Review: Ken Cheng: Best Dad Ever at the Bedlam Theatre

Best Dad Ever sees 2017’s Dave’s Joke of the Fringe winner Ken Cheng take on the ghosts of his childhood.

It centres around his mother’s hoarding problem, and how, in a visit to his childhood home, he has his first real adult conversation with her before discovering a Toblerone reading, ‘Best Dad Ever,’ – which he himself did not purchase.

In this comedic journey of self discovery, Cheng takes some clear influences from TED Talks, masterfully incorporating imagery and screenshots into the hour. This largely works to his advantage, allowing a joke to pack a longer lasting punch with a visual confrontation. However, the excel graphs displayed on the screen work less well. Weary mathematical concepts were explained, and not all of the metaphors completely landed.

The show is well written, with some excellent material only partially compromised by a framework which tried too hard to tie everything together. The pace of the show and particularly the concluding moments betray how ambitious the routine is, incorporating too many difficult topics and nuanced points to fit comfortably in an hour.

This hurts the coherency as subjects like Cheng’s Chinese heritage are picked up and dropped again inconsequentially – interesting but undeveloped. Some related jokes seem unoriginal, such as a bit about responding to a racist comment by pretending to not understand it and requesting further information.

The delivery also left something to be desired at points. Cheng is excellently deadpan, but after a while his intonation starts to sound repetitive, making his punchlines too easily anticipated with plenty of unfulfilled potential.

Cheng’s talent is clear despite the room for improvement. The ambition of the routine shines through in the number of jokes, the scope of subjects incorporated and some fantastic prop comedy. Unfortunately, it seems Excel spreadsheet comedy has its limitations. 

Ken Cheng: Best Dad Ever, Bedlam Theatre, August 6-26 (not 15)

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