The thing about Michael Hing

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The thing about Michael Hing

Michael Hing
Credit: Michelle Grace Hunder
Words by Jen Kumnick

“I think people find me more interesting than fun. And I don't mean interesting in a charismatic way - I mean interesting in a, ‘a scientist might wanna study him’ kind of way.”

Michael Hing joins me in a quiet theatre cafe for our chat and keeps apologising for not being able to articulate his thoughts more clearly – he woke up at 5am. Why? To get on a hot air balloon with fellow comedians from his Dungeons and Dragons podcast to promote the new film. He tells me that the crazy thing about hot air balloons is that the pilot can’t actually steer them – they can decide when to go lower or higher, but aside from that – it’s just a free moving spirit through the sky, at the mercy of the winds. So Hing and his friends ended up on a beach somewhere in Melbourne, in what quickly became an emergency landing.

Funnily enough, that’s not the strangest place the comedian has found himself. Last year for iView, Hing and his Triple J Drive co-host Lewis Hobba made a show called Australia’s Best Competition Competition, which saw them partake in a bunch of weird and wonderful community events around the country. Including a dry river boat race in the middle of Alice Springs, called the Henley on Todd. “It’s entirely dry. I mean, you build a boat, but you just carry it and run,” he laughs.

“This could sound so insane. They have these three big ships built on like Pajeros, like almost parade floats. And they have gunpowder and flour bombs attached to them. And they drive around this demolition derby thing and they shoot guns at each other,” he explains.

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Somehow, Hing (or ‘Hingers’, as he’s known to many) is more bewildered by the fact he landed a spot in the lineup at Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s night of nights: “I think the Gala is every, or maybe most Australian comedians…it’s a dream, right? Because you grow up watching that”. After being on the stand-up scene for a few years, Hing saw his dream starting to fade, so began to concede that it might never happen. When the invitation came, all of the excitement returned. “It’s a real dream to do it.”

“You’ve got four minutes to do a set at the Gala, and I went over by about 40 seconds, because I didn’t realise – this is gonna sound like a humble brag – but I didn’t realise how long the laughs would go for.”

The desire to make people laugh began early on, with inspiration coming from a clean-comedy cassette tape his Christian parents played when he was a kid. At age seven, he recalls, “One joke I wrote was, there was a horrible heatwave somewhere in the world and a drought. I made a joke about how the cause of that heatwave was my mum, who’s always drying her hair”. Lucky for us, this is a far cry from stories you’ll hear now about taking the perfect dick pic, unexpectedly intimate acupuncture sessions and a darkly creative approach to tackling climate change. The comic’s latest show Long Live The Hing is an hour of hilarious storytelling centred around the disaster that was trying to propose to his girlfriend at Splendour in the Grass 2022.

A self-confessed overthinker, Hing is meticulous about his craft. “I’m pretty obsessive about the show, so I record it every night. I guess comedy is like a puzzle. Sometimes it’s good to listen back if something didn’t go right, or something hit at like 80%. It’s like – ‘did I emphasise the wrong word? Or, was I not clear enough with the idea?’. It’s a relationship with the audience. There’s obviously a million ways to do comedy, but for me it’s telling a story, being there with people. Letting them ask questions, finding the things they understand, pulling and pushing with the audience.”

When he’s not performing stand-up, on air with Triple J, recording for his two podcasts, or stuck in an Alice Springs pirate ship shoot-out, Hing’s other regular gig is co-hosting The Project on Channel 10.

He loves working on the show, but says it was not something he ever thought possible.

“I think of what makes a good television host or a good radio host, you know? I think it’s very shiny people who are very charismatic, cool, calm, collected, who are very interesting, smart or whatever. And then I certainly don’t see myself as those things. I think my strengths are like, being really weird.”

“I think people find me more interesting than fun. And I don’t mean interesting in a charismatic way – I mean interesting in a, ‘a scientist might wanna study him’ kind of way.” 

It’s not just his personality that he feels is an unexpected choice. Hing acknowledges the lack of cultural representation on Australian screens: “Commercial television was very white, growing up. Part of you in the back of your brain thinks, you know, would they ever hire multiple people of colour to work on a commercial television show? I mean, obviously they have, but part of you thinks because of the nature of the history of the industry, you wonder if they would have.”

“Growing up, I never saw people who looked like me on TV, so it’s still a shock that I get to work, you know?”

Coming from working at the ABC, where the comedian admits you have to bring in your own tea bags, and where he once sprayed a bunch of squeaky chairs with his own can of WD40, commercial TV is totally different – just not in the ways he anticipated. “I think some people probably think that there’s some producer in your ear telling you what to say. And it’s just never that, it’s just like, ‘I don’t know, what do you think?’ And I guess go, ‘this is my opinion’. I think that’s the strength of the show which I had not realised. The show will only work when the people on the show are being their authentic selves. It’s really nice to have that freedom.”

As to what the future holds, Hing is just taking things as they come. “You can work really hard and the media landscape will change. Everything’s moving all the time, you have no real ability to control the opportunities you’ll get. So you just have to kind of be ready for everything.”

“The fact that people will listen to my friends and I play Dungeons and Dragons and come watch me play a game…it’s fucking crazy! But it’s so fun, it’s the best. And so, I think I want to always have, in my life, stuff like that, that I’m making with my friends.”

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity I get to do so many cool things.”

See Long Live The Hing at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, Sydney Comedy Festival and Brisbane Comedy Festival. Visit for dates and tickets. Catch Michael on The Project desk every Friday and Sunday night from 6:30pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play.