Whether in a moment of complete bravery or utter stupidity, I found myself on the losing end of a bet which meant I would have to do stand up comedy at an open mic night. With no prior thought or experience on the matter, I was suitably terrified—wracked by the kind of fear that is good for neither one’s bowels or pants.
It also brought upon me a barrage of searing, mind-boggling questions, like: “How do comics do it?”; “Is there a Kinsey scale equivalent for humour?”; and being a woman: “Is it harder to be funny if you have a vagina?” In order to answer these burning questions, I sat down with one of my favourite Malaysian female comics, Luwita Hana Randhawa (Lu)—a caramel-coloured, pint-sized pocket rocket, whose unique brand of humour is unassuming but laser sharp. She shared with us five points on how to make it in comedy.
Stand up comedy requires dedication. You have to work the open mic circuit week on week if you want to get better and gain the kind of exposure to score paid gigs. So it’s not just a bunch of goofy kids hanging out and smoking pot. It also takes hard work and grit.
The greatest challenge about doing stand up comedy in Malaysia is not being woman, but rather the sensibility gap. Malaysia is diverse both in culture and language, which means that there will be times when certain comic nuances are lost on different crowds. This means that you need to…
Know your audience, but always be true to yourself. Everyone should write what they’re most comfortable about. For instance, Lu has a line where she says:
“I know a lot of people like to make boob and dick jokes but I don’t have either of those. So I’m not going to…”
The key here is to write what you know because audiences are quick to spot when you’re being inauthentic. But at the same time…
Your job is to make them laugh. So if you know that your jokes are generally on the fringe, you may want to incorporate what Lu calls ‘broad-based jokes’—i.e. jokes about race, sex and gender. These types of jokes tend to reach a wider audience and get bigger laughs. And finally…
How to bomb with class. ‘Bombing’ is that moment when you’re on stage and your punch line is met with a deafening silence and all you want to do is melt away. Now, how do you deal with that painstaking moment? “You just ride it and the wave disappears” are Lu’s wise words. This final lesson is one to take away and is applicable to your whole life.
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