The Daily Show's Ronny Chieng: Why I tweeted about PSLE scores

Ronny Chieng, a Malaysian-born comedian who is a correspondent on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.
Ronny Chieng, a Malaysian-born comedian who is a correspondent on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - He might be a star on the most storied satirical show in the world, but Ronny Chieng has not forgotten his Singapore connection.

The Malaysian's signature scrunching of his face as he launches into his latest hilarious diatribe dissecting the news of the day into bite-sized morsels of equal parts information and entertainment has made him a favourite on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

New episodes of The Daily Show will air on Friday, 11.20pm, on Comedy Central (Singtel TV Ch 324 and StarHub TV Ch 516).

It has been quite a journey from Johor to New York, where Chieng is now part of an Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning institution that Time magazine has dubbed one of the 100 best TV shows of all time.

That journey included an education in Singapore via Yuhua Primary School, Pioneer Secondary School and Pioneer Junior College, en route to degrees in law and commerce from the University of Melbourne.


Ronny Chieng, a Malaysian-born comedian who is a correspondent on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. ST PHOTO: COMEDY CENTRAL

That is why, in late November, the 31-year-old strayed from his largely light-hearted tweets to post a heartfelt message to children in Singapore who felt disheartened by their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results.

JUST A NUMBER

Describing his own disappointment at scoring a 233 and entering a "lowly ranked public school", he added: "Don't let anyone give you a number, a grade or a school ranking and tell you that it is all that you are worth."

When The New Paper asked Chieng what fuelled the tweet, he said: "I remember when I went through it, how I felt and how disappointed I was.

"So I wanted to share my experience with children of a similar age...

"Most of my tweets are a bit more jokey, but it's something kids needed to hear because I wish someone had told me that."

Another thing Chieng wished someone would have told him in advance was that Donald Trump would win the Nov 8 election.

On The Daily Show's election-night coverage, Chieng said: "We prepared one (segment) for if Trump won, one for if it was too close to call and one for if Hillary Clinton won, and we were like there is no way we are going to use the Trump one. It's just not going to happen.

"Then, as the night went on, we were like, 'Oh s***, the numbers are turning'...

"That was the feeling at the show, this sense of dread.

"After Trump won, no one could believe it. Everyone was walking around in shock. There were genuine tears and people were upset.

"We were looking forward to not talking about him any more. And it ends up we've got to talk about him for another four years, at least."

Chieng admits that he is unsure if The Daily Show would alter its approach to Mr Trump after he is sworn in on Jan 20, but conceded that the show had changed its tone during the campaign.

REALITY

He explained: "Now that he has succeeded against all odds, like a true underdog story - Donald Trump, billionaire white guy - the tone will be less like, 'Look at this guy, what a joke'.

"The tone has shifted from when he started, when we dismissed him as a joke to now where we're like everything he is saying is still a joke, but it's reality now. It's more serious now."

And Chieng is adamant that there is a serious need for The Daily Show's brand of humour.

He said: "I think it is needed more than ever - a sense of humour and also pointing out and analysing things that are going on in the political spectrum.

"Whatever job you do, you want your job to matter, and I feel that this is a job that matters."

While the Malaysian believes his job matters, he conceded that The Daily Show's coverage did not matter much to voters.

He said: "At the end of the day, we're a silly comedy show. And if the past year and a half has shown anything, it's that we can make jokes all we want and it didn't change a thing.

"I guess Donald Trump realised we had no effect on anything and just left us alone."