What is it like being a Comedian? These Comedians speak!
Get ready to laugh-out-loud with Comedy Central's first Asian original stand-up series, “Comedy Central Stand-up, Asia!”, an 8-part series produced by Comedy Central Asia in collaboration with LOL Events Malaysia!
The series is set to feature 24 popular Asian comedic acts from the region and across the world, giving audiences the opportunity to experience the different flavours of Asian stand-up.
“We’re excited to bring Comedy Central Stand-up, Asia! to viewers in line with our continued aim to promote Asian comedy and place a spotlight on some of the most talented comedians from around the region,” said Paras Sharma, Senior Vice President of MTV, Comedy Central & Paramount Channel Brands and Digital Media, Asia, Viacom International Media Networks.
The comedic acts involved in this series include Ron Josol (Canada), Vivek Mahbubani (Hong Kong), Mo Sidik (Indonesia), Douglas Lim (Malaysia), GB Labrador (Philippines), Sharul Channa (Singapore), Chris Wright (Thailand), Atsuko Okatsuka (U.S.), Neeti Palta (India) and more!
TheHive.Asia attended the press conference of “Comedy Central Stand-up, Asia!” a few days ago and had a chat with Douglas Lim, Andrew Netto, Tim Tayag, Mo Sidik and Neeti Palta.
Douglas, you have been in the comedy scene for so long now, how much has the scene evolved in Malaysia?
Douglas: We have a bigger audience now and many venues too! Back then, when Harith [Iskander] and I first started, venues like this never existed. We were doing corporate events immediately when we started and that is the wrong way to start as a comedian. As a comedian you’re supposed to start in rooms like this with open mics, in small places where you can hone your skills. But we were thrown into the deep end, and for us, it’s either you sink or you swim. Right now we have venues like Live House and Prank House, we have One Mic Stand at PJ Live Arts, Comedy Kau Kau at The Bee Publika, so this is how far we have gone. And now Malaysia is hosting Comedy Central Asia? How did we even get this far? It’s amazing!
Mo: Because it’s a lot cheaper in Malaysia.
Douglas: So says the Indonesian! [laughs]
|Malaysian comedian, Douglas Lim.|
Is it true that most comedy material comes from personal dark stories and they've been turned into jokes because laughter is the only way to cope with it?
Neeti: I think all jokes have some elements of truth in it. We will laugh it off and everything, but all jokes come from somewhere truthful, that’s what I believe.
Mo: I was bullied when I was young, because I’m a fat person. So I write my experience down and make it a material for my comedy routine. So I guess my story is quite dark.
Tim: I think like what Neeti said, there has to be a grain of truth, and I also believe that there’s some kind of pain, because people can relate to pain. So when you shed light on that pain that’s when the laughter comes out, because if there’s no pain, there’s nothing really for you to laugh about.
Andrew: For me, I use this as a platform to speak up, I like to speak up against everyone. I was raised in a very strict Indian household, so I use comedy as a way for me to speak up. I’m also very vocal on my views. A lot of people don’t agree because they don’t like what I say, but it’s okay because I don’t like them also – it works perfectly well for me! [laughs]
|Andrew Netto also from Malaysia, doing a stand-up.|
Douglas: What Tim said is very true, the comedy comes from a dark place, different from what you see on stage. But the formula that we kind of understand is that good equals to not funny! Nice things are not funny. People ask why I always joke about racism and corruption, and why I don’t joke about perpaduan (unity). How do you even joke about unity? [laughs]
How do you usually prepare your routines, and how much of your comedy is improvised?
Neeti: I think a lot of the energy translates from the audience. I know that if I’ve gone on stage for an open mic with some half-baked ideas, trying the material for the first time, I’m unsure if the story will go well. But if the audience is laughing and reacting, it gives me energy to be funnier. Although the material is scripted in my head, a lot of the impromptu is born from someone’s reaction to your jokes.
Tim: I usually have a set list. Though most of the time I don’t follow it, it is more like an outline for me to know what I should do next. But sometimes an idea will suddenly come up as I am telling my jokes, so I will kind of play with it and see where it takes me, and like what Neeti said, it’s the audience reaction. When they react, then you add to that and see what else you can get. If it gets me nowhere, I always have the jokes that I want to do as a backup.
|Tim Tayag from the Philippines is on a roll with his skit.|
Mo: In Indonesia, comedy is known as “lawak”, and it is usually improvised. You have to have a really good talent to do lawak. They barely write down their material, and that’s what they’ve been doing in Indonesia, and I cannot do that. I tried so many times, I cannot improvise jokes. For stand-up comedy, there are a lot of books about it, they have the information on how to write down jokes but you must practice. This is one of the art forms that requires a lot of challenge but little hard work. That’s different from the lawak in Indonesia.
