May 10, 2017


Future Asian & Pacific History Month: Ronny Chieng Sets the Record Straight

Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Comedy Central
Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Comedy Central

Fuse is celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Asian and Pacific History before our eyes. Today we're tipping our hats to rising international comedy star Ronny Chieng, the Daily Show senior correspondent whose knack for refreshing bluntness and fight for Asian American visibility have gained crucial media attention.

Born in Malaysia to Chinese parents and raised in New Hampshire and Singapore, Chieng later studied finance and law in Melbourne, Australia. There, he honed his stand-up craft through local events and soon picked up enough momentum to land his coveted gig at Comedy Central. Throughout his career, Chieng's bits have extensively explored Asian stereotypes and the narrative of being Asian both in Australia and America.

But it wasn't until October 2016—when The O'Reilly Factor aired an incredibly offensive on-the-street segment targeting Chinese New Yorkers—that Chieng truly made waves (and headlines). After witnessing Jesse Watters mocking Chinatown locals for a cheap joke, he used his Daily Show platform to deliver a vehement response to what he called "idiocy." In front of a live studio audience, Chieng exclaimed:

What the hell was that? How was that on the news?! In fact, how was that even on TV? Where the fuck did this come from?...If you're gonna be racist, at least get your stereotypes right, you ignorant sack of shit. Karate isn't Chinese. It's Japanese. And you're doing it in a taekwondo studio, which is Korean, you fucking jack off!

After tearing Watters a new one, the comedian brought his own crew of cameramen to Chinatown to film a more accurate portrayal of Asian Americans, depicting them as everyday citizens deserving of respect and media coverage sans malicious intent. Chieng's no-nonsense clapback resonated with millions of Asian American viewers who knew all too well the struggles of battling stereotypes. His segment received an overwhelming response, reaching nearly 25 million people on Facebook.

In an interview with Alex Wong for Complex, Chieng said: 

“I think when people talk about race relations in America, they talk about African American and white people. Asians are not often brought into the conversation. But there’s a historical legacy of issues between them. It’s hard to be like, ‘What about us?’ But we are a little underrepresented."

Chieng is set to unveil his upcoming series Ronny Chieng: International Student this June on Comedy Central. Based on his own experiences as a Malaysian law student in Melbourne, the script was the first of six Comedy Showroom pilots to be green-lit to a full series. The 31-year-old is also signed on to appear in the highly anticipated film Crazy Rich Asians, starring fellow Future Asian and Pacific History honoree Constance Wu.

Tune in to Fuse and come back to everyday for profiles, videos, galleries and more on the individuals around the world who are creating Future Asian and Pacific History. Join the conversation with #FutureHistory and find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.