‘Indians are not Asians, okay?’ Ronny Chieng draws ire for segment on The Daily Show

‘Indians are not Asians, okay?’ Ronny Chieng draws ire for segment on The Daily Show
Ronny Chieng's joke fell flat with many — primarily Indians and Southeast Asians — on Twitter.
PHOTO: Instagram/Ronny Chieng

Is India in Asia? 

This may seem like a no-brainer to anyone with a map, but Malaysian comedian Ronny Chieng appeared to disagree in a recent segment of The Daily Show discussing new UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. 

While some found the joke to be a clever dig at a continent as large as Asia being homogenised, it still fell flat with many — primarily Indians and Southeast Asians — on Twitter.

In a clip uploaded Tuesday (Oct 25) captioned “Don't call Rishi Sunak the UK's first Asian PM in front of Ronny Chieng”, the 36-year-old can be seen on The Daily Show discussing why he didn’t feel represented by Sunak.

“Let’s be clear, Indians are not Asians okay?” said Ronny, to laughter from host Trevor Noah.

“They’re still people, great people, they’re just not Asian people, okay?”

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Ronny was born in Johor Bahru, Malaysia but attended school in Singapore. He also lived in the United States between 1989 and 1994. After moving to Australia for university, he met Trevor at a comedy festival in Melbourne in 2013 before going on to be a senior correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

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In the video, he said: “Answer me this. If this guy is Asian, how come when he became Prime Minister, I felt absolutely nothing?”

He went on to joke that while he was “down at the Dim Sum Palace this morning”, he and his friends had not looked at Sunak and said, “That’s me up there!”

This raised some eyebrows, especially among those from this part of the world.

“The irony of being from Singapore, where Indians are one of our four major races, and saying that Indians aren't Asian,” a Twitter user responded.

Another tweet read: “I could immediately tell this guy had some connection to Malaysia or Singapore due to that specific brand of racial politics.”

Some found the segment to be witty instead, with a response on Twitter reading: “The concept of groupings like ‘Asians’, are from a European worldview, an oversimplification for diverse populations. Funny, but Ronny brings up an important point.”

Others lamented Twitter users for not getting a joke, with one tweet reading: “I love Ronny Chieng's edgy, cantankerous humour. But because this is Twitter, where jokes and nuance have to be spelled out: Of course, Indians are Asians.”

South Asians from the UK also clarified, in response to the tweet, that ‘Asian’ colloquially refers to South Asians in the UK, while in the US, it may refer to East Asians. 

“It’s a cultural/semantic difference,” read a tweet.

Ronny sarcastically remarked in the video that he might just “blend right in” if he showed up in a Bollywood film — but many pointed to Bollywood actors of minority ethnic groups.

One tweet read: “You might blend in. This is Andrea Kevichusa, an Indian Bollywood actress.”

“And then there was Danny Denzongpa who acted in over 160 movies in Bollywood, so blending in would not be a problem,” read another response.

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Others pointed to athletes, including Olympian boxer Mary Kom and Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri, as well as politicians.

One Twitter user even took a jab at Bollywood, saying: “Ronny, you will definitely blend into Bollywood movies — they too have uninformed comedy.”

Not everyone was impressed by Indians being the butt of the joke intended to poke fun at Sunak either.

“So many jabs to take at this guy and you go with ‘Indians aren’t Asian’? I’ve got a dozen actual good jokes for you,” a Twitter user responded.

Ronny is set to join the cast of Interior Chinatown alongside Chloe Bennet and Jimmy O. Yang, with the series pilot being directed by New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi.

It is unclear why, but he shared the news on Instagram Story with the caption: “So glad we don’t have to do this project with Singaporeans or Australians in decision-making positions”.

ALSO READ: Double jab: Ronny Chieng lowkey throws shade at Americans in jokes about Singapore

drimac@asiaone.com

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