It’s unfortunate that iView comedy Lost in Pronunciation came along at roughly the same time as Ronny Chieng International Student. Both are autobiographical sitcoms centring on immigrant stand-ups trying to comprehend Australian life and culture but one is better than the other. And it’s not this one.
Lost in Pronunciation starts with stand-up comedian Ivan Aristeguieta, fresh off the plane from Venezuela, wandering into an Adelaide coffee shop and chancing upon housemates Scott and Tia, who confuse him their Australian idioms (i.e. “Bob’s your Uncle!”). Eventually getting away from these baffling foreigners, Ivan arrives at the house of a friend who’s offered to put him up…except his friend’s already put up every South American in South Australia and there’s no room for Ivan, so it’s back to the coffee shop he goes, where Scott and Tia take pity on him and offer him their sofa.
And give or take a few attempts by Ivan to move out of Scott and Tia’s place, that’s the series: a newly-arrived South American is indoctrinated into Australian ways by a vegan guy and a bogan chick. Cue the culture clash hilarity.
Compared to Ronny Chieng: International Student the humour in Lost in Pronunciation is more of the slapstick/over-the-top comedy variety, which is sometimes but not always funny. An episode about how some magpies swoop out of gum trees and attack people becomes a bizarre farce where everyone in the neighbourhood has to carry large sticks and wear ice cream tubs on their heads whenever they go outside. Look, we get what they were trying to do here – and Australia is full of fauna that can be fairly lethal – but this was just too over-the-top to work. Although we did laugh a lot when the trio packed for a weekend camping trip and Ivan spent ages preparing delicious South American campfire food while Tia just filled her ute with nothing but slabs of West End Draught. Because that is a thing that happens here. Sometimes, we are Aussies are that stupid (and thirsty).
More successful are the cutaways to Ivan’s stand-up act, where Seinfeld-like, he does his observational material about his adopted country. Problem is, when the show switches back to the sitcom, a lot of the material is based on exaggerated stereotypes and easy gags. But if you’re the one person who still laughs at how vegans never shut up about being vegan, or at how vegans are so weak from the lack of protein that they can’t move, you’ll love this.