Ricky Sim‘s show sets up the exploration of an interesting dichotomy: grief and sexuality – specifically queerness (as the title would suggest). The comedian is here to share the story of his mother’s death… and make jokes about it, quick to set the tone and let us know that there are few boundaries and that it’s OK to laugh at the difficult experiences he’ll be describing.
‘Coming Out to Dead People’ is as much an hour of storytelling as it is a regular stand-up set, with plenty of well-constructed punchlines. Sim plays on both Asian and queer stereotypes while chronicling his coming out story but offers his own comedic touch and personal perspectives.
Throughout the show, there’s a push and pull going on as Sim repeatedly builds solemn reflections before alleviating the tension with unexpected stings and sexually explicit gags. The thrust of the narrative is his difficulties in coming out to Malaysian parents, but the raw moments are always craftily buoyed by jokes about Grindr, masturbation, or pornography.
Sometimes he offers sidenotes about the one-liners and wisecracks – ‘That’s a thinker!’ or ‘Too dark?’ He doesn’t really need to do this, but is such an endearing performer that we forgive any such slips. Towards the finale, we delve into the most difficult of anecdotes about his mother’s death and there are still rug-pulls that almost feel like a defence against the vulnerability. However, the show then culminates in a devastatingly honest closing monologue that is frank, sensitive, and utterly heart-breaking. Many in the audience react viscerally, and Sim’s extended salt-water apple slices metaphor is painfully powerful.
The show ends on an incredibly moving note with Sim transcending a simple comic routine and creating a genuine connection with many in the audience through his openness and cathartic expression.
‘Coming Out to Dead People’ runs until Sun 27 Aug 2023 at Just the Tonic at the Mash House – Just the Snifter Room at 13:55