Jamali – a stand-up who was ‘all of us’

PETALING JAYA: One of Malaysia’s beloved comedy icons Datuk Jamali Shadat, who tickled the nation with his one-man multiracial repertoire, has passed away, leaving behind a shining legacy of humour and cultural sensitivity.

The diminutive man with a distinctive voice and comedic chops died of natural causes at his son’s home in Pulau Indah, Klang, at 8.15am yesterday. He was 79.

His passing was confirmed by his son, Fauzi Jamali, to The Star’s Malay-language portal mStar.

Jamali was a popular stand-up in Malaysia, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, with his impersonations and mimicry that had mass appeal.

He had the whole nation in stitches with his solo skits centred on a small boy named Atan, and an array of other characters including Atan’s grandfather (Atuk), Atan’s father as well as various neighbours.

Datuk Afdlin Shauki called Jamali’s passing “a great loss” to the Malaysian comedy fraternity.

“He inspired me to join comedy because the very first recording I ever heard in my life as a child was his act on Bakat TV in 1971, which my grandfather gave me as a record, ” Afdlin, himself a multitalented comedian, actor and director, told The Star.

Jamali, who performed in Bahasa Malaysia, Hokkien, English and Tamil, got second place at the talent contest organised by RTM.

His show-stopping eight-minute performance, simply titled Comedy Sketch, at the finals, proved that he could hold his own as a one-man show in a competition filled with singers and groups.

Laughing matter: Jamali’s impersonations and mimicry had mass appeal.Laughing matter: Jamali’s impersonations and mimicry had mass appeal.

After his appearance on Bakat TV, Life Records Malaysia made recordings of his stand-ups in the form of vinyl, followed by cassettes and CDs.

His early 1970s recordings have been reissued by Life Records through the years, and they have also been uploaded to YouTube by the record label.

Afdlin added: “I dare say he is the father of stand-up comedy in Malaysia because prior to him, I’d never heard anyone doing comedy as a single act in Malaysia. It was usually presented as a sketch involving a number of people.

“He singularly brought the house down with just a microphone and his immense talent in telling amusing stories by playing all kinds of characters, be they Malay, Chinese or Indian. He was truly an outstanding comedian.”

In an interview with The Star back in 2007, Jamali said his brand of comedy was tailored to suit a multiracial audience.

“When I impersonate a character from a particular race, I bear in mind their cultural sensitivities. Tradition and culture are important and should never be belittled.

“Sure, you want people to laugh but there is no need to be crude about it, ” he said.

In the article, the youngest of nine siblings also spoke about working during his teenage years to supplement his family’s income.

“I worked in the market with the Chinese, in the estate with the Indians, and at a bread factory owned by a Punjabi, ” he said.

It was during those stints that Jamali picked up on his employers’ speech patterns and mannerisms, which he incorporated into his act.

Jamali had also appeared in films like Aku Yang Berhormat (1983) and Mr Cinderella 2 (2003), hosted the variety programme Jamali Shadat Show in 2001 and was also a judge on Raja Lawak Astro in 2007.

He got to voice his own famous character Atan in three episodes of the animated series Upin & Ipin in 2016.

Jamali was laid to rest at Kampung Sungai Pinang Muslim Cemetery in Pulau Indah, Selangor, after the Zohor prayers yesterday.

He is survived by eight children and 39 grandchildren.

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