23.04.2019

Aaron Chen’s ‘Piss Off (Just Kidding)’ is unpredictable, awkward and brilliant

Aaron Chen
Review by Daniel Borghesi

★★★★

Piss Off (Just Kidding), where to begin? Good question.

Does Aaron Chen even know where to begin? You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise, seeing that he spends the first five minutes on stage dissecting, poking fun at, and quizzing his audience. With the room in the palm of his hand shortly after, Chen readies – between two portraits of himself (done by his own father) – for just shy of an hour worth of intoxicatingly zany, intelligent, yet strikingly awkward humour.

Since winning ‘Best Newcomer’ at the 2017 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Chen has only bettered himself. Not only has he cemented himself as a formidable tweeter, but somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. Whilst some of the Australian footballing public mightn’t have forgiven him yet, Piss Off (Just Kidding) documents what a masterful performer Chen has become in the face of his rising stardom, purposely uncomfortable in the limelight and confident enough to parade it.

Piss Off (Just Kidding) is an ode to unpredictability, highlighting Chen’s unrivalled ability to confuse, enlighten and ensue hilarity – all within the exact same sentence. It’s not a show for switching off, but rather paying close attention to every word. Mainly because you’d kick yourself for missing out on a sheepish quip or poignant turn of phrase.

Chen may appeal to what we like to call a ‘millennial’, but traditional comedy fans with an eye for quality and craftsmanship will similarly find themselves failing to become underwhelmed by this genius. Chen develops thorough and interesting interpretations of personal and societal concepts such as growing up Chinese and having a favourite terrorist. Pepper in some self-written fan fiction of himself delivered through the form of a heartfelt monologue and Chen’s got himself a recipe for pure comedic success.

It’s with an element of surprise and at times, sheer ridiculousness, Chen is able to lull you quite innocuously into a false sense of security before betraying you with an elongated pun or digestible insult. At times Chen loses his train of thought, so he relies on audience interaction to remind himself where he needs to be, before totally disregarding said feedback. That’s got to be the definition of working a room. Right?

If you like comedy that makes you think, cringe, and cackle simultaneously – this is the show and comedian for you. Aaron Chen is nothing short of a future superstar of Australian comedy. However, it’s best to catch him now, in a venue small enough for him to insult you.

Highlight: Chen’s autobiographical fan-fiction monologue.

Lowlight: Not being picked on for audience participation.

Crowd Favourite: Chen explaining the GFC in his own words.