Taking the laughs on the road

  • Arts
  • Monday, 09 Dec 2013

WHO doesn’t like a good laugh?

According to stand-up comedian Phoon Chi Ho, the appetite for comedy has grown beyond the Klang Valley’s comedy central to places ranging from Kota Kinabalu to Penang and Kuantan.

“There’s a thirst for comedy, especially for those out of KL. They’re watching stand-up on YouTube and waiting to get someone doing local jokes at a local venue.

“If you go on YouTube, you see a lot of black comics making jokes about black people, you end up understanding more about African Americans than you do about your neighbours. But with localised jokes, it’s something we can call our own,” says the co-founder of the Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians, which shares its initials with a certain national anti-corruption body.

The veteran comic notes that localisation doesn’t just mean adding something vaguely Malaysian.

The laughs can be specific right down to the state one performs in.

“Kuantan has Lynas, Johor has fake murals and a new weekend schedule, each state has its own hang-ups,” says Phoon.

Phoon will be working with a different group of comics – including Andrew Netto, Rizal Van Geysel and Prakash Daniel – in the Rocklands Entertainment Christmas Crackers comedy tour, which makes stops in Penang and Kuantan.

It finished its shows in the Kland Valley last week. With a title like Christmas Crackers, Prakash admits there will be more Christmas jokes to unleash.

“But we have to start with our old stuff too, we can’t just jump into Christmas material,” he says.

Phoon points out that this is possibly one of the first Christmas-themed comedy shows being done locally.

“To be fair, people will start having to do Hari Raya, Deepavali, and Gawai shows. And I don’t have material for Gawai,” he says in mock panic.

Prakash assures that their performance will be “mature-family friendly”, pointing at the “For mature audience only 18 & above” stamp at the bottom of their flyer.

“Things can still go wrong, and it’s usually when you’re making sex jokes,” squirms Prakash. He recalls an incident when he called out an audience member, mid-way through a joke about sex, and asked how old the person was, only to find out the boy was 14 and there with his mum. Phoon bursts out laughing and pats Prakash’s back as a half-hearted consolation.

“You should have seen him, he was a huge guy, how was I supposed to know he was 14!” objects Prakash, earning more laughter from Phoon.

Phoon says comics don’t say “the bad stuff” just to intentionally offend their audiences or leave them upset.

However, a little crudeness is sometimes a natural part of comedy.

“If you analyse different comics’ acts, you’ll notice that it’s the delivery, not just content, that offends people.

“You can get away with murder, with the right presentation,” reveals Phoon.

“Here’s the secret to stand-up: we make it look simple, but we’re pissing our pants when we get on stage.

“It’s like pulling a grenade pin, you’re either gonna bomb or kill the audience,” admits Phoon.

After eight years doing stand-up, Phoon can also attest to the dangers of being a comic.

“I’ve gotten into a lot of trouble over the years. Mostly with my wife.”

*Christmas Crackers will be on tour at China House, Penang (Dec 12), and Sri Manja Butik Hotel, Kuantan, Pahang (Dec 15).

Tickets start from RM35. Call 03-7732 2224 or email rocklands.ent@gmail.com to book tickets. Show contains mature material, for those above 18 only.

More info at www.facebook.com/Rc.ent.my.

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