Andrew: I love to improvise on stage. I like to interact with the crowd a lot. It’s also because I’m very lazy to write. Improvisation gives me a lot of freedom, because I’m very opinionated so I can just talk to anybody, pick up a story from them and form my jokes. I really love to improvise on stage.
Douglas: I’m a hundred percent scripted. Everything, every pause, and every look – it’s all written. I can show you my script to prove it. You can read it and perform it, but it won’t be as good as me. [laughs] I’m not joking, I do write everything.
Andrew: That itself is a talent of its own. For someone who can sit down and write down his jokes, and then perform it afterwards and still makes people laugh, that is just amazing!
How do you usually handle awkward situations, like when people don’t laugh at your jokes?
Douglas: I punch them! [laughs]
Mo: I would just take off my clothes and everybody will laugh. [laughs]
Tim: Won’t that make things more awkward? [laughs] I usually just call out the situation like, “Wow, that was awkward!” Then people will start laughing again because I’m acknowledging it and I’m not trying to pretend that everything is okay.
Neeti: Yeah, most of the time we would say something like, “Hmm, that was funnier in my head,” because it obviously was, that’s why I was trying to share it in the first place. Or maybe we would start addressing it to the people, because the moment you acknowledge the situation, it will kind of unwind on its own.
|India's Neeti Palta is quite new with stand-up comedy but is making strides with it!|
Douglas: What comedians usually do is something called “calling it”, which means whatever is very obvious in the room, even if it’s not in the room, if it’s something time sensitive, like the time the GST was implemented, it was on people’s mind, so you have to call the issue, you cannot go on stage and just ignore it.
If “bad equals to funny” I’m sure that each of you often make sarcastic jokes, how do you usually get away with these types of jokes or mockery?
Andrew: Because we are smarter than the people that are trying to catch us. So we thread very carefully about what we do. We are always one step ahead of them. You must never name drop, it can get you into trouble.
Douglas: But we are too small.
Neeti: Yeah, we’re too much under the radar, I think in India, English stand-up comedy is very niche. Only lately we've started coming under the lens, so to speak. But I always make sure that whatever I’m saying I can standby it like I’m not attacking any individual personally. It’s a very fine line, you know.
Tim: I think one of the ways you can get away with it is, well I usually try this, like if it’s a sensitive issue, and I know that this is going to cause some controversy, I try to direct it towards myself, like how is this going to affect me or how am I struggling because of this. If you speak on how you’re having a hard time, then it’s not so controversial anymore.
Mo: Indonesia right now is in its Golden period because we have a cool president, so we can say anything we want.
Douglas: Yeah, Jokowi is cool, that’s how it should be!
Mo: Except for religion-related topics, but everything else is fine.
|Mo Sidik from Indonesia is known for his fat jokes.|
There is indeed a fine line in comedy with sensitive topics, so have any of you ever crossed the line?
Mo: Yeah, I've gotten criticised by fat people before.
Neeti: The problem is who draws the line?
Douglas: And the line keeps moving.
Neeti: Yeah, it moves all the time. I’ve been criticised by women because I make fun of them even though I am one of them. But if can’t who will? [laughs] So the line keeps moving, and it is set by different people, so I only stick to the line I draw for myself.
Tim: Can I use that line? [laughs] It sounds so cool!
Douglas: I move so fast, I am the line!
Neeti: You know Amitabh Bachchan said that way before you were born. He says, “The line starts from where I stand.”
Douglas: He didn’t really say it because somebody wrote it for him. [laughs]
Mo: I’m so big, you cannot see the line. [laughs] Everybody’s like “Where’s the line?”
Douglas: He covers the line! [laughs]
|The comedians from “Comedy Central Stand-up, Asia!”|
Okay, lastly, what can you say about Comedy Central Stand-up, Asia?
Mo: It is awesome! The Comedy Central logo, I’ll be honoured to have that logo on my poster someday. I have dreamt about it, and right now I can use it!
Neeti: I think it’s such a huge effort and I can’t believe that it all happened. When I received the call, they were like, “Would you like to be a part of this”, I was like, “Would I? Of course!” And yeah, that logo is like a stamp, a quality of mark to us.
Mo: And I’m the only one from Indonesia.
Douglas: What are you “woooohh-ing” for? There are three representatives from India.
Neeti: We have 1.2 billion people, man! Three doesn’t matter. [laughs]
Tim: It was unbelievably amazing, and like they said, the logo is such an honour. I have a tattoo of the logo now! [laughs] Can’t wait to see the actual airing of this!
Andrew: It was cool to be a part of this, it’s a real honour. Of course for us, Comedy Central is like a seal of approval for comedians. This is something that we can brag about!
Douglas: Yeah, we all feel the same way.
“Comedy Central Stand-up, Asia!” premieres on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 at 7.55pm (TH/WIB), 8.55pm (HK/PH/SG/TW) and 9.55pm (MY).