REVIEW / THEATRE
HAPPY EVER LAUGHTER
Esplanade Theatre/Last Friday
Health, or rather the lack of it, is usually no joke.
BOOK IT / HAPPY EVER LAUGHTER
WHERE: Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive
WHEN: Tomorrow till Sunday, 8pm, with additional 3pm shows on Saturday and Sunday
ADMISSION: Must be aged 16 and older. Tickets from $98 to $148, excluding booking fee, from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
But 11 Singaporean performers riffed hilariously on that subject, in 10-minute bursts each, over 90 minutes last Friday evening.
Stand-up comedy is the most merciless type of performance art, as the lone clown in the spotlight can never be sure how well any audience would take, or even catch, his or her motor-mouthed musings.
There was no let-up in laughter this evening, which was a testament to director Hossan Leong's light and trusting touch.
Leong, who opened the show with one-liners and a perfectly executed split, had playwright Alfian Sa'at and his team of six writers to thank for creative, if predictable, gags which hit the spot every time.
Alfian and his team took especial aim at age-worn racial stereotypes about noise, smell and attitudes towards work and money; a ministerial pronouncement that one did not need much space to have sex; home-grown companies; mainstream media; and Malaysians, all of which were, to them, fair game.
Their recurring digs on these topics were meant to bury, in no particular order, idiocy, incompetence and ignorance.
The writers did not, however, often go for the jugular. So, do not expect anything too witty or illuminating from their many scripted rants at various authority figures and government policies.
Rishi Budhrani's tirade was a good example of such soft-pedalled lampooning. He had the audience in stitches with the suggestion that the national slogan should be "Cannot means cannot!", after his many run-ins over the years with government officers on issues such as swearing during live free-to-air broadcasts.
The 11-strong line-up made the most of such material with consistently impeccable comic timing which, again, probably owed a lot to Leong's long experience with the art.
Fakkah Fuzz, Judee Tan, Sebastian Tan and Suhaimi Yusof tickled the funnybone best. Against them, Siti Khalijah Zainal as "Singapore's second super-model" and Sharul Channa as a potty-mouthed postmodern woman paled.
Fuzz, whose real name is Muhammad Fadzri Abdul Rashid, bounced about the stage lamenting the sensitivity of many Malay-Muslims to anything associated with dogs, which Islam, in general, forbids them to pet.
So, Fuzz noted, his favourite hip-hop way of calling friends "dawgs" would not fly among most Malays, while the Malaysian authorities were forcing pretzel-maker Auntie Anne's to change the name of its Pretzel Dog to Pretzel Sausage. He teased: "How to spell sausage in Malay? 'Sosej', which, if spelt backwards, gives you... 'jesos'?"
Judee Tan was a hoot as the passive-aggressive sinseh Teo Chew Moi. She compared the pucker of United States presidential candidate Donald Trump with Donald Duck's ever-jutting beak and then proceeded to diagnose the likely ills Mr Trump was suffering, judging from his florid face.
Sebastian Tan, better known as Broadway Beng, spewed Hokkien in a sequin-studded suit, corrupting the Malay word for pain, "sakit", into "suck it", as he lamented how a sinseh tried to cure his gout.
"Gout on high," he warbled at the start of the song Bring Him Home, which gave the Broadway musical it borrowed from, Les Miserables, new meaning.
Suhaimi, along with fellow performers Dee Kosh and Patricia Mok, was actually doing stand-up for the first time. Deejay Kosh, a Chindian with a teddy bear-like persona, milked ethnic slurs to hysteric, and so unsubtle, distraction.
Mok, an award-winning actress, was winning with her sanguine, unforced delivery of improbable scenarios, such as her chest was so concave, it could collect rainwater and attract Zika-carrying mosquitoes.
But, like Fuzz and Broadway Beng, Suhaimi showed that self-deprecatory humour was the surest way to the audience's heart.
He flouted his chubbiness for all it was worth, with lines such as "Fat is the past tense of fit" and "What do you mean 'I'm big-boned?' You mean like a dinosaur?".
How the audience roared.
Leong saved Kumar for the last, but the stalwart with the salty mouth was rather subdued as a naughty nurse.
He tugged at the too-high hem of his nurse's uniform, which displayed his killer legs to full effect, and observed that if all nurses here dressed like him, their many elderly patients would spring to life again, since they were largely dying from boredom, not ailments.
All told, the show was hugely enjoyable, a much-needed antidote for these dour times.