Nigel Ng’s comedy career skyrocketed under lockdown, when his Uncle Roger persona, policing other people’s Asian cookery for laughs, went viral on YouTube. A fair few of his five million subscribers will form the audience to the 30-year-old’s current tour, and Ng doesn’t scruple to give them exactly what they want. Jokes about rice, jokes about inadequate British cooking, jokes that – no matter how they begin – tend inexorably towards generalisations about east Asian behaviour.
Fair enough: we’re not exactly oversaturated with Asian immigrant perspectives on life in the UK. And many of Ng’s are amusing enough. In character as Uncle Roger, he takes down Boots-branded sushi and western food allergies. As himself (which is pretty much Roger minus the exaggerated accent) he contrasts British versus Asian dating and British versus Asian child discipline, a routine that founders on an over-attenuated gag about John Lewis’s returns policy.
Throughout his show, Ng maintains a lively relationship with his enthusiastic crowd. Occasionally the material rises above the generic: Ng addresses a recent breakup and a shocking experience of (it is assumed) racist assault. But even these routines soon swerve back into his Asians-do-this comfort zone.
Latterly, it can feel a bit barrel-scraping (“Asians don’t pay for our TV licences, do we?”). And not tremendously edifying, as Ng jokes about the quality of Asian faeces, chuckles at his own unlovely jokes about paedophilia and mocks the environmental beliefs of a 12-year-old in the front row. His 10-minute online “weejios” mine a rich comic seam, but stretched over an hour the quality is – like Uncle Roger’s dreaded BBC fried rice – strained.
At Leicester Square theatre, London, until 11 March. Then touring.