Internationally-acclaimed comedian Ronny Chieng has some advice for university students: He thinks we all should learn to go with the flow.
“I don’t think people teach kids how to deal with uncertainty,” Chieng said in an interview-turned-counselling-session with The McGill Tribune. “You’ll see for yourself […] When you graduate, you’ll see it doesn’t really matter that you didn’t get this job straight out of school, or you didn’t get that internship. In the long run, the important thing is to really figure out what you like doing.”
Even if it happens to derail the course of your interview slightly, it would be foolish not to take life advice from a guy like Chieng.
Chieng began performing stand-up in 2010 while completing his law degree at the Australian National University. Though he graduated in 2012, Chieng’s legal career was quickly eclipsed by his meteoric rise to comedic fame. By 2015, Chieng was a regular correspondent on The Daily Show, and just last year, the Malaysia native acted alongside Constance Wu and Henry Golding in Crazy Rich Asians. Despite his recent successes as a screen actor, however, Chieng insists that he feels most himself onstage.
“With stand up, for me anyway, I can get closer to my own unique perspective on things,” Chieng said. “Whereas with acting, you’re basically kind of trying to play a character. Most of the time, you’re playing a character that someone else wrote and trying to make someone else’s work into a performance.”
Chieng draws heavily from personal experience in all his creative endeavors. In 2017, he co-wrote and starred in the semi-autobiographical Australian television series Ronny Chieng: International Student. The series was inspired by Chieng’s years as an undergraduate student at the University of Melbourne. Each of the six episodes follows the fictionalized Ronny as he bumbles his way through all the trials and tribulations of student life.
“I don’t know about you, but, when I was in university, me and most of my peers were always very scared of the future,” Chieng said, recalling the period of anxiety that would go on to inspire one of his most successful creative ventures to date. “But after you leave college, you kind of get more perspective on things and you realize you don’t need to compare yourself to other people; you’re running your own race.”
Although Chieng is a firm believer in following your dreams, he also cautions young people not to get too attached to them. In 2010, for example, Chieng says his goal was to have his own Wikipedia page, a milestone he’s long since accomplished.
“But now all the information on it is so inaccurate, I wish it would stop,” Chieng said with a resigned sigh. “Someone said I’m scared of dogs and it somehow made it to the Wikipedia page. But I’m totally not scared of dogs at all.”
One can perhaps conclude that the secret to Chieng’s success is his ability to stay true to himself and to take things in stride. His final words of wisdom were simple and sincere: Just trust the process.
“When you’re on your side of the doorway, you can’t tell, you can’t see that path, but once you’re on my side of it, when you’ve had a couple more years of experience, you’ll look back, you know, and you’ll see.”
Ronny Chieng will be performing at Just for Laughs from July 23-25. Visit hahaha.com for more details about showtimes.