Standing up for laughs
Article from the Sun daily by Peony Chin (posted on 3 Dec 2015)
LOCAL stand-up comedian Kuah Jenhan almost didn't make it to the funny scene, thanks to a bad experience when he first started out back in 2006.
The feedback he got was so awful that he stopped doing stand-up comedy for nearly three years, until the closing of The Actors Studio in Bangsar prompted him to get back into performing.
"In conjunction with the closing, my friend was doing a sketch and asked me to be a part of it. I did it eventually and it felt good," said Kuah.
Several stories went around alleging that his return to the comedy scene was for a girl. However, Kuah noted, "I don't think that's true anymore. I just did it because I really liked performing. It's something I can't get away from."
Indeed, performing and cracking people up have been his talent since he was in primary school. Kids of the 90s may remember Fei Mao (Fat Cat, played by Kent Cheng) from the popular Hong Kong television drama Forrest Cat, who Kuah somewhat resembles.
"I was pretty quiet as a kid. But when I pretended to be Fei Mao and made my classmates laugh, it felt nice," he reminisced. "I wasn't exceptionally smart or good at sports. The only currency was to be funny."
And that was the beginning of his love for performing.
How do you get inspiration to write your material?
I draw a lot from experiences, emotions and observations. Something that is very consistent with my jokes is that I strive to be very honest with what I feel or think.
For me, honesty and comedy come hand in hand. It's like having a conversation – you know when people are being genuine and when they're making something up. I think it's the same in comedy. Sure, you can write a really funny joke that's not grounded in realism and truth, but that's not my approach. I like telling real stories; it's just that my skewed perspective on things makes it funnier.
What do your jokes usually centre on?
The recurring theme would be me. It's very narcissistic and selfish, but that's only because my life is the only life I know. There are so many facets or versions of things I go through. Once, I wrote 'Bad Boy' – the frustration I felt about relationships. Another time, I wrote about my father who passed, and another time it was a lot about questioning things. My comedy is always linked to who I am. It grows with me.
Do you feel pressured to be funny outside of work?
I don't feel pressured to, but people expect it sometimes and it's only normal. The reaction I get most often is, "Oh, you're not that funny huh?" I'm not very emotive in real life – I am very monotonous, not loud and chatty. Comedy is very different from regular communication. To be able to talk non-stop for 30 minutes, and be constantly and simultaneously funny, are something I've spent days and maybe months to craft.
What's the weirdest reaction you've received at your performances?
Two years ago at my solo show, I talked about my deceased father. For an hour, people were laughing, then they started crying at the part where I was talking about my father, and afterwards they were laughing again. It's bizarre for me as a comedian, and for them as an audience, but it was a connection. It's something that I'm very happy I could do.
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