Kuah Jenhan’s Perfect Stranger @ State Theatre Centre
Thursday 4th May 2017
If you think there aren’t many observations and comparisons between places and races that don’t appear cliche and forced, Malaysian comedian Kuah Jenhan will easily change your mind with his latest solo show, Perfect Stranger.
After a slightly shaky start and some general jokes that you might see in any club set, Jenhan asks what the Malaysian/Australian split in the crowd is (this particular night was about 80/20). He explains that is quite typical for this show and proceeds to banter with the crowd briefly about that.
Jenhan then begins with the main storyline of the show. Ironically, that story is the journey to find inspiration for a show. He chose to take the path less travelled, literally. He booked a trip to Uzbekistan. It proved to be a goldmine.
Pointing out that Uzbekistan is still very young as a country, Jenhan highlights some surprising similarities and differences between it and his home country. One of the most entertaining and unique is his explanation of the difference between haggling in both countries. Skillful acting allows the audience to be swept up in the step-by-step guide on how to come out on top wherever you find yourself.
He is able to move between subjects swiftly and with enough segue that it doesn’t seem disjointed. He not only talks about the difference between how Australians and Malaysians treat the idea of race identity, but manages to weave in some Miss Universe pageantry as well.
With the idea of comparison firmly in the audience’s mind, Jenhan takes the time to talk about a controversial and swiftly amended Herald Sun article that came out for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I don’t want to give away too many details of the show, so I’ll simply describe this article as a lazy comparison of well-known and established comedians with newer comedians people may not have heard of based on little more than ethnicity and/or gender.
Jenhan takes this and turns it into a fascinatingly funny look at how his friends and family viewed that article vs how the Australian public and comedy community saw it. According to the paper themselves, they gave a “goldmine” to work with. I believe he was able to take out something they’d put in a hole and turn it into gold.