Like much of his comedy, Ronny Chieng’s contribution to our video series “Tell T a Joke” highlights the absurdities of American culture with the prickliness of an immigrant and the timeliness of a news junkie.
Born in Malaysia, and raised between New Hampshire and Singapore, the New York-based comedian embodies the perspective of the perpetual outsider peering anxiously through the looking glass.
Instead of encouraging him to assimilate, Chieng says, his international upbringing only prompted him to become more himself — stereotypes of Asian submission be damned.
“As a grumpy person,” he says, “when someone says that people of your race are not supposed to be grumpy, it just makes me grumpier.”This disposition has served him well in Hollywood, where he played the obnoxious financier Eddie Cheng in “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018), and as a correspondent on “The Daily Show,” Chieng performs the role of obnoxious journalist, interrogating cryptocurrency and climate change with the same slapstick venom he uses to deride deep-dish pizza (“I said I wanted pizza, not some Italian guy’s dump on a plate.”) At times, his outrage is fueled by empathy.
In 2016, he responded to a racist Fox News segment that mocked inhabitants of New York’s Chinatown by conducting his own on-the-street interviews with Chinatown residents about American politics, often in Mandarin.