Meet Ken Cheng, “The Chinese Comedian”, who won at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017
One thing I love about comedy, it brings people together. Ken Cheng is a comedian of Chinese descent born in the UK.
“Although my parents added a bit of Chinese culture to my life, mostly in the form of food, I think British culture formed most of my upbringing...I feel very British.”
This year Ken took part at the Edinburgh Fringe festival and was delighted to win “best joke of the festival”, a simple one liner that will either make you cringe or snort, but will definitely have you smiling and repeating it to your friends.
Best joke of the festival
“I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.” – Ken Cheng
Ken Cheng at the BBC Radio New Comedy Award Final 2015
I caught up with Ken to see how he felt about this years Edinburgh Fringe Festival. To ask him if culture plays a role in his shows, especially by calling his show “The Chinese Comedian”.
Where were you born? What culture were you raised in?
I was born in the UK to Chinese parents. Although my parents added a bit of Chinese culture to my life, mostly in the form of food, I think British culture formed most of my upbringing. They were very lax parents in terms of instilling their culture into my life and as a result I feel very British.
What are the biggest differences between Asian and Western comedy?
I don’t have much knowledge of Asian comedy I must say. As far as I can tell it’s quite physical, quite clowny. Western comedy is way more conversation. There are a lot of comedians who are just trying to replicate someone down the pub and telling a story, and I don’t imagine Asian comedy to be like that.
What did your family think when you sought to be a professional comedian?
I didn’t really tell them. By the time they knew about it I was already doing okay and they don’t really mind. I lead quite a secretive life from them. Overall though, they are quite chill about what I do. They weren’t strict when I was growing up and they didn’t force me to only care about academic success like other parents would.
How hard is it to be an Asian comedian in the UK? It must be a rare case?
“Right now in the UK, both comedy audiences and the comedy industry are quite happy to celebrate someone for being different.”
I think it’s pretty easy. Right now in the UK, both comedy audiences and the comedy industry are quite happy to celebrate someone for being different. My show was simply called “Chinese Comedian” and it got people interested. The rareness doesn’t feel like there are barriers; in fact there are a lot of people willing to root for me as a minority.
Who is your target audience – do you try to fill your crowd with other Asians or don’t you care?
I don’t mind much. I don’t think non-native speakers will get my comedy as much because it is so wordy so I’m not really targeting them. I don’t do that much about being Chinese either. It’s mostly for everybody.
You just won best joke at the Edinburgh Fringe. How do you feel about that?
Really happy to have won it, but also very lucky. It’s been very good for exposure and it helped me sell out my Edinburgh run.
What’s next for you – what is your ultimate goal?
I’m taking it a step at a time but I have a Radio 4 series next year so I’ll be working towards that. My ultimate goal is maybe to have my own sitcom but have no idea if that will ever happen!
Thanks Ken! Keep on hustling and we will see you having your own sitcom in no time!
The best way to keep up to date with Ken is to follow him on twitter: @kenchengcomedy