Back to shine a light on the silly, the taboo and the hilarious is LOL Fest, Kuala Lumpur’s most insane comedy festival, taking place this year from the 14th of September to the 27th of October at Jenerator in KL City Walk.
This year’s festival will feature over 40 local and international comedians, each with their own unique brand and style of humour.
In gearing up for the big month, we took the opportunity to interview some of this year’s featured comedians to get their perspectives and insights on the shows to come.
Joanne Kam Poh Poh
Dubbed Malaysia’s Queen of Comedy, Joanne Kam Poh Poh knows better than most what it takes to make you laugh. Currently on her national La La Lian tour, Joanne will end her nationwide tour at LOL Fest, closing the festival on the 26th and 27th of October with her final two shows. Joanne’s show will weave a unique blend of comedy and storytelling, in which she will share her experiences from her twenty-six years in the entertainment industry, drawing from her time in the dim backstages of Haw Par Villa to the blinding lights of Boom Boom Room and finally, her unexpected journey into single motherhood.
Joanne will also be doing a show called Bi+ch Perfect!, together with comedians Shamaine Othman, Farah Rani, Sherry Al-Hadad, Michelle Barbour. Shaq, Nuha and Filzah. An all-women ensemble, the show will be a sassy mix of non-stop laughter and feisty girl power.
You’ve been an audience favourite in the local comedy scene for over two decades now. How did you first get into comedy?
I started comedy in Boom Boom Room Singapore 25 years ago and then came to be a part of Boom Boom Room KL a year and a half later. Since I started in Singapore, lots of people actually assume I’m Singaporean.
When I first started, it was mostly cabaret comedy I did. So there were lots of audience participation and very risqué jokes, which is also similar to what I do now.
The comedy scene in Malaysia, especially in stand-up is largely a man’s game. What is it like being a woman in such a male-dominated field?
Well, twenty over years ago was very different to how it is now. Women now tend to be more vocal. Before this, we had a very Asian mentality. A woman can’t just go outside and talk about sex and periods. Nobody did that. You couldn’t even ask your father or husband to go and buy sanitary pads. There were not a lot of female comics we could look up to either.
The famous ones used to be Bette Midler, Ellen DeGeneres and Whoopi Goldberg, but we couldn’t even get their material. You would have to buy their DVDs. You can’t just watch a one hour comedy special like you do on YouTube now. These women were all also international comics, which cannot always translate to Malaysian comedy. So there was no avenue for us to look and say “I wanna be like that”.
But now, because of the way things have changed, more women are willing to open up their lives and talk about it in comedy.
Stand-up in itself is an artform. An artform based on your truths. Stories that are the most memorable are the stories that you’re willing to talk about. And twenty years ago, most women were shy and not outspoken like that. But now, things have changed. The scene is more welcoming to women at this point.
What can we expect from your shows at LOL Fest?
Well in Bi+ch Perfect!, every woman will have their individual piece. Each of us are strong-minded and have stories worth listening to.
We called it Bi+ch Perfect! was because the word ‘bitch’ has always been a very negative term for people. But being a bitch isn’t bad, it just means that you are empowered and have your own opinions. Bitches get things done. Sometimes you need to be a bitch. And why is that a bad thing? If a guy is a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who blows his own horn and says what he feels, they don’t call him a bitch. But when we do the same, we’re bitches. But hey, we’re just as adequate as the guys.
My other show, La La Lian, is completely different from any other show I’ve done, it is a comedy monologue piece. It was written especially for this show and contains very personal stories. It took me 10 years to write it. Prior to this, when given the chance to do a one-woman show, I felt I hadn’t matured enough yet. But this year I hit 45 and feel this is the time, because the experiences I’ve had have evolved. And the stories have evolved. Maybe in another 10 years, there’ll even be La La Lian 2.
Douglas Lim’s wit and natural comedic abilities have made Malaysian audiences chuckle for years. Fresh from MACC’s (Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians) Reset and his return performance of This is Nice in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Douglas will be putting all of his comedic experience to good use at LOL Fest by compiling it all into one hilarious and incredible night of laughter. Dubbed his ‘Best Bits’, the one-night-only show will take place on October 18th and feature the highlights of Douglas’ time in comedy.
You’re known by local audiences best for your commentary and comedic observations of Malaysian culture. Does your style of comedy change when you perform abroad?
It changes more depending on the audience, regardless of whether it’s local or abroad. If I’m performing to people at my own show (people who are paying to watch me), I’ll talk about subjects that are fresh in their minds, current stuff and a bit of my life. I’ll still comment on local culture abroad if it’s my own show.
If it’s not my show, let’s say it’s a corporate dinner, and I’m faced with people aged 45 and above, millionaires and CEOs, the subjects wouldn’t be about my life because I don’t think anyone would be interested.
Do you have a process when writing jokes?
I’m a comedian who prefers to write. Lots of comedians prefer just coming up with stuff in their heads and then maybe just writing a structure of the joke and performing it. They have the confidence to do that but I don’t. I need to write scripts.
