The local’s stand-up comedy scene once had its reputation as slick and industry-friendly. But now, we are hitting it differently, it’s getting larger, more vibrant and diverse that opens up to many creative styles of solo performance that we could ever imagine. And we think these three up and coming comedians are among those you should have on your radar right now.
Luwita Hana Randhawa
Out of curiosity, when did the concept for stand-up comedy got into your mind?
I was living in New York and studying improv. By this time, I already knew that comedy was my calling. Studying improv was a magical time, but improv is a collaborative art form and I tend towards operating solo. So where exactly on the comedy spectrum would allow me to develop my own voice as a writer and performer? Stand-up comedy, of course. It was the next natural step to take.
Stand-up comedy has become an admirable profession and has influenced a lot of people. Tell us your story of how you have influenced people in and out of your field.
Gosh, I’m still a super small fry. My sphere of influence does not extend much beyond people who see me perform at shows. But I will say that when I perform my Instagram set, I would always get people tagging me on social media to show me their pose or caption and calling back to my set – that was super cool for sure.
What were the uncertainties you faced before becoming a stand-up comedian and how did you overcome them?
The uncertainty (and improbability) of not “making it,” which still holds true today. The motivation lies in knowing that you wouldn’t be happy living a life where you don’t make a name for yourself – and so you try.
You have performed in many countries. What is your take on performing overseas compared to at home?
I’m a third culture kid (I did not grow up in Malaysia), so I don’t tend to see the place as a marker. I’m most at home with a crowd that has been exposed to and accepts different ways of life and life choices. Typically, that would be young urbanites who consume pop culture and new media, whether in Malaysia or abroad.
What do you do to overcome nervousness before going up on stage?
Put on a hype track, sonnn.
What joke works every time?
Any joke that comes from a place of truth. Stand up as an artform is a little magical because if you’re about to tell a joke that’s not truthful to you, unconsciously the audience will pick up on it, almost immediately, and they will not take that journey with you.
What would you say is the hardest part about being a comedian?
The hardest part about being a comedian is writing a good joke. The hardest part about being a comedian in Malaysia is that you operate within a scene, not an industry. There is no framework in place, let alone a sustainable one. This limits the number of things you as a comedian can achieve or work up to.
What do you think the world of comedy needs more of today?
More of me.
Is there any exciting upcoming project that you can share with us?
Yes! Two things. Firstly, at the beginning of this year, I performed my solo show INTROVERT at the NYC Asian Comedy Festival. I will continue to explore this subject topic in my material this yea. You can check the show on YouTube. Next, I am starting a monthly astrology chat show on my Instagram called ZODIAC CHATS. Each month, I will have a guest on that is born under the star sign of the month. It’s purely for fun. Remember, as a comedian, I don’t take anything too seriously.
Any piece of advice you have people who want to become comedians?
Work hard, all of the time. Be your own biggest fan, no exception. Trust me, I wasted a lot of time not doing both these things from the start.
What is the “new normal” to you?
For Luwita the introverted recluse who stays away from people by choice anyway, it’s business as usual. For Luwita the comedian, it means moving all my work online.
Last but not least, tell us something funny.
Remember how humans were under the impression that they were an unstoppable force? And then Miss ’Rona showed up and was like, “Fools.” I felt that.
When did you realise you’re good at doing stand-up comedy?
I have always loved comedy since I was a kid. But it all started on 15 September 2016, when I tried out for an open mic show at the Crackhouse Comedy Club, KL. The adrenaline rush, and sound of laughter got me addicted to this scene. It felt so right and beautiful, and I instantly fell in love with it. From there on, I keep on going and learning on how to get better at it.
Your show with Filzah Awok was hilarious! How was it like working with the team for the project?
Oh, thank you! Well me and Filzah have been friends and worked together in various shows. We also have been jamming in a band called Oren/Orange. You can find us on Google. With that being said, I say the chemistry in terms of performing and work ethics are already there, even though I think our comedy style is quite different. When the The Joke Factory proposed us to do the show, of course, we agreed to it. We planned everything but as usual, here and there improvisation happened during the performance. We also have been thinking of doing more shows together and hopefully, we get to do it after this situation ends.
Can you please take us through your preparation process for a show?
Well to be honest, I don’t really have a particular routine on preparing for a show. I always work on maintaining my calmness, and not to get worried so much prior to my performance. Other than that, I also usually do some research by reading news or some trends that are happening around in order to stay “connected” with the audience. But what matters the most for me is to enjoy every second that I have on stage.
How much does your persona on stage differ to the real-life you?
I would say that my persona on stage is not so different from my real self. Sometimes, we tend to have different facades for the different things we do. When you see me on stage, I would say it is 100% me being myself but, but 30% from the whole Farid Azmeir. Does that make sense?
