Hossan-AH 50!: An Interview with Hossan Leong
Best known for his roles on television and stage, over the years, Hossan Leong has grown to become one of our nation’s icons, from The Hossan Leong Show to the host of local game show We Are Singaporeans. Now, the quintessential ‘Singapore Boy’ is about to celebrate his own golden jubilee as he hits the big 5-0 this year, and he’s celebrating with a party to remember, in his brand new show this August: Hossan-AH 50! Love You Leong Time, produced by his own company Double Confirm Productions.
Hossan’s set to pull out all the stops for this one, as it may well be one of the last times he chooses to put on a show of this scale, delivering both song and comedy as he laughs and sings his way through the tourism board’s slogans, three recessions, two international airports and one government over the last 50 years, cranked up to an energy level of 11.
But behind it all lies an ordinary man who honestly just wants to entertain his audiences, be able to still take the MRT, and say hi to people on the street. Says Hossan: “Back then while I was in Mediacorp, we were on a very small salary. You had to find your own work outside of your day job, or even create your own work and run your own company. Sometimes I wish someone had sat me down when I was in my 20s and told me a little more about financial planning and saving – freelancing everyday can be a hustle, because I have to keep touching base with events companies, continually selling my brand and my services, and really, just survive each and every day.”
He continues: “It was only after I hit my 40s that I think I reached a certain degree of maturity that allowed me to stop being scared and try different things, whether it’s going on TV to doing my own live show to corporate events and teaching. Each of these experiences have added up to make me who I am today, and I’ve learnt to be more patient, and understanding that life is really just too short to get upset. Of course, I still have my share of worries of making ends meet each month – I have overheads to cover, two businesses to run, and to take care of my parents. I’m still very much like everyone else in the system, having to earn a living. I always want to be able to connect with people in my shows, and to do that, I need to remain on the ground and talk about things that matter.”
Hossan takes a moment to recall his humble beginnings, explaining: “When I first toyed with the idea of becoming an actor, I remember being about 19, when I watched Army Daze, and I laughed so hard at it. 10 years on, there was an anniversary production of it at the World Trade Centre Auditorium, and I actually auditioned for it. One day out of the blue, I got a call from Tay Tong who told me to come in, because the actor playing Malcolm Png had chicken pox. I went in, memorized the script and learnt the role within 24 hours, and went onstage the next night, opposite Selena Tan as my mother, and Lim Yu Beng as the platoon sergeant. That was one adventure I will never forget.”
These days, Hossan is busier than ever, having set up a sister version of Double Confirm Productions in Johor Bahru, and expanding his range to even include action roles in series such as HBO Asia’s Grisse. Says Hossan: “Some of the most significant moments in my life include hosting We Are Singaporeans. That was a dream come through, and I even coined the phrase double confirm! And to think that when I auditioned to be the host, I went into without the script memorized and had no idea how to even play the game. I just went for it, and got it.”
“The other big highlight of my life was when I received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture”, he adds. “My dad is quite a typical father, going ‘aiyah, I don’t know what my son is doing, still finding job and never going to settle down.’ But when I got the medal, that was the first time I saw him cry. I made my parents so proud, and honestly, that was the highlight of my career, considering that unlike the Cultural Medallion, you don’t even have to apply for it – it’s simply people recognising you for what you do, and that’s enough for me.”
On the way he works, Hossan explains his mindset: “Whenever I have a show, I have a theme word that I carry within my heart and mind, and that I want the team to carry as well. So last year, when I was directing W!ld Rice’s A $ingapore Carol, I told them I wanted the word ‘kindness’ to characterize the show, from cast to crew to even the staff in the office, and naturally, it just comes out in the show. This time around, my theme is ‘gratitude’, because I’m just very grateful to everyone around me who’s done so much that I can come onstage to just, be who I am and make my audiences laugh and think.”
“I’ve been very blessed to have friends like Benjamin (Lee, better known as Mr Miyagi), who’s been helping me write my scripts since day one,” Hossan says. “I can’t write, so what I’d do is tell my friends my stories, and let them transcribe and organise them into something more fun for me to regurgitate on stage. Both Ben and I are turning 50 this year (we call ourselves me-lao-nials) so maybe you’re wondering – what could two uncles possibly talk about that the youths would be interested in?”
The answer is simple, according to Hossan: “We’re gonna talk about things that touch people’s hearts, to make them laugh, make them think, and we’ll be touching on Singaporean topics, like this entire segment on our tourism slogans, including a bit about Nas Daily. With the #MeToo movement going on, I’ll also be doing a bit on Disney princesses and how they all fought for what they believed in. It’s a little gimmicky, but I promise there’s a good story behind it. Plus, you’ll get to see me do a quick change as I go through each princess in just 10 minutes!”
He adds: “I think at the end of the day, I’ve gone past stand-up, to a point where my show is really about telling personal stories that’ve really happened to me. A lot of them happen to be funny stories as well, especially when I travel. So in a way, I’m telling the story of the journey my life has taken, filled with gratitude for it, and even though I’m 50, I’m not old – I’m just going through a different stage in my life.”
“The aim of the show is really to celebrate people and celebrate differences,” he concludes. “We want to reach audiences from all backgrounds, whether it’s the aunties who are my mum’s friends, or the millennials who don’t really know who Hossan Leong is. I know I have a certain vintage style, but honestly, just doing showbiz makes me happy. I’m proud of my status as the ‘Singapore Boy’, and what I want to leave behind as my legacy is that thinking back on my shows, I want them to smile and be filled with the warm glow from their memories of my show.”
With that in mind, there’s only one thing to do – double confirm and book your tickets when you can, regardless of whether you’re a millennial or a ‘me-lao-nial’, as you come celebrate this show set to take the cake and move audiences to guffaw with laughter, or take heart in the surprisingly relatable, all-Singaporean content Hossan will share in his show. Not to mention, proceeds from the show will even be going to 2 charities – Arc Children’s Centre and Caregivers Alliance Singapore, so you’ll be doing a good deed when you get yourself a ticket to Hossan-AH 50! Love You LEONG Time! this August, promising delight for one and all, regardless of race, generation, or social stratification.
We’re giving away tickets to catch Hossan-AH 50! All you have to do is to comment with your response to the question “What is your favourite memory of Hossan Leong?”
Winners will be contacted accordingly.
Hossan-AH 50! Love You LEONG Time! runs from 14th to 31st August 2019 at the Drama Centre Theatre. Tickets available from SISTIC