Ronny Chieng International Student has been that rare thing in Australian sitcom: a show you want to see more of. If it was released on Netflix, you’d sit down to watch one and then realise two hours later that you’d just watched four of them.
Why does it work so well? Partly it’s the familiarity of the situation; even if you haven’t been to uni you’ve probably formed similar relationships with people at school or work who you might not normally befriend. And everyone knows a super uptight anal retentive and a way-too-relaxed idiot. To use a cliché, it’s funny because it’s true.
Not that we’re saying this show is cliched. No way. Can you name another sitcom in this country that’s managed to take comedy tropes like the super uptight anal retentive and the way-too-relaxed idiot and render them quite as well as in this show? There’s so much sharply observed detail in these characters’ lines…is this really an Australian sitcom?
We’re going to give Declan Fay a lot of the credit for this. Anyone who’s heard The Sweetest Plum knows how good he is at analysing everyday idiocy and distilling it into ridiculous and hilarious characters. Add to that Chieng’s stylings and tried-and-tested material from his stand-up, and you have a top-notch comedy ranter of a central character surrounded by mostly lovable but also very funny fools.
If you watch no other episode of this series, make it episode 5, where Ronny reluctantly ends up in the cast of the Law Revue. Student comedy is easy to take this piss out of, but there’s a very particular type of theatrical wankery and poorly-written earnest satire that’s parodied in this episode. (Satire that is, let’s face it, only a few steps below some of the satire that makes it to TV in this country. Terrifying.)
Next week Chieng and friends are being replaced by the new series of Utopia, but we have a feeling that International Student will be back. The ABC doesn’t always commission good comedies, but when they do they usually bring them back.