Comedy has been having the last laugh at the Fringe in recent years, with big name jokesters pulling the audiences. We meet three of the new kids on the block. Words: Eddie Gibb and Andy Lowe
Hung Le: knows more dog du jour jokes than you've had hot dinners
18 TIIEIJST 8—14
WHEN AMERICAN TROOPS were trying to dig the Viet—Cong out of the maze of underground tunnels below villages, they used sniffer dogs.
‘That‘s a bit like sending down a home- delivery pizza.‘ quips Hung Le. who will undoubtedly be the only
former Vietnamese boat I was scarEd before I aCtuauy person doing stand-up on went on stage because I
thought all these Vietnam vets
his native land's would have flashbacks.’ Hung Le
this year’s Fringe. Joking about
reputation for indulging in a spot of canine cuisine has served Le well and he
jokes than you‘ve had hot dinners. ‘My mother used to say stop playing with your food. and I would say. why not — he used
to play with me.’ So has he ever actually eaten dog‘.’ ‘No.’ laughs Le. ‘They IFV’ have speciality restaurants in Vietnam but my father never allowed us in so we used to have
probably knows more dog (In jour
to wait in the car. Vietnamese restaurants are becoming more popular, though. Every man and his dog are going to them.’ And on it goes, a steady stream ofjokes which parody the national stereotype.
Le‘s family left Saigon just hours before the city fell to the Communist army. ‘We lived just across the road from the president which was a really stupid place to live in the 7()s.‘ he says. One of the first wave of boat people to leave the country, the family pitched up in Australia. Le was the only Vietnamese kid in his school, and as so often happens, wise-cracking became a way of deflecting attention from himself. Like many Vietnamese children in the West. he had a reputation for academic diligence which made him a double target.
‘I wanted to fit in so much I had to pretend to be dumb at maths.‘ he jokes. ‘But it was actually much tougher on my parents and grandparents. they all had careers and suddenly the family is split up. You look at family photos and know you’ll never get all those people together on the beach again.’
Le‘s father taught at art school in Saigon and was a successful painter: in Australia he found work spray-painting cars to pay for his children‘s education. Does the older generation see the funny side of such a traumatic event?
“I‘m sure there are people in the Vietnamese community who don‘t like what I do but most are proud that I can get out there into the mainstream.’ says Le. ‘l was scared before I actually went on stage because I thought all these Vietnam vets would have flashbacks. but I don‘t get heckled at all and I‘ve toured all round Australia. I make ’em laugh and I make ‘em think about what’s going on. I reckon comedy is the easiest way to get it across into the mainstream, which is hard to do if you’re writing plays or stories.‘
Le clearly believes a serious bit of cultural exchange comes from his comedy. Like many ethnic minorities in Australia. he is concerned about the rise of far-right politician Pauline Hanson. whose anti-immigrant rhetoric has provoked a rise in racial hatred. In that climate. Lc‘s dog jokes acquire a darker edge.
How do you know when your house has been robbed by a Vietnamese?‘ he asks. ‘The dog‘s gone and all your homework has been done.’ Neo-Nazis aside. the old ones are still the best. (EG)
Hung Le: Now And Zen (Fringe) Honeycomb (Venue 139) Edinburgh, 0131 226 2151, 9—30 Aug, 10.30pm, £6.50 (£5.50). The show scheduled for 8 Aug has been cancelled.