3 April, 2018 in Reviews
Michael Hing is a pretty funny guy. His contributions to SBS Viceland’s The Feed often go viral on social media for all the right reasons. He’s got his finger on the pulse when it comes to jokes about racism in Australia and his new show, The Ethics of Punching A Nazi, is ripe with them.
Hing opened the show with a glorious riff on the price-gouging Victorians along the Great Ocean Road, followed by a few anecdotes from his time in Bendigo filming a documentary. His cool and charismatic presence was great to see in person. Sharing a few amusing stories of the Chinese-Australian population there, Hing rapidly fired off joke after joke in his signature style, kindly reminding the audience that Chinese-Australians have been here a lot longer than some people might realise.
The Ethics of Punching A Nazi looks at racism in different facets of society, and even controversially brushes on what Hing calls ‘acceptable racism’. Whilst dating-related sexual racism might seem humorous to a heterosexual male, it’s my duty as a person of colour to highlight that it’s a pervasive problem for women and queer people of colour, and not to be joked about. I must say I do agree with Hing’s comments on Caucasian people preparing Asian food in restaurants being taboo. Perhaps ‘acceptable racism’ should stay with pulling people up on cultural appropriation…
Many people can relate to Hing’s stories of encountering racism in his everyday life, and his question to people feeling oppressed by our definition of ‘free speech’, “what do you feel you can’t already say?” is one I support. As Hing touches on the topic that he named his show after, he presents a brilliant argument for why we shouldn’t tolerate backwards, outdated attitudes that have irreversibly changed the face of our planet in the past. I agree with his argument that Nazis deserve to be punched if they choose to spew that vitriol in the public space, but reflecting on the overall show I can’t help but ask myself of Hing “what are you trying to say?”
The jokes were all quite funny and Hing himself entertaining, but overall the show lacked structure, which could have helped carry a better narrative for the audience. Hing himself acknowledged at the start that it would be rough because it was a preview, which is understandable. Unfortunately this rawness didn’t allow his teachings to flow through to the audience to take home.
Jumping from bit to bit, it felt like sketch comedy or as if Hing was doing a screen test rehearsal for The Feed. Hopefully Hing gets the opportunity to workshop the show a bit more and find a clearer narrative. If you’re going to spend an hour riffing on White people, you have to leave us with a message somewhere in there on how we can all work together. Otherwise you’re just left with a mess that makes White people feel uncomfortable with no possible avenue to deal with it.
The jokes were politically progressive overall, and Hing is really quite a loveable, funny comedian who’s churned out some great entertainment in the few years he’s been on our screen and stages. Unfortunately this one particular performance was a little under-baked (we all have bad days), but hopefully it finds its legs soon.
Melbourne Internaltional Comedy Festival at The Coopers Malthouse
The Ethics of Punching A Nazi by Michael Hing
29 Mar – 8 Apr 2018