The Life List: 5 things to know about the new Mr Kiasu 2.0 online series

The latest series follows Mr Kiasu as he navigates work rivalry and the absurdities of modern life.
The latest series follows Mr Kiasu as he navigates work rivalry and the absurdities of modern life.PHOTO: MM2 ENTERTAINMENT SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Home-grown comic book character Mr Kiasu is back - in a short online series titled Mr Kiasu 2.0.

For many Singaporeans, the character created by artist Johnny Lau in 1989 embodies the Singaporean spirit of being afraid to lose.

The latest series follows Mr Kiasu as he navigates work rivalry and the absurdities of modern life. Here are five things to know about the show.

1. A darker take

The previous adaptation of the bestselling Mr Kiasu comic books was the 2001 TV series starring actor Chew Chor Meng as the titular character.

For its latest six-episode online series, Lau hopes to make it more relevant to a new generation of viewers.

The new series is set in today's competitive world of tech start-ups amid a growing awareness of the importance of mental wellness.

"There's no point if we are doing the same thing over and over again," says Lau, 57, at an online media conference over Zoom on Monday (May 17).

A dark sense of humour has been added to the show to underline how things are not as simple today as they were two decades ago.

"People then were much simpler in the sense that the black and the white were very clear," says Lau. "But since then, I feel that we have become more grey with the current generation."

2. Show reflects life

Best known for acting in local blockbuster film Ah Boys To Men, Jaspers Lai, 34, who plays Mr Kiasu, is also kiasu in real life.

He has been afraid of losing out since he was young. He said he would bring all his school materials to school, including those for subjects not scheduled for that particular day.

Even now, he would prepare three sets of clothes instead of one, for filming.

"I feel like kiasu-ness is to always hope for the best but prepare for the worst," he says.

3. Putting on a dad bod

Lau was hands-off in most aspects of the series but wanted Lai, who initially planned to slim down for the title role, to have a dad bod instead.

He told Lai that Mr Kiasu is a middle-aged man, Lai recalls.

To step up for the role, Lai increased his weight from 75kg to 80kg.

"I was very happy and I kept eating," he says.

4. A different comedy style

The new series serves up deadpan humour.

Instead of acting with exaggerated actions and mannerisms, the cast had to dial these down.

For actress Farah Lola, 29, who plays Mr Kiasu's colleague and best friend, it was uncomfortable to do so little, she says. "The director always tells us to pull back so we really had to trust the process and we were sweating it out."

Lai also found it challenging as his forte lies in physical comedy, he says.

The deadpan take on the comedy allows viewers to read between the lines.

Actress Jo Tan, 38, who plays Mr Kiasu's gym trainer, says: "We're trying not to underline the joke and just trust that the audience is intelligent enough to laugh along with us or share our sense of humour."

5. Lau chose Lai because of his gung-ho attitude

Lau picked Lai to play Mr Kiasu because of his varied experience, in not just acting but also radio and getai.

"He is able to put himself out there, to put it in Chinese - he can huo chu qu (go all out)," he says. "And I think it's important the new Mr Kiasu has that quality so that he can let go or be reserved as and when he wants."

While veteran actor Chew symbolises the Mr Kiasu of two decades ago, Lau believes Lai can "take Mr Kiasu forward with all the things he has within him".

All six episodes of Mr Kiasu 2.0 series will be available on meWATCH on May 28.