Alama(r)k! Don’t prank me!

O'dea and his mother Mandy Pither playfully pouting on the last day of her recent visit to Malaysia. Photos: Mark O'dea

A strikingly tall and slim figure at 180cm, English YouTuber and content creator Mark O’dea might make heads turn if you see him walking around town. But you’d be even more surprised when he opens his mouth and speaks to you in fluent Bahasa Malaysia.

O’dea, 31, has been living and working in Malaysia for 10 years and “absolutely loves it here”.

He’s known for his hilarious prank and parody videos, which he creates for his YouTube channel and Instagram (@markodea8). He’s also a TV host for Astro SuperSport.

A strikingly tall and slim figure at 180cm, O’dea might make heads turn if you see him walking around town.A strikingly tall and slim figure at 180cm, O’dea might make heads turn if you see him walking around town.“Ten years ago, I came to Malaysia because of The London Boys, a British boy band based in Malaysia, that I was in. After that, I joined The 8TV Quickie variety show as a presenter,” he says.

O’dea has also been involved in stage plays, theatre, musicals, singing and dancing.

“I went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School when I was in London. My family wasn’t well off so I had to get a scholarship and I woke up at 5am to take a two-hour train ride to London every day just to get to school,” he recounts.

O’dea’s family, comprising his mother, father, stepsister, stepbrother, and sisters, live in Surrey, England, which is an hour’s drive from London. His mother, Mandy Pither, in her mid-50s, and sister Katherine, in her late 20s, have both visited Malaysia.

“Katherine lived here for five years. She did performing arts, and enjoys doing videos now as well.

“I’ve a really special relationship with my family, Mum especially. We like to prank and make fun of each other and it can get very sarcastic,” he shares.

“But some people don’t approve because they don’t really understand our relationship and they’ll tell me: ‘You shouldn’t prank your mum or speak to her like that, it’s disrespectful’,” he says.

“But every family is different. They shouldn’t judge because they don’t understand our relationship. Mum is the same – she is also very sarcastic and likes to make fun of me,” he adds.

O’dea adds that most of his videos with his mum are spontaneous and natural because “if they were pre-planned, they wouldn’t be as fun”.

“I’m fortunate because Mum loves the limelight and is very comfortable in front of the camera, and people love the stuff I do and the content I create with her,” he says.

A short video of O'dea pranking his mother and sister when trying to teach them to speak Bahasa Malaysia.A short video of O'dea pranking his mother and sister when trying to teach them to speak Bahasa Malaysia.O’dea says his mother has picked up some Bahasa Malaysia and knows certain words like “terima kasih” and “sama-sama”.

As for O’dea, after two years in Malaysia, he asked his friends to teach him some Bahasa Malaysia.

“I wanted to be able to understand people who can’t speak English. Also, Bahasa Malaysia is the national language so it’s good to learn it,” he says.

After three years, O’dea took classes, but stopped when he discovered it was formal Bahasa Malaysia.

He continued to learn the language himself by watching Malay films.

When the lockdown happened, he had a lot of time on his hands and decided to engage an online tutor.

“I had classes three times a week, and I’m at a level now where I’m comfortable communicating in Bahasa Malaysia,” he says.

O’dea gets most of his ideas for his content from life and daily experiences.

“For example, the series that I’ve done recently with fellow content creator Arieff Yong is about (ehailing) ride experiences where he (the driver) thinks all English people are about drinking tea,” he says.

“I’m not making this up. I get into taxis and people really do say things like that to me: ‘Do you drink tea every day?’"

O’dea says his best memories are mostly about work because he “loves his job”.

“I do parodies where I take a catchy song and change the lyrics to make it funny. When I did a parody about bubble tea that included Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese lyrics, it got into 9GAG, which is like the Oscars for content creators,” he says.

O'dea dressed up as Draco Malfoy at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood.O'dea dressed up as Draco Malfoy at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood.“Also, when I did a K-pop misheard lyrics parody which had some Bahasa Malaysia in it, it was the first video from Malaysia to be featured on 9GAG.

“That was a big moment for me because I could bring a bit of Malaysian culture to the international world,” he adds.

According to O’dea, the greatest challenge a content creator faces is getting fresh ideas.

“My content isn’t like others so I always have to come up with fresh ideas. I’ve to always be thinking of the next video,” he says.

“Sometimes, you might have a creative block so you’ve to find ways to recharge your brain to get the inspiration.

“Also, as a content creator, you have to be careful not to offend anyone through the content you create.”

Having been here for a decade, O’dea has developed a fondness for Malaysia.

“I love Malaysia. It’s a country where you can do lots of things. It’s got good food, nice beaches, it’s hot all the time,” O’dea enthuses.

O’dea loves the multiculturalism in Malaysia because despite the different languages, cultures, religions, everyone remains friends.

“I celebrate Deepavali, Hari Raya and Chinese New Year because I’ve got Indian, Malay and Chinese friends.”

O’dea says that he hasn’t made any plans for the future.

“We don’t know how long we have in this world so I want to take life as it is. I might fall in love and stay here.

“Or I might miss my family and return to England. So, I’m going to keep doing what I love and what I’m good at, and see what happens,” he concludes.

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