Vietnamese-Australian comic Thao Cao begins her show by asking the audience, “Do you remember the first time a man hit on you?” Whilst this is a strange way to begin any Fringe show, the opening gambit allows Thao to launch into an inspired routine about encountering a paedophile as a young girl that is subverted with a punchline which may offend some of the more sensitive audience members.
This political incorrectness runs throughout the rest of Thao’s show however, unlike many comedians who revel in shocking and offending, she uses it casually as a means of punctuating jokes. This makes what could easily come across as tiresomely offensive unexpectedly funny. A further example of this is when a routine about a racist white woman ranting about Asians is turned on its head by Thao mentioning her own mother’s racism… against the Vietnamese.
However, Thao also uses her show to tell stories of her life and heritage, such as informing the audience about the different tones used in the Vietnamese language, which causes problems when calling for help, and her wasted drama course at university, which she demonstrates with a physical performance set to ‘My Heart Will Go On’ that has the room laughing. This last section is made all the more effective by Thao’s deadpan delivery and performance style which ironically makes her material more affecting than the overacted, manic delivery increasingly preferred by many other stand-ups at the Fringe.
Whilst some of her material is hit and miss – jokes about ‘standard’ being an acceptable benchmark for cuisine and her love life fall a little flat compared to her other segments, Thao follows them with a ‘comedy lecture’ that combines her traditional wordplay with audience participation that draws some of the biggest laughs of the show. This particular segment makes fine use of 9/11 and repetition jokes that, whilst simplistic in their execution, are successful with the audience, proving that you don’t need complex routines to make your show effectively funny.
Appropriately Inappropriate is a solidly entertaining one-woman show, with Thao engaging the audience with a combination of straight-up gags, anecdotes and audience participation. Whilst some of the jokes don’t land, this is a Free Fringe comedian who is worth supporting.