Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng begins his show with a level of energy that sustains the whole hour, handy for making his multiple observations on British culture come to life. From the grimness of performing at Butlin’s to the poor state of the sushi meal deals on sale at Boots, Ng skewers these mundane elements of British society with aplomb, noting their unappealing qualities with relish. The poor amounts of rice on offer with the Boots sushi particularly come under fire from Ng, who also does an impressively detailed impression of a Japanese sushi chef committing hara-kiri in the food aisle after seeing such a culinary insult.
Ng also contrasts his own upbringing, and East Asian parenting in general, with the more looser Western-style approach. This allows him to effectively use the audience as a sounding board, lightly interrogating the East Asian members on what household objects their parents used to beat them with whilst questioning Westerners on the quality of their jobs, although this strategy does backfire somewhat when an older man he questions turns out to be a fraud investigator!
Whilst this culture-clash take combined with Ng’s mastery of old-school comedic tropes results in a smoothly-running show, it does result in a lack of depth that would flesh out the material. For example, whilst Ng’s jokes about his parents physically disciplining him and taking aim at the working-class Butlin’s holidaymakers hit the mark in terms of humour, we don’t get any subversion of these beliefs. This does little to distinguish Ng’s comedic identity.
Ng’s jokes about Malaysia do provide a different comedic take to an extent, with his early comments about the tap water giving you diarrhoea and the widespread availability of knock-off goods ringing a bell for those in the audience familiar with the country. However, like other material about the racist generalisations East Asians face from white people, these jokes are few and far between. This is a shame, as Ng’s spirited and full-powered performance throughout Culture Shocked shows that he definitely has the potential to go further and engage with these issues and not just settle for enlivening standard culture-clash material.