When a Fringe show is called Ethnic Cleansing, you know it’s probably going to toe the line a little.
Charismatic comedian Ruven Govender does just that in this upbeat FRINGE WORLD Festival show that takes you on a journey through Govender’s life growing up as a South African-born Indian living in New Zealand and Australia.
Govender’s material stems from his racial ambiguity – most people can’t really tell what “type” of brown he is – and touches on everything from dating as a brown man to understanding that, somehow, every brown person is related, or knows his parents.
Yes, there were South African Indians in the audience who did in fact know his parents, so he proved that point pretty early on.
The show begins with a survey of the audience, to figure out where everyone is from, then a gentle mocking of each ethnicity. The laughs start nervously (are we actually allowed to laugh at that?), before getting more enthusiastic as everyone realises this – the Rooftop Terrace Bar at Universal Bar – is a safe space.
Racial stereotypes form the foundation of the show. What else would you expect from a show whose hook is “Wash away your white guilt”?
And while Indians are the focus of his observational-style comedy, no one ethnicity is safe from his quick wit.
But this isn’t one of those stand-up shows where you’ll be offended. Govender delivers each quip with such charm and charisma that the audience is left in stitches and nodding their heads in agreement.
Although the show revolves around race, his jokes have some depth. He covers everything from his hilarious take on what Africans would think of white people paying to go to gyms, to overcoming Visa issues in foreign countries, if there’s another brown person sitting behind the airport desk, to chicken farming with his parents in Brisbane and inadvertently becoming the “owners” of white slaves.
Ethnic Cleansing is not a politically correct show by any means, but you will absolutely laugh from start to finish, and there will be no guilt in doing so.