Fresh off the oven! This week, iflix premiers edgy, no-holds-barred comedy series, Oi! Jaga Mulut. Starting today, new episodes will be available weekly every Monday, only on iflix. The seven-part series is iflix’s first original production and is hosted by comedic icon, Haniff Hamzah. (Update: Due to overwhelming response, the entire series will be available in iflix at 31st July, 12am for your binge watching pleasure!)
Oi! Jaga Mulut brings a brand new experience to Malaysia. Now iflix members can enjoy the Malaysia’s edgiest and funniest comedy club in the comfort and convenience of their homes (or the bus, the train, the bathroom…basically, anywhere you can take your phone). The jokes are edgy, near-the-knuckle and sometimes, downright rude. The bottom line is – if it’s funny, it’s in. Joanne Kam, Papi Zak, Rayza Mukmin and Jon Atherton, join the incredibly talented showcase, tackling taboo subjects in a series of stand-up routines and riotous improvised games.
We speak to the Malaysian lineup’s only female cast members – Joanne Kam, Shamaine Othman, and Farah Rani.
So, honestly – do you laugh at your own jokes?
Joanne: HA HA of course! Why not!? No one’s laughing, you laugh!
[all three laugh]
With this iflix original comedy series, the comedy scene in Malaysia has come a long way. Looking back at your career, what does this mean to you? Is it a milestone?
Shamaine: Yeah, it is! By putting these comics on TV, we reach out to more audiences and hopefully [they] are like, “Oh, I kinda like stand-up comedy” and they will go and see more shows, or if someone wants to go and start their own comedy night in their own town.
Joanne: It’s pretty amazing that Asia – in fact Malaysia – in the last 8-10 years has become a comedy centre … Newbies coming up, we have different comedy nights, different comics from different countries coming in, so it’s no longer just Malaysian comics. I started comedy…oh, dear…23 years ago! After I started Boom Boom Room, Harith [Iskander] came out and did his stand-up comedy. So technically, I was the first bitch on stage to tell a joke! But it’s all very cabaret style as well – it wasn’t my own material and there was a lot of audience participation. And 8-10 years ago, when this new form of comedy came, everybody was like, “You gotta write your own jokes”. And that’s when the transition happened … So in that aspect, I would say Malaysia has a good base to grow as the centre for comedy in Asia, more so than anywhere else, because Singaporeans are…you know…not funny. [all three laugh]
We’ll quote you on that!
Joanne: No no no…habis lah aku buat kecoh dengan Singapore! No, I mean, Singapore has its international appeal. But what’s nice is we have a very strong local team.
Shamaine: The fact that Crackhouse is the only comedy-dedicated club, and it’s in Malaysia, speaks volumes.
Joanne: I’ve been to comedy clubs in Singapore where they have open mic nights. But I still feel it is very, slightly white-centered…expat-centered. Where else here, the locals are the ones supporting, the locals are the ones wanting to see comedy.
Farah: This year there have been 3 major comedy festivals [LOL Fest 2017, Crackhouse Carnival Comedy Festival, Kuala Lumpur International Comedy Festival], so that says a lot as well.
Shamaine: People always ask, “Why do you think comedy works in Malaysia?” From my understanding and observation, Malaysians are dying for the truth. [laughs] They get it from comedy, and the truth is always funny.
What can people expect on Oi! Jaga Mulut that they haven’t seen in your shows?
Shamaine: What’s really nice about Oi! Jaga Mulut is that there are the English comics, there are the Bahasa comics, and there’s Farah who does improv; I do improv as well. So it’s a nice mix. It’s not just standup – you play games as well. It’s sort of a new format – a comedy variety show.
Joanne: What’s nice is that you get to see the two teams interacting – the English comedians and the Bahasa comedians and that’s really interesting. And it’s dual language as well.
What do your parents (and Joanne, your daughter) think about what you do? Do they watch your shows?
Joanne: Yes, she did! She actually watched the [Christmas Comedy] Roast of Kavin Jay where they all roasted me because I brought her! [laughs] My daughter has a very different sense of humour. Yesterday, one of my girlfriends in production insisted, “Oh, we should put your daughter on camera!” Because Jade has this very sassy, sarcastic way of answering when you talk to her, but she only does it when no one is around or when I’m with friends which she is already comfortable with. My friend is trying to tell me to train her to be a stand-up comic. We shall see – she’s only 12 … She’ll say funny things. I wear things like this [gestures to her outfit] and she’s like, “Ma, what happened to you?” I say, “What do you mean?” She’ll say, “Why you like this? You see, you’re showing off all your chest. I’ll never be like you! Never!!”
Shamaine: My mum comes to all of my shows. She’s super supportive. My dad has only seen me do stand-up once. Because he can’t see his baby daughter tell all these adult jokes. [laughs] But I remember when I started doing stand-up comedy, he was so sweet, he bought me 4 DVDs of stand-up comics … and he bought me 3 jokes books, and I’m like, I have to write my own jokes!
Farah: My parents have never been to an improv show, but they’re very supportive. But at improv shows, I don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s quite a bit of sex, we go all the way, we go quite far. I’d be uncomfortable if they were there. I mean, I’m on my knees a lot. [laughs]
On that note, do you think female comedians have to joke about sex to be funny?
Shamaine: I don’t think so. Why not? So what if we talk about sex? So what if we’re crass? Because the guys do it too.
