Sunday, 25 May 2014

Stand-up comedy in Asia from my perspective

Dear One and All,

This post has been long overdue but better now than never. I have had the privilege to travel around Asia with my comedy in the past 3 years of attempting to do stand-up. I say attempting as quite honestly - 3 years in stand-up can hardly consider as you being a 'professional stand-up comedian' or at least i think so. I've performed in Malaysia ( KL, Sabah, Penang), Hong Kong and Macau ( as part of the hong kong international comedy competition) , India ( Delhi, Mumbai ) and have performed with comedians from Philippines,China,India,Malaysia,Thailand etc. I've also had the privilege to do open-mic spots in Australia ( Sydney,Perth) and went over to the US last year to accompany Rishi Budhrani to watch him perform in some prestigious clubs as part of his win at the Hong Kong International Comedy Competition in 2012. As an observer-performer, there are certain things i would like to say about the new explosion of the Stand-up Comedy scene in Asia. For one - its over-whelming to say the least and its wonderful to see the way its turning out. Lots of positive and lots of mistakes being repeated. Let's start with the positive.

Positive things about the Stand-up comedy explosion in Asia

1. Thanks to the 'Russell Peters' Phenomena that took place, many aspiring stand-up comedians cropped up in Asia. In a small country like Singapore, we have 40 open-micers out of which 6 stand-up comedians are traveling, doing corporate shows and being approached by show promoters to perform around the country and region.( Note : In most part of Asia, people pay to watch open-mic nights.)

2.  Most Asian countries  now have regular open-mic shows  and professional comedy shows running quite successfully ( Singapore has one of the most popular comedy shows called : Comedy Masala)

3. The media has gotten wind of this ' new wave ' and is quite proactive in promoting stand-up comedy and its comedians.

4.  Youtube has become more vibrant with funny content coming from all over Asia and stand-up comedians in Asia are forced to up their game!

5. Asian comedy festivals are cropping up ( Hong Kong International Comedy Competition, The Weirdass Pajama Festival in Mumbai, Singapore Comedy Fringe Festival etc)

6. Many more stand-up comedians from the West have performed/ are coming down to perform in Asia hence serving as a learning experience for Asian comedians helping them connect dots with the west.

7. Full-time / Part-time comedy clubs providing regular opportunities for stand-up comedians who have a 30 minute set.

There you go! All positive! Fantastic. Now for the Negative.

Negative things about the Stand-up comedy explosion in Asia

1. For all stand-up comedians in Asia : Listen up.

 You might have been performing stand-up comedy for say 3 years like me? Or 5 years? Since this is a new wave - its easier for the media to get to us and hence for us to be covered in the papers. This does again..DOES NOT make your a celebrity. You can have 300 people watching you perform stand-up shows're still NOT a celebrity. Stand-up comedy is being truthful to yourself and finding your voice on stage..the moment you start thinking that you are bigger than your audience..its time for you to spiral down to zero. If you are using stand-up comedy as a medium to get famous or join the movies - perhaps you want to reconsider being in the profession.

2. Local Humor Vs International Set

I know many of us fall into this category of wanting to do local humor because the majority of our audiences are locals but if you want to travel with your comedy - we all have to make an effort to write international material so we can travel and mark our country on the global comedy map. I have been guilty about writing just for my country but this realization has changed the way i now write. The difference is've been writing about your it's time to talk about the world as an asian. The small shift makes a big difference. It might sound simple though but its lots of growing in the dark and jumping up at numerous open-mics to test out material.

3. Let's have millions of shows and millions of open-mics

Stand-up comedy in itself is a challenge so what makes you think you can become a promoter?
Not everyone can run a comedy room successfully so you got to ask yourself if you can manage being a stand-up comedian AND a promoter at the SAME TIME. Many stand-up comedians/open-micers are now running numerous shows in their cities..what's going to soon start happening is that the audiences will start getting confused as to which show they should go for and numbers will start dropping. Some people will go as far as to do comedy shows for FREE which will then bring all your hard work of building up a scene to zero. Even if its an open-mic - you got to charge money for a performance. When i say performance - you got to have a poster, a line-up, a good host etc. Regular stand-up comedians have to come together to come up with a monthly comedy show time-table so that we are not stepping on each other's toes.

4. STEALING MATERIAL will tarnish your name + NOBODY can MONOPOLIZE comedy

Please don't try to accelerate your process of wanting to become a better comedian by stealing material from other stand-up comedians/ the internet/ old jokes etc. This will not help you in the long run and word comes around. TRUST me..we know who you are!

Also, there are some comedy promoters / Stand-up comedians who will try to monopolize comedy - they cannot. Please know your worth and be dignified. If you think someone is trying to control comedy in your to them..they could just be very insecure. Don't be mistaken in thinking you can control cannot. Artists will master their trade and move on to do their own 1 hour shows..its a normal process.

So people - these are just my observations. Some of you might agree and some might disagree..after all we are artists..opinionated. :) Enjoy your comedy…keep writing! keep jumping up at open-mics! AND most importantly…KEEP IT REAL!

My punctuation is really bad but your attention span is great. Congratulations on reading till the end.

Love and Laughter,

Sharul Channa