Quietly, almost imperceptibly, Singapore has gone from having virtually no standup comedy to a city with something resembling a scene. While top foreign comedians have started performing here on a monthly basis, mostly through The Comedy Club Asia, local open-mic nights such as Comedy Masala and Talk Cock Comedy have nurtured homegrown talent, some of which is now flying the comedic nest.
Quill Potter, also known as The Comedy Pimp, is a 37-year-old comedy promoter from the UK who has brought numerous acts through The Comedy Club and runs regular events such as Fight Comic on Thursday nights. He says: ‘There was almost no standup in Singapore 20 months ago. Now, there’s more money, more people wanting comedy, more opportunities. Also, Singaporeans who’ve done open-mic for the past 20 months are now getting good, and getting paid.’
One such Singaporean is sassy 25-year-old Sharul Channa, who in a year has gone from open-mic wannabe to Singapore’s only Indian female standup comedian (‘Well, biological female... Kumar’s getting there,’ she clarifies), opening for international comedians like JoJo Smith, Papa CJ and Andrew Netto in addition to theatre and TV gigs. Her standup certainly doesn’t shy away from real-life issues or taboos. ‘At least 40 per cent of my material is about Indian social topics,’ she says. ‘Arranged marriages, illogical “family values”, or how when women get raped, it’s supposedly their fault, not the rapist’s. Things people don’t talk about. Well, I joke about how women can protect themselves from rape. Sometimes the first row’s full of Indian men who refuse to laugh. But women, regardless of race, have told me, “We love what you do, what you represent”.’
‘Comedians say whatever they are thinking,’ says Potter. ‘That’s why it’s my addiction, like booze or sex. Comedy is truth. Truth sets you free.’ If that’s the case, there’s more truth and freedom on offer in July than ever before in Singapore – it’s the biggest month yet for the city’s comedy scene. Here’s our pick of the mirth, both local and international, on offer.
Happy Ever Laughter
Till 8 Jul
Says actress/comic Judee Tan of this huge show at the Esplanade: ‘It’s a mash-up of Singapore’s funniest people you’ll regret not watching! There’ll be jabs at the establishment… maybe pokes at how Singapore’s leading national paper reports on its own reliability and value to readers.’ Esplanade Theatre Tue-Thu 8pm; Fri 8pm & 11pm; Sat 4pm & 8pm; Sun 4pm. $17-$117.
Peadar de Burca: Why Men Cheat
The award-winning product of the Irish playwright/comedian’s research into infidelity was apparently inspired by a dream visit from former US president Bill Clinton. It’s a sensitive topic for many – but you’ll still find yourself laughing at the quotes from interviews with over 250 cheating men. klapsons The Boutique Hotel 9pm. $50-$60 (www.gatecrash.com.sg).
Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow 2012
This annual laughter fest from Down Under comes up to Singapore with five standups for a run of shows. Says Aussie comedian Damian Callinan: ‘We’re five comedians with our own styles. I will do a butoh theatre re-enactment of Wills and Kate’s wedding. I’d tell you a joke from my routine, but butoh doesn’t translate that well on paper.’ DBS Arts Centre Tue-Fri 8pm; Sat 6pm & 9pm. $46-$69.
Butch Bradley: A Night of Comedy
Bradley is an established television comic who’s also been perfecting his live standup act on stages around the world. Hardly ever repeating his material, he specialises in impressions and everyday observations. Chamber, The Arts House 8pm. $36 (bytes.sg).
This weekly open-mic night shows off numerous aspiring comics, each given a few minutes to elicit giggles or groans, as well as more seasoned regional standups. Host Umar Rana and Masala alumnus Wayne Cheong opened for American comedian Rob Schneider when he came to town. Home Club Tue 9pm (comedymasala.com). $10, with one free drink.
In this weekly comedy slamdown, only Singapore’s best open-mic comedians are invited to fight for the Fist of Funny. They must improvise standup around such choice topics as ‘Questions Omitted from the Singapore Citizenship Test’. BluJaz Cafe Thu 9pm (www.facebook.com/FightComicSingapore). $10.
Talk Cock Comedy
Every Sun and second Wed of the month
Singapore-based Aussie comedian Jonathan Atherton guides open mic-ers in their attempts to amuse, whether they’re tried and tested or glaringly green. The monthly sessions also feature visiting international comics. China One Sun 8.30pm. $10 (including first drink); BluJaz Cafe Wed 8.30pm. $15. See www.thecomedyclub.asia for more information.