We walked in about 5 minutes late to Jennifer Wong’s opening to Ouch and Other Words. Jennifer, however, didn’t miss a beat and welcomed us with “Oh, welcome, you’ve missed the best part of the show”, sparking a titter from the crowd in the Carpet Room at the Forum Theatre. The room was so small, it almost felt like we were interrupting an intimate conversation in someone’s lounge room. However, thanks to Jennifer, we felt welcomed, albeit a little embarrassed.
When I watch Jennifer, I see someone who could easily fit the outward appearance of an accountant, a librarian, a Maths school-teacher – someone whose life doesn’t appear all that adventurous. Jennifer’s onstage persona also suggests someone very polite, awkward and slightly reserved. However, contrary to this outward appearance is the spirit of a bold and witty comedian with a very eccentric sense of humour. The show builds on the following premise :“ “A bookish comedian did a First Aid course so that no one around her will ever feel pain or die. This is called delusion.” When we walk in, Jennifer had just launched into a story about her mother who is choking from a fishbone. Drawing from Chinese old wives’ tales of swallowing rice if one has something stuck in their throat, Jennifer draws this anecdote out to an absurd end, while also making a Western parallel of drinking Coke as a choking solution. Cultural comparisons and observations are woven into her routine, and she’s not afraid of transforming awkward situations into comedy skits. One of my favourite lines is when the nurse at emergency asks Jennifer if her mother can speak English, Jennifer thinks to herself, “Why? Is there an exam?”. She explains to the audience that being polite, she doesn’t say this words out loud, but instead answers politely. Another favourite skit for me is her brilliant dramatisation and critical analysis of an Australia Post anti-racism campaign which featured an East Asian woman eating a bowl of noodles while two white people tease her from behind. Through the dramatisation of the poster scene and the imagined behind-the-scenes process of creating this poster, Jennifer highlights the shortcomings of the campaign despite its good intentions of protecting Australia Post people of colour workers.
Unfortunately, there were moments in Jennifer’s routine that left me questioning. Some of her skits would follow a line of thought to its absurd conclusions, with vaguely interesting observations, but weren’t particularly poignant or especially funny. However, as the new kid on the comedy block, Jennifer is someone to watch out for. I left with an admiration for this new and aspiring comedian’s first solo show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Even though Jennifer’s persona is outwardly bookish and polite, deep down she’s got big guns, which she just needs more practice shots with.
Jennifer Wong’s performance dates:
Melbourne International Comedy Festival until April 22nd
For news on Jennifer check out her website – http://jenniferwong.com.au/