Monday, 22 July 2019

Review: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Rice (Christopher KC, GM Fringe)

Sunday 21st July 2019
Moston Small Cinema, Miners Community Arts and Music Centre

The Greater Manchester Fringe runs from the 1st-31st July, and as you may know by now I’m reviewing a selection of shows from this year’s programme for this blog and for North Manchester FM. The next show I saw was Christopher KC’s stand-up show, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Rice, which was on at the Moston Small Cinema (part of the Miners Community Arts and Music Centre) on Sunday 21st July. I’ll be playing the radio version of this review on North Manchester FM on Tuesday, but here’s the blog version…

Christopher KC is a Glaswegian comedian, twice nominated for the Scottish Comedy Awards Best Newcomer, who brought his debut show to the Greater Manchester Fringe ahead of performances at Edinburgh in August. It was a bold move – as the comedian himself pointed out, he doesn’t really have a Manchester fanbase! Nevertheless, he attracted a decent audience to the Miners for his Greater Manchester Fringe performance.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Rice is the first stand-up show I’ve reviewed at this year’s festival – in fact, I think it’s the only one I’m seeing this year, and so Sunday’s show made for a refreshing change of pace for me. I must admit, this is one show that I went to specifically because of the venue (I love the Miners), and I’m not used to writing reviews of stand-up shows. (I’m not Chortle and I won't pretend to be, and so forgive me if this ends up reading a little bit like a theatre review.) However, even though I chose this show for the venue, I certainly wasn’t disappointed by the act. Given that this is probably the only stand-up show I’m seeing at this year’s festival, I’m happy I made the right choice!

As the title suggests, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Rice is a show that takes a (often darkly) comedic look at race and culture, and examines aspects of Christopher KC’s own identity as a British (specifically Scottish) Chinese man. An early bit about gate-crashing a party sets the tone of the show – it’s a deadpan mixture of perplexity and anger at the way white people respond to people of East Asian heritage, and to the stereotypes that underpin that response.

The show combines personal anecdote and broader cultural observation. In terms of the former, the party-crashing story sets a high bar for pointed, but slightly absurdist, stories of micro-aggressions and racial insensitivity. However, the show’s real strength lies in Christopher KC’s dissection of the latter. Aided by PowerPoint slides and a few video clips, he takes the audience through a variety of race-related topics, from the eponymous problem with rice to John Wayne’s performance in The Conqueror.

A highlight for me was a virtuoso take on the stereotype that all Chinese people are good at Maths. Using slides outlining an increasingly complex mathematical argument, Christopher KC rattles through a series of proofs at a frenetic pace. Staying just the right side of silliness, his argument builds to a crescendo before offering a sly call-back to an earlier joke.

Another strong bit of the show was his searing assessment of Hollywood whitewashing (for instance, in the casting of Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai) and its precursor, yellow face. Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Mr Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s gets a fairly thorough treatment here, of course.

However, although the show is a direct and unashamed condemnation of racist stereotypes and behaviours, there are also occasional asides about other topics – most notably, the problem of steam for people who wear glasses. While much of the rest of the show draws on Christopher KC’s Chinese heritage and identity, his unexpected burst of anger at the existence of steam is hilariously Glaswegian.

Less successful, for me, were the shorter quips and one-liners. I’m not sure whether that’s a reflection of my taste or Christopher KC’s performance style, but personally I thought the longer, more involved bits worked much better and offered more opportunity to draw out absurdities and frustrations with the mix of anger and bafflement that characterized the show as a whole.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Rice is a new show, which Christopher KC is developing for a full Edinburgh Fringe run. As such, there was a sense that the water was being tested with some of the material. That’s to be expected, though, and to be honest it gave the whole performance an enjoyably relatable and personal feel – for all the biting critique of colonialism, orientalism and contemporary micro-aggressions.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Rice is a funny and acerbic show from an up-and-coming comedian. Slideshows and PowerPoint might be rather fashionable in stand-up comedy at the moment, but Christopher KC’s distinctive use of visual aids to highlight and dissect reveals a promising talent for identifying the absurdity of the seemingly trivial. And he’s absolutely right about steam.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Rice was on at the Moston Small Cinema at the Miners Community Arts and Music Club on Sunday 21st July, as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe. It will be on at the Gilded Balloon at Old Tolbooth Market on 31st July, 1st-11th August and 13th-25th August, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. To see the full list of events on at this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe, visit the festival website.

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