A Malaysian-Singaporean battle of comedy became a common push towards unity through laughter
It was touted as the laugh-or-die showdown of the year. But instead of further dividing age-old rivals, it united them in the spirit of laughter.
Led by large round lanterns inscribed with cheeky puns on the event title ('queue sei lei' instead of 'siu sei lei'), more than 2,000 people converged in the state-of-the-art HGH Convention Centre in Sentul for the inaugural Laugh Die You comedy night.
The atmosphere was festive even before the doors opened at 8pm, with people milling about as they munched on buckets of free popcorn - a smart bit of advertising by organisers Popcorn Studios - and snapped some pictures with zany props in front of a photobooth.
Enthusiastic dancers and a rockin' DJ worked the crowd before the night’s host emerged from the doors and ran, huffing and puffing, towards the stage.
Phua Chu Kang is in the house!
"Hi!" He exclaimed to the crowd. "I am Phua Chu Kang! PCK Private Ltd! Best in Singapore, JB, and some say..." He held the microphone out towards the audience.
"Batam!" The audience roared back in delight, the predominantly local crowd recognising the iconic catchphrase immediately.
"No lah, KL!!" He exclaimed, shaking his head. "I'm in KL now so say KL! When in Batam say Batam mahhh!"
It was none other than Gurmit Singh, best known for playing the lead role of the eccentric, yellow-booted contractor Phua Chu Kang in the ultra-popular 90s sitcom Phua Chu Kang Ltd.
Despite being able to speak perfect English, Singh played up the familiar mannerisms and slightly less-than-bright demeanour of his well-loved character to perfection, earning appreciative gales of laughter from the audience as they were taken on a trip down memory lane.
He ran the first of three contests through the night that saw participants rewarded for answering simple questions, hunting for particular items and even impersonating his character to earn progressively better prizes, ranging from cash vouchers to beauty products and a vacation to Ombak Villa Langkawi.
Local rock band Hydra then took to the stage with a cover of Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk to get the party started, and with the ending of the song came the first Malaysian act – Rizal van Geyzel.
Smiles all around as Rizal van Geyzel steps up to bat for Malaysia
His laidback yet entertaining set included anecdotes on everything from his mixed parentage to his experience in showing foreigners around Kuala Lumpur by motorbike in peak rush hour traffic. One highlight was an impersonation of local celebrity Chef Wan, whose distinctive mannerisms were perfectly captured in his act and had the audience in tears of laughter.
Up came Hydra again and this time they launched into a Chinese classic by Hong Kong rock band Beyond, earning applause from the crowd until Malaysia’s next comedian Douglas Lim appeared to finish the song.
The energetic Douglas Lim delivered a seriously hilarious set full of wit and wisdom
Lim’s multitude of talents as a comedian, songwriter, performer and emcee were showcased to great effect in his performance. His blend of incisive commentary on current affairs and tongue-in-cheek inside jokes formed a set that managed to be both informative and hilarious, referencing everything from the GST and sky-high Singaporean rates to the infamous child pornography case and the general elections.
Adopting a more serious tone, he told the audience that even though the night was meant to ‘play up and play out’ the Malaysian-Singaporean rivalry, in truth we were all friends, and he illustrated it with a funny yet surprisingly heartwarming song entitled ‘We Are One’, sung to the tune of ‘We Are Young’ by American band Fun.
“Toniiiiiight, we are one,” he sang. “So what if we have a border? Just don’t bother…and have fun!”
After a 15-minute intermission to soak in the warm and fuzzy feelings, it was time for the queen’s grand entrance – and true to form, Singaporean drag queen Kumar strutted out looking royally regal in a classy Indian outfit.
All hail Queen Kumar!
Despite not being for the faint-hearted, the enthusiastic reception towards his unapologetically risqué set coaxed a rare smile on occasion out of the playfully scowling Kumar. With sex and sexuality so often a taboo subject in the country, it was refreshing to hear such a nonchalant view of it in various respects, even more so from his unique perspective.
Finally, it was time for the real showdown of the night to begin – the battle! Based on topics such as fashion, food and traffic, each country was allowed one joke about the other in a roast-style battle – but they had to talk about things they liked about the other. Nevertheless, it didn’t make the multitude of traded jibes any less tongue-in-cheek!
Laughter claimed no lives this night, but through its efforts, perhaps some racism, intolerance and ignorance died instead. Popcorn Studios intends to keep the ball rolling by announcing the advent of Laugh Die You 2, which is planned for 17 September.
Where the first edition had two Malaysians versus one Singaporean, this will be a reversal with Malaysia’s Kavin Jay against Singapore’s Jonathan Atherton (who made a cameo appearance at this event with his infamous Geylang routine) and Fakka Fuzz. If its predecessor is anything to go by, this promises to be a stand-up sensation that you won’t want to miss! See vip.my for more details and be a part of the fun.