If you take my scripts and read it, it will pretty much be almost exactly the same as what I perform onstage. The process is boring and painstaking. I observe stuff throughout the year and write it down on my phone. And then the writing process is where I’ll put all these thoughts on a piece of paper and write anything that comes to mind. 95% of it is rubbish and just rambling. But I gotta do it.
What can we expect from your show at LOL Fest?
It’s my best bits! I’ve been doing stand-up for years, so you may have already heard some of my material. I’m going to go through all my bits and pick the ones that got the best response, relook at them, see if I can add stuff and rework some of them and hopefully it’ll make sense. The trick is to make it flow well. It’s not a new set after all, it’s a collection of what I’ve already done.
Ashraf Modee Zain of AIIA Improv
On the 19th of October, renowned improv comedy troupe, AIIA Improv (consisting of Shamaine Othman, Farah Rani, Ashraf Modee Zain, Jit Yang and Sharifah Amani), will present a one-of-a-kind and classy improv show with special guest and Singaporean YouTube sensation, Hirzi. Completely unscripted, dangerous and heartfelt, expect anything and everything to happen.
We spoke to Ashraf on his journey with the team and his expectations for their performance at LOL Fest.
AIIA Improv has gained an impressive following since first coming together over a decade ago. Did you guys have any inspirations from improv groups abroad?
We are very in awe with the gang from Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Fast and Loose. And comedians in Hollywood, like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Steve Carell. All of them are from The Second City, which do improv, so it’s nice to see that all these actors came from improvisational training and got successful doing improv. You don’t see this in Malaysia.
Has AIIA Improv’s style of comedy changed with ‘Malaysia Baru’?
I would say it was easier to do our style of comedy last time, since it was so unheard of. A simple mention of RM2.6 billion can make people laugh and go crazy. Nowadays, political jokes aren’t as funny.
But there’s always a story to be told. That’s what we want to do with improv. It’s like stand-up in the sense that it is its own form of storytelling. And we feel that there are always issues to talk about. There are always going to be things that people don’t talk about, that we will want to talk about.
What can audiences expect from your show at LOL Fest?
We try to have a ‘no holds barred’ kind of thing, which is refreshing from other shows. And this time we have Hirzi joining us! If you’ve watched Hirzi on YouTube, his comedy is pretty insane so with both of us combined, you’ll see something pretty crazy. We just want to make fun of things Malaysians are not supposed to make fun of.
Prakash Daniel, Keren Bala Devan & Sundeep Singh of SUPER SAVADI!
LOL Fest 2018 will witness the debut of SUPER SAVADI!, a stand-up show featuring the best Indian comedians in the country. The group will consist of Prakash Daniel, Keren Bala Devan, Hindra and Sundeep who will each bring their own tastes and humour to the show. As the group jokingly puts it, SUPER SAVADI! will be the show that will finally give brown people in Malaysia a voice.
Here’s our interview with Prakash Daniel, Keren Bala Devan and Sundeep!
How did each of you first get into comedy?
KEREN: I began with One Mic Stand, Malaysia’s longest-running open mic show (which Prakash now runs), where I would go to watch shows and sometimes try it out myself. Before long, I committed to it and it’s been five years since.
PRAKASH: I used to watch a lot of comedy shows and met other Malaysian comedians who would encourage me to try it out myself. I always said I would never try stand-up, even though I loved comedy. But I tried it out one day and kinda liked it. People laughed at my jokes. So I thought, “there’s something here”. And now I’ve been doing it for six years.
SUNDEEP: I began in 2010, at the old Time Out KL comedy shows where newbies got to perform for three minutes. I tried it out at first, but then continued my studies so I stopped doing it for a while. But when I came back. I decided to get back into it. When people ask me why or how I got into comedy, the half-honest answer is that when you do a show, you get to watch a show for free *laughs*. But it did keep me going, and I’ve been consistently doing stand-up for six years now.
How did SUPER SAVADI! come to be?
Prior to this, Prakash, Keren and three other people did a show called Angry Indians. We performed together at the previous LOL Fest as well. We liked the concept of having Indian people do a show, where we could talk about Indian culture and make Indian jokes. But we’re all still Malaysian so this is a show that will be relatable to anyone. We like this style of show and would like to keep this going.
PRAKASH: We also initially wanted to name the show ‘Master of Naan’, but didn’t want people to think we copied Aziz Ansari.
All of you have been known to push boundaries with your style of comedy. Do you draw a line of what you’re allowed make fun of?
We’ll talk about anything we think is funny. Our content has definitely evolved over the years. When comedians first start out, we tend to perform topics that are closer to us, things involving family, friends and our career. But slowly, our circle of experience starts evolving. So the line is constantly being pushed.
As a comic, it’s tough to draw a line. Some comics do, but there’s no right way to do it. For us, the line’s always moving. The line is based on what society can accept. So we decide what society can accept and then push it a little further.
LOL Fest will take place this year from the 14th of September to the 27th of October at Jenerator in KL City Walk.
Ticket prices range from RM50 to RM70 and a special festival pass which gives you full access to all shows can be purchased at RM300. Check out their website for more information.
Also check out the LOL Fest website for the full list of this year’s performances.
Featured Image Source: LOL Events