Over the Edge and into the Abyss: A critical analysis of Ningali Lawford and Hung Le's comedic collaboration Black & Tran

Helena Grehan, School of Arts, Murdoch University

Pub Talk

Thursdays at the Fremantle Hotel, corner Cliff & High Streets
Presentations start 6.30pm sharp.

2 May 2002


Black & Tran was marketed as a comedy that 'laughs in the face of racism' and indeed it proved to be a huge success, playing to packed audiences all over Australia and receiving standing ovations and rave reviews. In Black & Tran, Ningali Lawford an Aboriginal performer, and Hung Le a Vietnamese-Australian comedian, share experiences of racism and discuss what being Australian means to them.

Black & Tran seemed to promise a sharp and scintillating night of comedy in which spectators would be challenged and engaged on the important issues of race, nation and identity; issues that in the current era of 'border protection', are regularly debated in the Australian media. It is my contention, however, that rather than laugh at racism, or indeed challenge us to think more deeply about issues of cultural difference and representation, Black & Tran ended up reinforcing stereotypes and presenting us (me at least) with a seriously un-funny night of entertainment.

Through a detailed critical analysis of the performance this paper asks questions about the politicisation of humour, the role of the 'comic turn', and the expectations spectators/critics might bring to a performance by well known Australian performers such as Ningali Lawford and Hung Le.

Pub Talk | 2002

New: 15 April, 2002 | Now: 6 May, 2015