Jennifer Wong – How To English Harder

By Elyce Phillips Jennifer Wong pic

Jennifer Wong has very good English. She knows this because she’s been told so by complete strangers. She’s so good at English, in fact, she’s written a whole show about it. How To English Harder plays around with language in fun and unexpected ways, bringing together the cheesiest of wordplay with some sharp social commentary – like a sharp knife, cutting through the aforementioned cheese.

The show is structured into a few different “lessons”, each divided by short bursts of audio from a cardboard cassette player that sits on stage. These sections are in the style of a language lesson tape, and give Wong a good jumping off point to shift to a new topic. As Wong repeatedly points out, there are no actual English lessons in the show, but there are plenty of jokes. Wong is clearly someone who loves the English language and who loves a pun even more. The show is riddled with them. Wong appeared to delight in the audience’s groans every time she made one.

In How To English Harder, Wong explores both the English language and what it can mean in today’s political climate. It can be a way to communicate with others, but it can also be used to exclude, to judge, to draw a line between “us” and “them”. Wong deftly weaves in punchy political humour amongst the more twee language-based material and it hits hard every time. It’s a glimmer of a stronger, more opinionated show that lies just underneath the witticisms on the surface.

How To English Harder isn’t the kind of show that has the audience rolling in the aisles, but the material is clever and keeps the audience engaged throughout. The show was occasionally let down by what looked like a lack of confidence from Wong. Her delivery is fairly soft and self-deprecating, and when combined with recurring apologies about the room being hotter than usual, it came across as though Wong didn’t feel the show was going as well as it could. There’s some really funny material in the show, but Wong doesn’t sell it as hard as is needed.

How To English Harder is a thoroughly entertaining effort from Wong. The balance of wordplay and commentary always keeps things interesting, and Wong is a performer who’s a lot of fun to watch.

Jennifer Wong – How To English Harder was on at The Forum Theatre Ladies Lounge

Jennifer Wong – Laughable: The One-Liner Show

By Alanta Colley

The demure and delightful Jennifer Wong presents the picture of an entirely unlikely comedian. Shy, introverted, and softly spoken, Wong endears us almost instantly with her particular brand of improvised punning. In Laughable Wong walks us through the day in the life of a ‘Puntrovert’; puns at absolutely every turn. As Wong explains, the puntrovert thrives on groans, so the audience’s loud responses to her incessant word play only makes her stronger and eggs her on.

Wong displays the unique talent of a punner on the run; working with whatever material the audience provides she improvises puns on the most unlikely subject matter. Every night I imagine will be a unique masterpiece of this perpetual play on words.

This is gentle and genial comedy. Wong employs each of us as characters she meets along the way on her day of punning about town. On this particular night we saw what Wong could cook up with a librarian, a psychologist, fish and chips, and various bakery items. Her interactions with the audience are delicate and respectful and as such she gets the very best from people happy to contribute to this collaborative tale being woven.

Wong plays with the stereotypes surrounding her Chinese heritage. As well as our expectations that she’ll play with the stereotypes of her Chinese heritage. She manipulates meta comedy for her own purposes. Wong proves she’s a bilingual punner; capable of punning in Cantonese as well as English. Luckily, she’s also happy to translate for us.

Punning and improvisation are unlikely bedfellows making this show something quite special. Even if puns aren’t your preferred form of comedy you can’t help but be impressed by their sheer multitude in this performance. We can almost hear the whirring of Wong’s mind as she revisits episodes throughout our narrative towards the end with a fresh batch of puns out of the oven. It’s not quite clear how she managed to concoct them while the show powered along.

Intelligent, engaging and unashamedly uncool comedy from a deeply endearing up-and-coming comic. A pleasant addition to your Comedy festival experience.

Laughable: The One-Liner Show is on at the Forum Theatre – Ladies’ Lounge until April 20

Miss Itchy’s Late Night Larvae

By Elyce Phillips

Australia’s only identical twin teenage bridesmaids, Miss Itchy, have returned with their terrifically trashy and incredibly wrong talk show Late Night Larvae. Miss Gerda (Linda Haggar) and Miss Candy-Girl (Fahey Younger) bumble their way through a jam-packed evening of guests, prizes and aggressive incompetence.

Late Night Larvae feels like ‘The Tonight Show’ with a possessed autocue, hijacked by your maddest aunts. The show was very rough in parts – Gerda and Candy-Girl both had some trouble with the script, and Gerda was forgetful when it came to the location of characters on the stage, directing her lines to the voices backstage instead. But with these characters, it really didn’t matter. Every little slip-up just added to the wonderfully unhinged energy Miss Itchy bring to the stage.

Though the jokes have been updated for a new crowd, old favourites like Alphonse the Room Temperature Pony remain (He is still a pleasant 22 degrees). The show’s ad breaks, in the form of pre-recorded pieces, were the strongest part of the show. Ads for a Christmas club and a safari resort on the Peninsula were highlights, and the running gags about Matt Preston are brilliant. The prize wheel was also hilarious, with some truly underwhelming prizes awarded to lucky seat holders.

Late Night Larvae’s supporting cast is very strong. Tim Harris brings a surprising amount of gravitas to the roles of Alphonse and newsreader Cliff Palate, both of which contrasted brilliantly with the constant fidgeting and belching of the Misses. Jennifer Wong was a stand-out as Sophie the Box Jellyfish and Miss Gerda’s special helper Emoji. The special guest for the evening was Joel Creasey, who seemed just as baffled by the show as the audience. It’s worth the price of entry just to see the spectacular interview format the girls have devised for their guests.

The humour prances around the line of good taste – some jokes hit the mark more than others. For me, a joke about the Apple factory in Shenzhen went too far. There is certainly some shock value in the show, but the stronger material was in their flirtations with the absurd, rather than the gross. Fortunately, there are enough laughs to be had that the occasional flat moment was never more than a flicker.

Late Night Larvae is not for the easily offended, but if you’re prepared to take the misses with the hits, you’ll have a great time. Miss Gerda and Miss Candy-Girl have produced a monstrosity of a talk show that could make a delightful end to your festival evening.

Miss Itchy’s Late Night Larvae is on at Melb Town Hall – Old Met Shop until April 19

Jennifer Wong Laughable: The One-Liner Show

1, One-liners are short. Perfect if you’ve got a short attention Spanish is a romance language.

2. One-liners are packed with surprises. Great for those who love not being able to predict how each joke will Sasketchewan.

3. One-liners are concise. Wow, I think this is the first time I’ve ever used the word ‘concise’ without having to say ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ right after it. That means a lot.

4. One-liners are full of wordplay. Just Sasketchewanybody.

5. The show is Laughable.

Jennifer Wong Laughable: The One-Liner Show is on at the Forum Theatre – Ladies Lounge

This is my show: