★★★★☆ Review: Queens of Asia Comedy by Kam Productions (Malaysia)
Strong showcase of female comedians in celebration of International Women’s Month.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – Joanne Kam is Malaysia’s reigning Queen of Comedy. So it makes complete sense to have her to lead the charge, and show the world that (Asian) women are just as funny, if not more so, than their male counterparts. With that, Kam Productions presented the inaugural edition of stand-up comedy show Queens of Asia Comedy last weekend, where Kam was joined by fellow comediennes Yumi Nagashima (Canada/Japan), Aditi Mittal (India) and Sharul Channa (Singapore).
With the current COVID-19 situation, Kam Productions ensured that all measures and precautions have been taken with such a mass event, as guests streamed into the HGH Convention Centre Sentul. Playing to an almost full house, the show began as a group of women emerge onstage in silk robes before walking off. Joanne Kam then descends onto the stage via a fly bar, almost as if she were an angel coming down from the heavens, and was even accompanied by a private butler.
The production value that has gone into Queens of Asia Comedy is indisputable, as we watched Joanne perform a well-choreographed number for her opening act full of raw energy and gusto. Complete with a team of stellar backup dancers, Joanne showed off her loud, proud and outgoing personality to start the show on a high note. Joanne then introduces herself and starts the comedy ball rolling, reminiscent of her ‘peh peh’ shows. She surveys the audience and gauges the demographic, before setting the tone of the show, explaining how female comedians have been considered the ‘side show’, ‘the salad’ or the ‘extra one’ for far too long, and Queens of Asia Comedy would remedy that by being a tribute to women everywhere.
Joanne then introduces the first act of the night – Yumi Nagashima. Based out of Vancouver, the YouTube star is coined a ‘Japanese Comedy Goddess’, and to us, felt like a Japanese lady gone from mild to wild. Touching on topics such as racism and sexism, Yumi recalls how she has received wolf whistles while out in public, while also emphasising how she’s become an independent woman. Across her set, she showcases a myriad of talent, including performing a song that her 98 year old grandfather taught her to sing, showing how no matter where she was, she still kept true to her Japanese roots. By the end of her set, we knew more about who she was, what she stands for, why she does comedy, and the reason she is who she is today – a self-coined ’empowering alien’.
Joanne Kam then returns to thank Yumi for her performance, and reiterates how even in times like this, it’s all we can do to keep on with our daily lives, with the audience out in full force tonight. Joanne shows how versatile she is as an emcee, speaking about her own line of scents called ‘the scents of Kam’, to nasi lemak, to her video of nasi lemak, to her arduous journey to get plastic surgery done, before introducing our next comedienne – Aditi Mittal.
Aditi Mittal has not one but two Netflix comedy specials to her name, and has been ranked as one of India’s top 10 comedians. It’s not hard to see why, as she displays lively facial expressions and strong physical comedy work while she talks about marriage, pickup lines in India, and unabashed at speaking about what she stands for and telling stories like they are. Other jokes include the Kamasutra and India’s language of sex, and her dreams of wanting to become a thin Hollywood starlet, always expressing herself well and garnering laughter, showing her at the top of her game.
Joanne comes back on and introduces a brief audience participation session, bringing to the stage three volunteers – Kyle, Eugene and Vicka. Joanne has a knack for picking out good volunteers, and with these three men, stages a kind of game show, where they are tasked to dress up as women. Everyone in the audience was evidently having a lot of fun with this, with Joanna expertly commanding the audience’s attention. It’s not easy to conduct such an improvisation act, but there was plenty of class in how Joanne achieved this, leaving us ready for the final act of the night – Singaporean comedienne Sharul Channa.
Sharul emerges in a long red dress, and we think about how even fashion is a form of expression, her outfit conveying her power and conviction. Never one to hold back, Sharul dives into the offensive as she cracks jokes about the government, clearly stating how she’s from Singapore, and how the Singapore and Malaysia story never ends. Touching on the coronavirus, Sharul’s set is all about showcasing the important topics comedy can bring out and make accessible. Sharul also discusses family life, talking about her marriage and what a child could do in her life, and even her husband gets a shoutout (no spoilers as to what she says). Showing a rarely seen, softer side to her, Sharul also mentions Cinderella, and thinks about what might have become of her after happy ever after. Sharul’s forte clearly lies in working the audience, and with this set, capably changes the mood and makes it almost emotional, while still being able to bring on the laughs when she needs to.
As the first iteration of Queens of Asia Comedy, the show was perfect at bringing people together in this time of fear, celebrating comedy and women in the same space. All four comediennes were diverse in background and material, but showed cohesiveness and unity in their shared womanhood. Certainly, they’ve proven that women are more than fillers or opening acts, and can capably hold down entire shows of their own. While these are difficult and certain times, Queens of Asia Comedy was filled with so much positivity, energy and spunk, one could only stand up and applaud the queens’ performances. From the volume of laughter and cheers by the audience that filled the venue, the show was a roaring success, and we’re already looking forward to finding out when it’ll be back for seconds in the near future.
Performance attended 13/3/20
Queens of Asia Comedy Special played in Kuala Lumpur on 13th March 2020 at the HGH Convention Centre Sentul, Jalan Peach Avenue, Sentul, Kuala Lumpur.
Queens of Asia Comedy Special was initially to play in Singapore on 21st March 2020 at the Coyote Ugly Saloon Bar, but has since been postponed till further notice.