When MJ Wong first steps out on stage, you're struck by his size. He is really tall, so a day job as a pharmacist makes sense.
I must be going to all of the wrong chemists though because none of them make me laugh as much as he did.
In The Wong Family has had a sell-out run as part of the 2018 Bris Funny Fest, and I was lucky enough to score some tickets for the final encore performance on a rare overcast Sunday afternoon in the Valley. Perfect weather for a drink and a laugh.
MJ's style is a clever balance between self-deprecation and poking fun at others. He doesn't really (at all) do that thing where the whole act is a slickly written set of "observations"; the only commentary on society he makes is that which involved him or his immediate family, and this is perhaps the most refreshing aspect of his work.
Getting a drink before going into the room, the bartender told us how the organiser had gone to great lengths to gather a particular type of comic for the Brisbane Funny Fest. Very selective in choosing the right people, they were proud of the safe and supportive space they had created for the comedians and the audience.
Heya Bar's comedy room is one where your seat will be only a maximum of five metres from the stage, but the idea of this "safe place" means that it wasn't uncomfortable if MJ caught your eye and shared a smile. Both comedian and audience fed off each other, and no one shied away from sitting right in the front row. There was really only one direct interaction between MJ and an audience member during the show, and it wasn't at their expense. All three (MJ, the audience member, and their partner) were laughing hard. As were the rest of us!
MJ's source for In The Wong Family comes from times in his life which were probably among the most painful and difficult, dealing with issues such as family identity and the reinvention of self-identity. For me, the way in which he spoke and joked about these periods hit just the right balance. He really opened up about who he was, but there weren't any uncomfortable pauses where the audience wondered if they could be moving into something awkward or too intimate.
MJ doesn't slam back and forth from funny to serious; rather his entire act is his life, seen through his eyes as a comic. All of it is funny, and all of it is serious. His brother (also in attendance at this show) is another story. A bit of a loose unit, he was providing moral support in the audience and at the door afterwards, decked out in a gaudy tracksuit and clutching a sex toy.
MJ left us with some thought-provoking reading material as we were leaving
All in all, this was refreshing, easy to enjoy, and definitely worthwhile.
The best way to stay up to date with MJ, what he's up to, and where you can see him is to follow his Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages.
Located at 351 Brunswick St (just after the intersection with Ann St), Heya Bar is a dark and intimate downstairs space with great food, drink, games and staff. They're just finishing up a run of hosting some of Bris Funny Fest's 2018 acts - so keep outeye ouy for some great comedy at next year's Fest.
Heya Bar is only a short walk up from Fortitude Valley railway station. Plan your journey here.