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‘This is what I wish someone told me at 19’: Comedian Ronny Chieng Talks with Comedy Students

Ronny Chieng, Doug Herzog, and student Maya Chang speak on Zoom screen
Photo/Sofia Lindgren Galloway, MA/MFA ’24

Emerson students and alumni gathered on zoom earlier this month to hear advice from stand-up comic, actor, and The Daily Show correspondent Ronny Chieng. The call was the fourth installment in a series called All Joking Aside with Doug Herzog.

All Joking Aside is presented by the Center for Comedic Arts @ Emerson College, and hosted by Emerson Trustee Doug Herzog ’81, LHD ’08, co-host of podcast Basic! When Cable Was Cool and former president of Viacom, where he oversaw Comedy Central, VH1, and other cable channels. Over the past two years, Herzog has lent his network and expertise to (virtually) bring Trevor Noah, Tig Notaro, and Matt Stone and Anne Garefino to Emerson to share personal stories and professional advice.

This fall, Herzog invited another Daily Show favorite, Ronny Chieng, to speak to students. Chieng zoomed in from Hawaii, where he was on set filming a new movie.

“Let’s just say, show business is crazy,” Chieng said. “And sometimes, with three days’ notice, you can get cast into things that film in Hawaii, and you have to learn how to speak Korean in one hour.”

Herzog and Chieng discussed Ronny’s time at The Daily Show, his path to comedy, and how he’s managed to build a global audience.

However, Chieng frequently spoke directly to students, assuring them that while the road to a career in comedy will be hard, it is attainable.

“This is why I love talking to college kids. Because this is what I wish someone had told me at 19,” he said.

Five Emerson students (Kat Mondor ‘23, Jackie Cotter ‘23, Maya Chang ‘23, Jamie Elder ‘24, and Koby Polaski ‘24) asked Chieng questions live during the event and received generous career advice.

On building a career in stand-up, he said, “The only way to get better at stand-up comedy is to do it. It’s just stage time and attrition. And getting a thick skin and bombing a lot. It’s trial and error.”

The audio file for this interview will be donated to the American Comedy Archives, housed at Emerson College. You can stay up to date on all of the Center for Comedic Arts events by following along on Instagram, Twitter, or through their website.

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Sofia Lindgren Galloway View All

MA/MFA Theatre Education and Applied Theatre '24

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