Michael Hing is a 30-something Chinese Australian comedian who has featured widely on television and radio. He is currently plying his wares for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with his show, The Unbearable Whiteness of Being, which plays until 17 April at the Greek Club.
Hing’s 60 min show is billed as being about race, politics and white people, all of which are referenced in this personable series of anecdotes and awkward observations. The humour is gentle, predominantly in the vein of “hey, there’s this thing, WTF?”, with ample chuckles for the audience, which is comprised of fairly typical Saturday night Festival-goers: folks keen for a few laughs before a few drinks.
Hing starts off by warning the audience that this is not a show for amateurs, as things may get offensive, and perhaps we might need to have seen five or six shows to really get the hang of things. I’m only at two for this festival, so perhaps I wasn’t quite up to speed yet. Where Kundera’s “unbearable lightness” referenced fleeting, ephemeral human connections, Hing’s “unbearable whiteness” takes the form of casual racism.
Interestingly, and I’ll admit my barometer on this is probably out (judging by the troll spam our colleague Erin Chew has been receiving after calling out Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O), I wonder if even “white boomers” would really find this friendly amble through a botched sibling holiday, dating sites, STI tests, blackface, Cleo Bachelor of the Year and #everydayracism to be truly offensive. In fact, despite four walk-outs, I actually think one woman was just, as her companion stated, unwell, and the other two were potentially running late for another show.
Despite the seemingly political framing of the show, Hing’s work is hardly calling for a revolution, nor inciting one, it’s merely acknowledging that race and white privilege continue to be part and parcel of “Western” culture. Arguably, in Australia at least, Hing should have material for another 10 years, longer if he wants to move to out of a major urban capital.
Hing’s a personable comic, who has clearly worked to craft his storytelling and individual style. We get what we came for, a few laughs on the way to a few drinks, and then some: a reminder or two that we still have a long way to go in terms of our country’s ability to grapple with race.
The Unbearable Whiteness of Being is showing Tue-Sat 9.45pm and
Sun 8.45pm until 17 April as a part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival