There’s a somewhat bizarre moment in Anh Does Vietnam when Anh Do is mimicking Con the Fruiterer in a Vietnamese street market.
A Vietnamese-Australian referencing a Greek-Australian character in Vietnam…..
“Coupla days!” he tells the locals, none of whom would understand the gag. But Do is speaking to the television audience of middle Australia in their own language. And that’s what sums up this travel special. Bringing Vietnam to a broad Australian audience in primetime on Channel Seven. Probably The Amazing Race is the closest many of them will have come.
Do’s life story, already detailed in his biography The Happiest Refugee, in stand-up and on Pictures of You, is a fascinating one. His family fled Vietnam when he was just a boy, but came close to losing their lives on an overcrowded boat. Growing up and adjusting to Australia brought more hardship. Yet to many Do is an infectious comedian whose appearances on Dancing with the Stars and Thank God You’re Here put a smile on their face.
In this 2-part series Do travels through Vietnam “to see what life might have been life if I hadn’t become an Aussie.”
Despite his heritage he almost views the country like an outsider, laughing at entire families crammed onto a motorbike, shocked by some of the delicacies the locals eat. I’m not sure I really believe him (surely he’s been to Vietnam before?) but he’s giving us the reactions many in the audience might be thinking.
A natural comedian, he tries his hand at leading a morning meditation group and struggles to keep up with some very lean males in another martial arts class. He can’t resist some visual gags and the kids just love him. Do would have been a star if he’d been around in the silent movie era.
He pranks some Aussies by pretending to be a local cyclo driver (a cab cycle) with a bad local accent. Hidden cameras capture these shenanigans. A terribly camp tailor decks him out in a gaudy, bright red suit. He drifts through a floating market calling out for “price check in aisle 3.”
More thoughtful are his visit to a school run by an Australian where children are given a chance at education, lighting candles on a local river, or crawling though the tunnels that were instrumental in the Vietcong war. This is a country bursting with life, history and diversity.
Do makes the hour pass with ease, always finding humour in the darkest of places. Sure, this may not match the insights of Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam or reach the social significance in Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta, but this is primetime on Sunday (indeed in the same slot as the xenophobic Border Security) and needs an entertainment voice if it is to succeed.
On that front Anh Do fits the bill.
Anh Does Vietnam is engaging armchair travel, that may just make some people call their travel agent sooner rather than later.
Anh Does Vietnam airs 7:30pm Sunday October 7 & 14 on Seven.