Ken Cheng talks about being the BEST DAD EVER at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I dropped out of a mathematics degree at Cambridge uni to play online poker professionally when I was 19. Performing was sort of an accident for me. I never expected to do it and I just signed up to try it at 21 on a whim. I started doing it in the Cambridge student scene after I dropped out which was a really supportive environment and only a couple years ago I moved to London to pursue it as a career.
Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Best Dad Ever is about my childhood and my family and it’s about all the weird things I did as a kid and how that was affected by the environment I grew up in. Like I was very anti-social, I used to have very niche hobbies like I played around with Microsoft Excel a lot and I owned 100 toy lambs which I played with a lot.
How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
It’s coming up to two years now. I did my first show last Edinburgh but I already had done a full hour version of this show that I had in the bag. It’s the show I’ve been really wanting to do for ages. I think it’s relevant now because it’s about being different and celebrating that, and I think people are looking for a story that’s real and earnest. I feel like this show will always be relevant but 2018 does feel like the right vibe for it – it’s about crappy things in the world and in my life but it’s optimistic.
Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Pace yourself. It’s relentless. Take time off to breathe, relax and contemplate. As a performer it’s a stamina game. Don’t just try to power through to the end of the month. Don’t try to do everything. Visitors: the same. If you pack in 6 shows a day for a week you won’t enjoy any of them. You will barely remember most of them.
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I had this bit last year where I defend Hitler but it’s to call back to a joke about the phrase “if you can’t handle him at his worst, you don’t deserve him at his best” but one time I did that and I completely forgot to do the set up bit, so I was one minute into defending my Hitler spiel and I realised I had no way of getting out of it. It completely derailed the show, though weirdly that show got the best review.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
Mike Birbiglia because he just does real honest shows where the comedy comes from real-life so much. He makes shows where you fall in love with him.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I sacrifice a small child. My own, so it’s okay.
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
Kieran Hodgson. Loved his last show. Mat Ewins as well. Overall, this will be my 9th year being at the fringe at all so I’m kinda in the place where I’m seeing people I’ve seen a lot so actually I wanna say I want to find someone that I’ve just completely not heard of that’s excellent.
Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the Fringe?
I think it’s more than just an hour of material which some shows can certainly be. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – my last show was just material. But I’ve tried hard this year to make it a show that people really want to see and connect with. This is a culmination of everything that I’ve learned over the past year about what makes a good show. I think I’ve come a long way since last year and I hope to capitalise off that.
See Ken Cheng: Best Dad Ever at the Bedlam Theatre throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 1st – 26th August.