After 20 years on stage as a dancer, actress and model, Wandi Cao has added stand-up comedy to her talents in her first solo show, Rebellious Chinese Daughter. Key themes included Chinese cultural norms surrounding money, family, feminism and Cao’s dating experiences as a ‘not yet out’ lesbian. These themes gave Cao her own personal take on observational stand-up comedy.
At her best, Cao drew on her experiences to provide unexpected twists and new takes on ethnicity, gender, dating and sex. Some of Cao’s best comedic content were wholesome stories with a dark and ironic edge. The way these stories slowly blossomed was engaging and ended with the most laughter from the audience.
In a time when comedic content often overdoses on self-deprecation and the woes of humanity, these stories were refreshing – and we need more of them! Crude sexual humour was another feature in Rebellious Chinese Daughter. While some may have found it cringeworthy, others may have liked it.
Although they were rare in Rebellious Chinese Daughter, predictable, one-off jokes that added nothing to old stereotypical tropes were tiresome, despite some of the cheap laughs they received. The similarity of some of Cao’s punchlines prevented the show from reaching its full comedic potential. Despite the content falling short at times, Cao’s relaxing voice gave her a unique style of delivery, which stood out against the common hyper energetic persona used by other stand-up comedians.
Throughout Rebellious Chinese Daughter, not once did Cao put an audience member on the spot, which was a relief for many, especially for my friend who insisted on sitting at the back for obvious reasons. Despite the lack of one-to-one interaction, some audience members (especially men) may have felt slightly called out and embarrassed by Cao’s detailed anecdotes, in good jest and banter of course.
Rebellious Chinese Daughter was a solid effort for Cao’s first solo show. It will be interesting to see how she expands on her experiences as a Chinese lesbian and/or introduces other facets of her identity for future comedic content.
Wandi Cao: Rebellious Chinese Daughter was performed at Club Voltaire from 12-16 April 2023 as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.