An Interview with Sam See

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Sam See & the Magners International Comedy Festival have been bosom-buddies since the inception. This year sees Sam See back in in Singapore…


Hello Sam, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Singapore, and still based here, mainly gigging in the South East Asia region. Never lived anywhere else, but let’s see where comedy takes me in the future!

When did you first develop a passion for comedy?
It’s a bit hard to pinpoint, because as a kid I consumed a very diverse collection of comedy. From the local Singaporean comedy of the drag queen comedian Kumar, to the music videos of Weird Al Yankovich and then to the British sitcoms like Allo Allo and Mind Your Language. I remember always trying to add comedy into my school presentations (without much success), as well as forcing the class to watch Clue again and again till the laughed at the right points. So I’d say I found comedy as a child, much to the chagrin of everyone else around me.

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What is the creative process behind writing your comedic material?
Slow as hell. Great comics sit down everyday to write great works of humour. I am no great comic. I only start writing a bit if I’m moved by emotions or excitement, hence why the bits always have anger, confusion or a desperation behind them, in my opinion. I test them out at shows after, try to fix them, fail on the first three attempts, throw the bit away, run back to pick it up after I realize I need new material and then make it better overtime. Sometimes I can come back to the joke after a few days, sometimes a few months. I still have jokes that are still sitting around from years ago, I’m waiting till I’m experienced enough to approach them, because if you’re gonna touch the testier topics, you best damn well be prepared.

What are your improv skills like?
Depends on who you ask. I’ve been told I was fantastic to my face and then downright awful online, so I guess I’m pretty good at first glance. I started out with a fantastic improv troupe called the Laecomers, who specialized in short and long form simultaneously. I’ve sinced stepped away from the troupe to focus on my stand-up, but have learnt plenty from them, especially how to ‘sell’ alcohol without a liquor licence. PM me if you want the details.

What are the secrets to a good joke?
Writing and delivery, but the most important thing: having an audience to tell it to.

What does Sam See like to do when he’s not being funny?
I was studying video game programming before I got into comedy, so I’m a heavy gamer. Nothing multiplayer, mind you. Too anti social and not fond of 8 year old kids calling me names online. I prefer my hecklers to be there in person. I’ve also been trying to pick up cross-stitching, something more soothing to do after shows, but I keep passing it up for the more calming alternative: hard liquor.

You’re quite a name on the Asian comedy circuit, headlining cities like Melbourne, Malaysia, Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Oman and the Philippines; but which is your favorite country to perform in & why?
Tricky, tricky question there, but if I had to pick, I’d say [INSERT YOUR COUNTRY HERE]. I really love [INSERT YOUR COUNTRY HERE], the people are so nice and welcoming, crowds laugh so hard and most of all, I love eating [INSERT YOUR LOCAL FOOD HERE]. I’d dare say it’s the best dish in the entire world, fight me about it.

Can you tell us about MAGNERS INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL?
I’ve worked with the Magners team for many years, since the first one back in 2014. They are a passionate bunch of people that want to bring both regional and international comedy to Asia, and I believe they will succeed at their goal, especially if they keep booking me every year.


Book Tickets for the Gala Night


You’re performing at this year’s festival; can you tell us where, when & who with?
I’ll be hosting the Singapore Gala Show, on the 21st of March at Pong, in Clarke Quay. Joining me will be some fantastic acts, like local funnyman Jinx Yeo, SG/US export Jocelyn Chia, Aussie boy Shayne Hunter, Irishman Kevin Gildea and rounding out the pack, the winner of the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, ‘So You think You’re Funny’, Danny Garnell. Tickets are still available at the festival website, which I’m sure you’ll find below.

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
I’m planning to head up to the legendary Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, and then bring that hour back to SG and perform it in a theatre, so let’s see how all that goes. Also, I’ll probably be trying to pick up cross-stitching again. Stay tuned for knitting-based updates.

www.mrsamsee.com


MAGNERS INTERNATIONAL

COMEDY FESTIVAL

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An Interview with Aidan Killian

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Two years ago, Aidan Killian performed at the Magners Comedy Festival in Asia. The next year he got massively involved. The Mumble thought we’d get the lowdown…


Hello Aidan, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Dublin, Ireland but like many Irish my feet wader around the globe so now I am on an island in Thailand called, Koh Samui and tomorrow I will be in Singapore. I jump from country to country performing in Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Tokyo, Saigon, Singapore, Shanghai and so on.

When did you first realise you were funny?
When I was doing Mister Bean impressions to my granny and her teeth fell out from laughing so hard. They whole family paid attention to me; thy laughed, uncles patted my head and they al gave me sweets. It was more than being funny it also gave me my first taste of power. Like a mini dictator, I was emperor of the family.. for a few minutes.

How did you get into comedy?
I was an investment bank in Tokyo and had to do public speaking but was terrified so I did stand up to help me. It was the cure needed. I even got a few laughs with that shite I was spouting out my mouth and once again the inner dictator shouted MOOORREEEE!! Soon I quit banking, lost all my wealth and worked as a poor comedian trying to make my way it in the mad world of comedy (which is often more competitive than banking).

What is it about being funny in front of other people that makes you tick?
What is more enjoyable in the world than to make people happy. It’s probably like the buzz Jesus got when he healed the sick. Yes what I am saying is that comedians have the attributes of God.