Is there any particular subject that you always incorporate in your performance?
I usually talk and make fun of things that I’m fond of and comfortable with, and mostly they are something that come to mind spontaneously. I also sometimes tend to joke around about unpleasant things that have happened in my life, just like how my late father would do. Not only for comedy purposes, I found this method helps me to personally get through with the issues. And I hope it can help my audience who may have some similar experiences to get away with it as well. I’ve always felt that not everyone can get the opportunity to go on stage and talk to the crowd. So, I try to make every second worth and share with them what I really feel like sharing. And be funny, of course.
Sensitivity is quite an issue in this scene. Do you think there are too many topics that are taboos today?
I personally feel that nowadays, there are too many subjects that somehow are taboos. People are getting offended easily. For me, I just say what I want to say and feel right about it but still conform to the sensitivity boundary because I think after all it is important to be true to yourself. Everyone has different views on certain subjects, and we just have to respect each other’s views. To me, I like to present my thoughts in a funny way because that’s my job. I feel like if something is funny, then it’s funny. Simple as that.
Looking at these unprecedented times, what do you say about the “new normal”?
It is a tough time for all of us. But like it or not, we all have to adapt to this “new normal” and keep on striving. Hopefully, greater things will come to all of us in the future. But for now, just make the best that we can from the current situation.
Last but not least, tell us something funny.
I got this one story where I was in a Grab car. Then the driver, an old guy, just looked at me a couple of times and said, “Boy, you comedian ah?” At that time, I thought I was already famous enough and answered him, “Yes uncle, why ah?”. Then he continued, “Yeah can tell. Your face looks like one…” I don’t know if it’s a compliment or an insult. True story.
What was it about your upbringing that led you to this profession?
Well I’d been making up jokes and songs since I was a child, but it never crossed my mind to try out stand-up. In 2015, I met comedian Harresh A.U. We became very close friends and he convinced me to try out stand-up, that’s my origin story. Unless, you are asking about how much baggage and damage I received in my childhood? Enough.
What makes a good comedy?
“Good” comedy is so subjective, it really depends on your personal taste. In my opinion, “good” comedy is mostly silly, sometimes smart, and self-aware. We all face hurdles.
What were yours in your journey from being a stand-up comedian to a professional?
Writer’s block, drunk hecklers, back-handed compliments from white men, and the occasional sexual harassment from white AND coloured men. #equalopportunity
What keeps you going?
I love connecting with people, with a live audience. It gets me off. When I’m breathing the same air as the audience, our heartbeats start to sync, there’s nothing quite like it.
How would you define the Malaysian sense of humour and the comedy scene?
Again humour is so subjective. I would say Malaysian humour is as diverse as our people. The Malaysian comedy scene is still young but quickly growing. Like a toddler. Like a casually racist toddler.
What do you hope people take from your show besides a great performance?
My number. Just kidding! I am emotionally unavailable. In all seriousness, I hope people are inspired to live their best life and do what makes them happy.
You’re collaborating with Ronny Chieng in his homecoming show. What does this say about you?
I’m not sure what this tells me. I guess, on one hand, I was in the right place at the right time. On the other hand, I’ve dedicated my life to performing and it felt really good to be affirmed by someone as successful as Ronny. I am very grateful for his support and he is a lovely guy.
Can you please share with us some of the major highlights in your career so far?
I’ve been featured on Australian TV (ABC’s Comedy Up Late), Comedy Central Asia, MTV Asia and Astro. I am the youngest person to win the Hong Kong International Comedy Competition, as well as the first and only female winner. I’ve performed in 19 cities across Asia, Oceania, Great Britain and Europe. I was personally chosen to open for Ronny Chieng (as seen on Crazy Rich Asians and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah). I have performed at a gay fetish festival in Berlin.
What is your favourite one-line joke that we would actually be allowed to print in a family paper?
You’re asking the wrong person. For family-friendly jokes, please watch Avatar: The Last Airbender.
What is next for Hannan Azlan?
My next passion project is called Happy Pills. This project isn’t stand-up – it will be a mix of original songs, confessions, and true stories. I am working on some “serious” music and am currently compiling wild wild experiences from my life which will hopefully eventually be available on screens near you!
Looking at this interesting period, what is “new normal” to you?
For me personally, it’s slowing down a bit and really focusing on taking care of myself. Cooking healthy meals, taking walks, spending time with my family, working on passion projects, re-living embarrassing moments from 2009 and trying to let go.
Final request from us, can you give us your best shot?
I think I’ve seen you on Tinder. Part of me is convinced this isn’t even a real magazine. Enjoy the photos.