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N.O.W. 2019: Stand-up – Fresh + Raw (Review)

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A 10-lesson course by one of Asia’s top 10 female comedians pays off for these new comedy hopefuls.

Is it possible to even teach an art form as intuitive as stand-up comedy? Sharul Channa certainly thinks so, as she presents the graduating cohort of her very first 10-lesson course for beginners in N.O.W.’s Stand-Up: Fresh + Raw. Transforming the space at 72-13 to a cosier, more intimate comedy club-style setting, Fresh + Raw’s Saturday show comprised 9 newly minted comedians from a mix of backgrounds, ranging from theatremakers to everyday people, and even a certain prominent activist. Hosted by Sharul herself, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming as the crowd settled in to see what these newcomers had to offer the scene.

Holding the entire show together is Sharul, a more than capable host who brought the audience energy and enthusiasm up constantly in-between comedians, showing everyone how it’s done with her successful audience interactions and ruthlessly sharp-tongued humour to get the audience guffawing before she introduced each act. It’s evident that plenty of effort has done into her 10-week programme to imbue each of these new comedians with the necessary skills they needed to perform a well-written set, giving them both confidence and verve to face a live audience. One also appreciates Sharul’s lesson plans, which included bringing in her stand-up peers other talents from the local scene to share their experiences with the class and give them the nudge in the right direction.

While some of the comedians were visibly nervous, most of them came out onstage with enough confidence to deliver their full 5 minute set, many of which worked because they came from a personal place of sincerity, often subverting traumatic incidents or using the power of relatably embarrassing situations to have the audience laugh along with them.

Opening act Dawn Lau for example, effectively turns her experience with breast cancer into dark humour, while Olivia Griselda uses a no holds-barred frank discussion of her body to create gross out humour – after all, if you can’t laugh at yourself, how can anyone else laugh with you? Soft-spoken Beverly Wee, whose own parents were in the audience, presented a simple set that dealt with her everyday life, while Hilmi Shukur and Ahmad Hannan each delivered a set surrounding annoying customers and their own family respectively. It is the realness and individuality of their personal lives that gives each set its uniqueness an endearment.

More seasoned performers such as Audrey Luo and Timothy Nga each came onstage ready to face an audience, with the former presenting a succinct, punchy set about her love life and dating disasters, while the latter managed to joke about the male-centric army while making even the women in the audience laugh out loud. Award-winning actress Yeo Yann Yann even tried to use her own status as a ‘star’ to give herself a character, and with closing act Dana Lam, the former AWARE president made snarky jibes at our politics, while nimbly managing to weave in jokes about fake news and odorous genitals.

As an art form that’s still taking time to grow and put its roots down locally, the stand-up comedy scene in Singapore certainly still has a long way to go, but with the efforts of N.O.W. and Sharul Channa, Fresh + Raw certainly shows the existence of a general interest in it, and that there are plenty of great jokes still unsaid, at least, till the right comedian comes along to write and say them. With a promising start to the first year of the programme, we can’t wait to see who else gets discovered and manifests their potential when Fresh + Raw rolls around again next year when N.O.W. returns, and certainly, hope that the comedians from this batch of students take what they’ve learnt and continue making those around them laugh hard.

Performance attended 27/7/19 

Stand-up: Fresh + Raw played from 26th to 27th July 2019 at 72-13 as part of Theatreworks’ N.O.W. 2019.

N.O.W. 2019 ran from 10th to 28th July 2019 at 72-13. For the full lineup of programmes, visit the website here

 

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