Ronny Chieng: International Student – Episode 5: For the Love of Theatre(Er)(Her)

At the beginning of this week’s Ronny Chieng: International Student, Asher tries to convince Ronny to audition for the Law Faculty annual comedy show, but he declines.

“Uh, join a bunch of self-indulgent, self-centred, self-absorbed, type-A-personality law students who think they’re God’s gift to comedy?” says Ronny. “No, thank you.”

As Asher leaves for her audition, Ronny bumps into Craig and Wei Jun, who are having coffee in the sunshine (I’m surprised Craig is not sipping his favourite bubble tea!). The two question Ronny about his relationship with Asher, which he claims “We’re just friends”.

But according to Wei Jun, “You might be friends now but you are one heartbeat away from looking at her differently, and then everything changes.”

Her observation makes Ronny question his feelings towards Asher, so he decides to join the comedy show so that he can spend more time with her.

Asher turns out to be a very talented impressionist and is accepted immediately, while Ronny, sadly, is given the role of Angry Asian Laundry Man. With no acting experience, Ronny cannot get into his character and is even shocked when another Caucasian actor can speak Cantonese better than him.

Feeling upset after the audition, Ronny returns to International House and bumps into Craig and Wei Jun again in the kitchen. These two ‘relationship experts’ again encourage Ronny to ask Asher out, but can’t agree among themselves if Ronny should end his “I like you” sentence with :), X or LOL (this conversation is gold!).

“Don’t put a smiley face. It reeks of desperation,” says Wei Jun.

“I’m actually more of a ‘haha’ person,” Ronny suggests.

But his Chinese friend protests, “Sending that would make me think you are crazy weirdo.”

A few seconds after his message is sent, Asher simply replies, “Sure.”

The day after, Ronny and Asher go to a fusion restaurant called W:east (another ‘haha’ moment in this episode!), in which Asher proclaims, “I don’t know about mixing these two cultures. They both work so well individually, but when you put them together, it kind of feels like it ruins them both.”

Later, they have an argument due to Ronny’s negative attitude, not only towards the comedy show but also everything else in life. Asher leaves the restaurant in anger, while Ronny proclaims, “Well, wontons don’t belong in pies.”

In the end, Ronny quits the comedy show, but manages to save Asher’s improv performance. They make up with each other in the changing room. However, to Ronny’s disappointment, Asher says, “I never want our friendship to change.”

Overall, most international students from an Asian background can relate to Ronny’s situation, as many of them might have not been involved in a relationship before coming to Australia. The differences between East and West in dating etiquettes, as illustrated through Craig and Wei Jun’s argument over the use of emoticon in text messages, add up to the challenges of an inter-racial relationship.

Again, the subplot in this episode was somehow more enjoyable than the main story. The Law Faculty comedy show itself was dry and awkward, while the student impersonating Shia LaBeouf was very unlikable to me and an unnecessary addition to the show.

Ronny Chieng’s strength is in his sharp observations and witty interpretation of the differences between East and West, but there’s a long way to go for International Student to truly become a TV sitcom, rather than a serialised stand-up comedy show.

Coming next to Ronny Chieng: International Student: The final exam!

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