the movie “Crazy Rich Asians, Chieng sought to emphasize the importance of Asian storytelling in Hollywood. He said that while one movie cannot represent Asians’ diversity, it’s important to produce movies that advance the voices of Asians in the entertainment industry. 

The evening ended when Kluger asked the comedian what the most unexpected thing about him is.

 “I wash my dick in a sink after I go to the bathroom,” Chieng said. 

Contact Anastasia Malenko at malenk0 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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