Comic putting special into special needs

“I’m a musical comic, but don’t put that first because it puts people off.” Ria Lina is not easily pigeonholed: her father is German and her mother is Filipina, she is a trained actor, singer and dancer, has a PhD in viral bioinformatics, was a digital forensic investigator at the Serious Fraud Office, and has written and presented her own documentary for Channel 4 which seeks to dispel the myths surrounding oriental women.

Despite all this, Ria Lina has been criticised in the past for relying upon simplistic stereotypes for her humour, with such classics as It’s Not Easy Being Yellow or The Mail Order Bride Song, in which she purports to describe her own parents’ relationship.

In fact, it is in these common stereotypes that Lina believes good comedy can be found. “You have to find a balance bewteen the truth of your life and what everybody else has enough understanding of or cultural reference points to be able to find funny.”

Most people wouldn’t make such jokes about their parents, or for that matter, their son (have a listen to The Internet Porn Song), but Lina jokes that with her kids there is “an understanding that mummy entertains grownups. But not in that way.”

She suggests that much of her humour, which teeters on the brink of acceptability, might find its origin in her own mother’s lack of social artifice.

In her new set, titled Thpethial, Lina reveals that she was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome – a high functioning form of autism. She decided to air this in response to a complaint from an individual who thought that she picks on people with special needs.

“Before I found out, I had no special needs. Now suddenly, by society’s definition, I have special needs.” Her show will be exploring what these labels mean, and whether one should be upset by them.

“It’s a brain topology, it’s a way of being, it’s a way of thinking, it’s a way of looking at the world and it’s a reason for me and my comedy and what I do. It’s the right fit.”

Ria Lina appears at The Good Ship on Kilburn High Road this Monday. Doors open at 6pm. For more information and tickets, visit

Originally published by The Kilburn Times