Joanne: Why should there be a separation? Like “Oh, if the girls talk about sex, that means she’s a certain type of comedian.” And it’s very frustrating especially for me because I do those kind of jokes. I get censored a lot if I’m on TV. However, if Amy Schumer talks about her pepet smelling bad, because she’s Amy Schumer and white, it’s okay. [rolls eyes]
Farah: I think actually it’s empowering for women to be on stage and talk about their sexuality. I’m not speaking for everyone, but I don’t think I use sex for a quick joke. Yes, I’m a Malay Muslim woman, but I also have sex! And I think that’s important to do on stage.
Let’s talk about hecklers. Do you get a different kind of heckling compared to male comedians?
Shamaine: Touch wood, 5 years, I’ve never been heckled.
Joanne: I wish! Before lah, when I was in Boom Boom Room. Whenever I’m in a club, yeah. I think the Malaysian audience is very kind, so you won’t get a lot of hecklers. However, if you do work in a club situation – not a comedy club – but a drinking club; when there’s alcohol and rowdy men or women, there will be hecklers. Sometimes it’s good because you get to see your improv skills. But also a lot of times, the audience will back you up. If they [the hecklers] have irritated you, it means they have irritated them [the audience]. But there’s also a way to handle it. You compliment them, then you bitch at them, then you compliment them again so they don’t feel bad because half the time they’re drunk so they’re like “okay”.
Farah: This was years ago when I was in a group with Shamaine called Project Disko Baldi. I played this character who’s this hijabster – she plays the ukulele and she sings badly. So I was in character and I had a ukulele and I sang badly on purpose. This guy at the back went, “You suck!” He did not get the point at all [laughs].
Tell us about the worst performance you ever had.
Joanne: For a minute I thought you were talking about sex [laughs].
Shamaine: It was at Hard Rock Penang, this was my 2nd or 3rd year [doing comedy], and my material had a lot of Malaysian references, and the manager was like, “Yeah, it’s going to be 80% Penangites and 20% tourists.” But it was the other way around. So all my jokes fell flat because they didn’t get all of the major references.
Joanne: A lot of bars and pubs want comedy because comedy has exploded … You’re a bar, it’s different .. Because some places like that sell – I’m sorry – women. The guests are there to look at women, to associate with the females there … So, if you want to do comedy, you need to understand that [the audience’s] attention span of 10 minutes is almost like an hour. If you want to get them to give you their attention for 10 minutes without drinking, you need to do more than just talk. So, in that aspect, I’m hoping that the comedians out there; the newer ones can learn how to diversify in a club environment, so they do more audience participation, like sing a funny song and everybody sings along. No one is going to sit down and listen to you. It’s a bar. They wanna eat, they wanna drink, they wanna kau lui. Your job, most importantly, is to entertain them. You need to work your audience. You need to open up; if not, don’t take the job.
Shamaine: I think you need to be smarter in saying ‘yes’ to jobs. Like Joanne said, if someone comes to you and says, “Do you want to do a comedy night?” Go and see the space. If it’s a bar or an open concept and it’s going to be noisy, you have to be smart and say no.
Has your love life gotten better or worse since you started in comedy?
Shamaine: Farah and I used to do Projek Disko Baldi. [We] took a break and I got a boyfriend. We looked so stupid when we did our sketches [laughs]. It was quite tough dating.
Joanne: Don’t bring them to your show. Let them linger, let them like you for who you are for one month, then bring them to your show.
Shamaine: My boyfriend came [to watch me perform] 4 months into us dating, and we’re still together, so okay lah.
What’s the funniest pickup line used on you?
Shamaine: When I was 15, this guy was like, “Dik, dik, nak keropok dik?” [laughs] When I was 15 I was like “eww” but if someone said that to me today I’d be like, “Yeah!!”
Joanne: The minute they say “Let me tell you a joke”, that’s it. There was once I was walking from Zouk – we had just finished a show in Live House. We went to the carpark and then this guy who’s obviously like 50, 50 plus, with this other lady who does not look like his wife – more like maybe like a mama-san fom the karaoke downstairs. The minute he saw me he pushed the girl away and he just came to me and gave me his card. I get hit on by senior citizens quite a lot now. Recently in Mezze, this other guy said “Oh, I wanna date you. Do you believe in love at first sight?” … Honestly he looks like someone’s grandfather. So I’m like “Is this my life now!?”
Shamaine: I used to live with Farah with our housemate Eric, and we went to Changkat, and on the way back these 3 Indian guys were like, “Vannukum, sisters!!” [laughs]
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t in comedy?
Joanne: Wanita MCA. I think I’ll have more hits and do better work [laughs].
Shamaine: My background is performing and I studied theatre, so I guess theatre lah.
Farah: I think I’d be Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Shamaine: That’s comedy [laughs].
Joanne: Think of the material you’d have after two election runs! [laughs]
Say something to our female readers who kinda maybe fancy being comedians.
Joanne: Get in touch with me! I am at joannekam.my. Come for my open mic. The first one will be at 1st of August at General Free Space behind Castell.
Shamaine: If you want to do your set, write something you’re obsessed about.
Farah: Just do it. The hardest thing is the first step. Practice! Be brave.
The first episode of Oi! Jaga Mulut is out now on iflix, with new episodes available weekly every Monday. Watch the trailer here:
This interview is courtesy of iflix and has been edited for clarity and brevity.
While you’re on iflix, check out the hottest new K-drama in town, touted to be better than Goblin! Click here to find out more.