New comedy club featuring Singapore comedians to open in Bras Basah

The Lemon Stand takes its name from its founder, Canada-born comedian Liam "Lemon" McDonald. PHOTO: COURTESY OF LIAM MCDONALD

SINGAPORE - A new comedy club that puts Singaporean comedians in the spotlight will open in Bras Basah.

The Lemon Stand, which has an area of 2,000 sq ft and seats 100, will open on July 14. It will highlight Singaporean comedians of various levels of experience, from veteran headliners such as Jinx Yeo and Qamarul Haziq, or "Qam", to newcomers in open mics.

It takes its name from its founder, Canada-born comedian Liam "Lemon" McDonald, who started doing open mics when he was 19.

In 2006, the software company McDonald was working at transferred him to Singapore. He fell in love with the city, decided to stay on and is now a permanent resident.

After 16 years here, the 55-year-old wishes to give back to Singapore's comedy scene. "You really need stage time to improve your material," he says. "Since we have a new generation of comedians who want to start comedy and get more stage time, we need a full-time establishment to provide that."

He quit his job as an account executive in 2020 to set up The Lemon Stand, though the Covid-19 pandemic delayed his plans.

He declines to say how much it cost to set up the club, but adds: "The only other investment I've done that costs more than this is when I bought my condo. It is not cheap, but I think it will pay off in the end."

As opposed to the proscenium-style seating that is more common in Asia, The Lemon Stand will be styled like a cabaret, providing an intimate setting where comedians can more easily interact with and involve the crowd.

"In most English-speaking countries, the comedy scene is very vibrant," says McDonald. "In Asia, we are still at the infancy stage."

Asia's larger comedy clubs include TakeOut Comedy Club in Hong Kong, which is around 1,200 sq ft.

The Singapore scene is still small when compared with other countries, but local comedians say it was steadily growing until the pandemic set them back.

Yeo, who will be headlining the opening weekend at The Lemon Stand, says: "It was going well, then Covid-19 killed that momentum."

The 42-year-old is one of Singapore's few full-time comedians. He has performed to sold-out crowds in 16 countries, including Australia, China and India, and has also won awards - he was first runner-up at the Hong Kong Comedy Festival in 2011.

Singaporean comedian Jinx Yeo will be headlining the opening weekend at The Lemon Stand. PHOTO: THE LEMON STAND

During the pandemic, those who were doing comedy only as a hobby focused more on their day jobs, while full-time comedians like Yeo resorted to doing online shows, mostly over Zoom.

"It's harder to get the energy going for an online show because most participants would have their cameras turned off and be muted. So, you don't get live feedback," he says.

His most memorable show during the pandemic - for all the wrong reasons - was when a warning notice that read "Your connection is unstable" appeared on the screen right before his set.

It was only after his entire performance was over that he realised his video and audio kept freezing for the other participants, such that they did not catch most of his act.

McDonald says physical shows allow the audience to enjoy the performance together. "When there is that burst of laughter, there is an energy that charges the room."

That is also why he resisted suggestions to cover the large glass windows in The Lemon Stand with sound-dampening curtains. "You actually really want the sound to be amplified, so that when people laugh, it is a huge laugh."It is nice to be back on stage after two years, he adds. "It's why we do comedy - feeling the adrenaline rush when everybody's laughing and you're having a great show. It's very hard to explain, but it's such a fantastic sense of achievement."


Book it/ The Lemon Stand Grand Opening Night by Jinx Yeo

Where: The Lemon Stand, 01-02, 12 Queen Street When: July 14 to 16, 8pm

Admission: From $50 via The Lemon Stand's website

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