I was at Esplanade Theatre yesterday to catch Singapore's best comedians gathered once again for this year’s edition of the wildly popular “Happy Ever Laughter” by Dream Academy. I first watched their first edition two years ago and i am thrilled to see them again back on stage. They are the who's who in local comedy. All they have to do is open their mouths and you'll be laughing your hearts out.
Directed by Selena Tan, the show features the comedic talents of Mark Lee, Adrian Pang, Sebastian Tan, Hossan Leong, Pam Oei, Judee Tan, Karen Tan and Kumar etc, who will poke fun at anything and everything – from bus drivers to hawker centre ceilings to teenage-girl feelings to elections to erections (of new buildings). I must say that yesterday afternoon's performance was very entertaining, top-notch. I really enjoyed myself thoroughly for the next 2 hours.
The R18 rating is there for a good reason, so if vulgarities or risque topics make you squirm, don't bother tormenting yourself. Yesterday's full house sold-out crowd showed massive appreciation for every single comedian and caught the punchlines at warp speed. Personally, I think the crowd makes a huge difference. The performers fed off the audience's reactions and being surrounded by a mass of people doubled over in mirth made everything seem 10 times funnier. It also helps when you're near a front stage middle seat with a panoramic view of the theatre. It truly is a sight to behold.
As usual, politicians were used for target practice and even our Great Leaders (both senior and junior) weren't spared because those details were key during some of the best jokes of the performance.
Other "victims" include: City Harvest Church, Malays, Indians, Chinese, ang-mohs, National Service, public transport, even doctors (who practise Western medicine, not the sinuses). As expected, some acts had many great moments and I really laughed my socks off.
Kicking it off was Selena Tan, the director and emcee of the show. Selena Tan started the ball rolling with jokes tucked into her pocketful of anecdotes to warm the audience up for the line-up. She spoke in Singlish and her natural delivery of the material is the perfect opening act, as her quips sent the full house audience into bouts of laughter.
There were jokes about certain aspects of Singapore, but it felt more like “we’re in this with you” rather than “look how silly it is!” And also, with the common theme of trying to cheer people up (it’s a comedy after all), it had a pretty feel good effect post-performance.
It was interesting to see Mark Lee given free reign to perform English comedy on stage. It wasn’t completely in English, of course, and he gave a more nuanced and less slapstick performance than what we’re used to seeing on TV. Unexpected but enjoyable. Thumbs up!
You don’t know him yet, but you will in time. Fuzz, a newbie in the Happy Ever Laughter family, is one you’d underestimate first, but turned out to be the one to surprise you most of all. Reaping oodles of belly laughter through his racist gibes, he had outdone some of the most seasoned comedians who graced the stage that day. He highlighted aspects of the Malay culture and milked the stereotypes surrounding the race to hilarious effect.
Donning a suit formal costume, Karen transformed into a stiff civil servant and went on with a whole monologue about taking 'initiative'. Sounds pretty mundane in writing, but Karen Tan takes it to a level so ridiculous, there’s no way to sit through her act with a poker face, which she so skilfully maintained on stage.
One look at the petite man and you’d never notice the crow’s feet and other hidden creases letting slip Hossan Leong's real age. One look at the way he prances around the stage and you’d think he’s immortal.
Back her second time round with Happy Ever Laughter, Judee Tan returns as one of her many alter-egos, a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor named Teochew Muay (porridge). And yes, in case you haven’t realised, her character’s initials are in fact TCM, just one of the many details Judee Tan has worked into this audience approved persona.
The wondrously talented Judee Tan, who played a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. Judee Tan has shown that she has the ability and creativity to invent and present a multitude of characters, complete with varying accents and mannerisms. In her performance, Judee Tan presented another of her fully fleshed out creations and just as she always injects subtleties and nuance into her invented personalities to make them so real, she did the same with her TCM practitioner in this performance as well. Layering her portrayal with nervous tics and insecure “hmms” and “aahs” injected after each sentence, Judee Tan’s TCM practitioner was delightfully shy and insecure, speaking broken English, but absolutely loyal to the practice she was in.
Another standout is Sebastian Tan (a.k.a Broadway Beng), whom i have always fancy his performances throughout the years. Even if you cannot speak fluent Hokkien but able to understand that dialect is already a major advantage.
Every so often, different groups in the audience would laugh at seemingly random bits of dialogue – which showcased the different levels of humour that were used in the show. It’s great that they didn’t belabour jokes which didn’t have mass appeal, and I appreciated that the material didn’t pander to the lowest common denominator all the time. People come from all walks of life, mirroring the variety of comedy in the performances.
Pam Oei was all about the motherhood and impressions of her son during her time on stage. Did it matter if you’re not a parent yourself (yet)? Absolutely not. Pam Oei took her pains and turned it into our pleasure, clearly, a sign of what parenting does to you.
When Siti Khalijah Zainal is in character, wig and tutu skirt included (or not), she’s all sass and confidence. Be it stand up, singing, acting, or dancing (which she did a whole lot of), there’s honestly nothing this girl can’t do.
The best jokes are rooted in reality and the ones who kept it real were Mark Lee and Adrian Pang who both recounted their early days in showbiz – Lee struggling with English speaking roles while Pang had to make himself sound more, well, Chinese. To hear them speak as themselves and not as characters made their sets that much more appealing.
Despite the immense talent he carries as a seasoned actor, Adrian Pang proves to be a natural comedian. After witnessing his improvised interactions with the audience, i can’t help but feel he’s truly hilarious in nature. As his first ever stand up performance, he had definitely exceeded expectations, pulling amusing tales from his time with Channel 8 dramas. One of his standout acts was undoubtedly his British impression. It’s no joke when I say he sounded like Rowan Atkinson (a.k.a Mr Bean) playing a funny character.
Kumar was given the honour again of closing, and as always, his sharp wit and deadpan delivery while dressed in a slinky white outfit worked its magic. If you can recall, Kumar seems to be the only performer who stood in the same spot throughout his segment. No prancing around, no slapstick humour, no gimmicks.
Happy Ever Laughter carries greater social significance in its content than just laughs. All the cast members want people to remember that maybe if you’re feeling troubled, have a laugh and whack it all out, empty it out. And then you can face a new day and new challenges. Even though they are comedians, they have hardships too and go through tough things, but some times you got to laugh it out and they are here to help people laugh louder.
Thumbs up to Dream Academy on a fabulous job! I sincerely hope Happy Ever Laughter can become an annual event, so please keep them coming! I am already looking forward to next Happy Ever Laughter performance!
You may browse my blog story story on the "Happy Ever Laughter" performance first staged in July 2012 at this URL, enjoy browsing! And keep laughing always!
A freelance Singapore-based travel photographer / photojournalist. I seek the extraordinary, but finds beauty in the everyday. Life is interesting, capture it.
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