After 15 years of hunting for success as a creative artist, Diana Nguyen finally caught hold of her prey in 2020: she gave a TEDx talk, hosted a podcast called The SnortCast, attained a viral following; she even almost gained the approval of her mother, the titular character from Diana’s multi-cultural web-series ‘Phi And Me’.
In her Melbourne International Comedy Festival show ‘Chasing Keanu Reeves’, Diana asks whether the chase is truly over and if so, what’s next?
When Facebook briefly banished Australian news sites and artists from its feed, Diana Nguyen wasn’t bothered; most of her audience was on LinkedIn, the professional networking site where users normally share news of their promotions or dour academic articles about corporate governance or the macro-economic implications of China’s wine tariffs. Diana took a different tack, as she explains.
“I started dancing on LinkedIn in a very niche community. I think when you think of LinkedIn, you think about business, you think mundane and boring and grey and because I’m a creative artist, an actor, comedian and performer, what I ended up doing is I stopped traffic; I stopped people scrolling and when my video came onto the screen, they watched and watched it, so I definitely became some candy on LinkedIn, if that makes sense.”
In her stand-up routine, Diana jokes that her mother squatted for four days on a boat out of the Mekong Delta so that she could become a doctor; dancing on LinkedIn isn’t quite the same, Diana says, but it is an improvement in her mother’s eyes, as she explains.
“My mum doesn’t really care about LinkedIn, she doesn’t know what it is, but she does care about these three things: money, health and having a baby.”
“With LinkedIn, what’s happened to my brain is that I’m no longer just an artist now, I’m also a businesswoman, so I call myself a creative entrepreneur, because I realised I’ve been able to make business in the creative arts to sustain my career.”
“So I guess the tick box for my mum is that I’m making more money, but I’m still working on the baby.”
In her new show at MICF, Diana will use the analogy of Keanu Reeves to examine whether the pursuit of external sources of validation, as advocated so fiercely by her mother, is the path that she should be taking.
“To be honest, I haven’t watched too many Keanu Reeves movies; I think I’ve only done 'The Matrix'. The kicker for me was two years ago, I saw this meme go viral on Google and it was Keanu Reeves sitting on a bench and he looked sad – and that was a massive turn on for me. What was so attractive about Keanu Reeves sitting there was he looked human. I just found it attractive that he had so many emotions, and he’s been through some very dark places, had quite a bit of loss in his life, but he has this aura around him.”
“['Chasing Keanu Reeves'] is about what happens when we hit that zone where Keanu Reeves is, what happens when we stop chasing? I feel like as a performer in Australia, I’ve been chasing my future husband, I’ve been chasing so much that I’m really curious about what happens when that chase ends and will I be bored of it?”
After last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival was cancelled with three weeks notice, Diana is raring to bust some corporate power postures on every inch of the stage this year.
Diana Nguyen plays The Greek Centre – Mykonos (Melbourne International Comedy Festival) from 25 March-4 April.