What are the key ingredients to your style?
Connect with people. Bring them on my story. Let them feel. Leaving laughing while thinking something positive about humanity

How did you get involved with the Magners Asian comedy festival?
The employed me as a comic in 2017. I toured 6 countries with them and loved it. Then I blagged my way in and now I am a partner. I love it. I love working with my partner Matt Bennett and the comedy promoters all over Asia and Magners who make it happen. I have a soft spot for Magners since they are 100% Irish so I feel a bit of national pride too. every time someone laughs an apple tree gets planted in Ireland :).

How has the festival evolved over the years?
In 2014/15, before me, they lost money, brought in about 25-30 acts from all over the world but now the scene has grown so much we can get half the acts from Asia. There are strong weekly comedy clubs like Singapore’s The Merry Lion, Kuala Lumpur’s The Crackhouse, and Shanghai’s Comedy Bunker. So we work with these clubs and other monthly clubs like, StandupAsia who bring over great acts too. Last year we brought over Doug Stanhope and Bill Bailey, this year we have Tom Green and are talking to some other big names too. The festival is evolving and the comedy scene is also evolving. Evolve or die!

How do you decide upon the acts?
I got to Edinburgh Fringe every year and choose whoever wears the highest pants. Nah I usually just pick people I respect and want to work with. I know that are funny and will be easy to travel with. I avoid anyone who I think would be high maintenance.

What have you got lined up for us this year?
Tom Green, Imran Yusuf, Stephen K Amos, Phil Nichol, Dana Alexander, Sam See, Jinx Yeo, Jocelyn Chia, Kevin Gildea, Ro Campbell, Trevor Lock and so many more.

Do you cater for local comedians
Yes we do. We love them and they are growing fast. I know you are not meant to have favourites but I love Sam See from Singapore.

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Shanghai

What’s the difference between an Asian comedy audience & an Irish?
The Irish are surrounded by hilarious people and you will never be as funny as their mate, Barry. The rule in Ireland is that you can do what you like but if you are sexist, homophobic, racist etc. people will not laugh… even if you are not but you talk about the subject they will tighten up their arse-cheeks in fear but in Asia they don’t give a shite about this. They are more direct in some ways for example, it would not be rude for an Asian to say, “you are fat” and then pinch your belly. The Asia audience will find it hilarious when you slag off whatever Asian country is close by.

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
After Magners International Comedy festival is done I will take my beloved for a holiday, I shall go home to Ireland to see my family and I will continue working on and developing my Edinburgh show which I will call ‘Imposter Syndrome’ or ‘Faking it’ or ‘Not good enough’.

www.aidankillian.com


MAGNERS INTERNATIONAL

COMEDY FESTIVAL

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Russell Brand’s Re:Birth and his Critique of the British Comic Figurehead

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While knowing Russell Brand mainly through his activism and political commentaries, I found myself pleasantly surprised at the eloquence of his new stand-up special Re:Birth. Among his excoriating critiques on British politics, the mass media and political power, I couldn’t help but notice that a major target of his special was himself, particularly as he highlighted his interventions in British political debate and by discussing how he wrestled with his role as a British political comic figurehead. Alongside some rich material on being a father and his past drug addiction issues, it’s this quality of self-interrogation that for me really stood out in Re:Birth.

One element of the show that in my opinion worked very well was Brand’s use of short video segments. I’ve found many political comedians’ use of videos during their acts somewhat laboured, often being employed to act as a means of delivering a punchline without putting in the effort. However, in Re:Birth, the videos he uses encapsulate Brand’s self-confessed, awkward dalliances between comedian and political activist, mocking his infamous interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight, a recording of a pre-presidency Donald Trump in which he called Brand a loser, and a final segment in which the comedian invokes an exaggerated, Danny Dyer-ish Cockney accent while in battle with a journo outside 10 Downing Street.

Between segments, the videos work well because they strike at the heart of Brand’s comic message, which, refreshingly, also tears down his authority as a political comedian, or at the very least, questions his ability to effectively translate complex messages through mass media. This material is reinforced by his numerous, eloquent and sincerely heart-felt critiques of the merciless cruelties of the British tabloid media, as well as the myopic disconnect of political culture with everyday life, the latter of which he brilliantly compares to a well-oiled machine of continuous bullshit. It is in these moments that Brand comes into his own, and we remember why, for all his foibles, he still plays a distinctive role in the corridor between British comedy and politics. In essence, Re:Birth acts as a form of comic referendum on his struggles with how he sees himself as a public figure, where the comedian, through videos of his appearances on British news, invites the audience to recognise the contrast with his media image, while simultaneously embracing the numerous contradictions to which he readily admits. In one section in particular, he jokes about the various personalities he possesses that can pop out unexpectedly, giving a slight Whitmanesque vibe to his presentation.

The only major criticism I have with Re:Birth however is Brand’s use of dance movements and raps as forms of punchline or tags, which seemed more akin to a nightmarish Blackpool matinee. I found myself cringing at several of these interludes, which in my opinion did a disservice to both his likeability as a comedian and the political shrewdness of his material, making segments of his special less like Bill Hicks and more like “Knees Up, Mother Brown”. However, in perhaps the strongest portion of his show, and the one that testifies to his eloquence as a political comedian, he recalls his initially reluctant involvement in the New Era Estate rent row. With the protest reaching the steps of 10 Downing Street, Brand recounts how the activists were inevitably side-lined by the media, who unsurprisingly focused on him. He narrates how he remedied this by shifting attention to one of the main activists, Lindsey, during his interview. His subsequent appraisal of Lindsey, as an activist and a fighter is beautifully conveyed, and serves to remind us of Brand’s genuine sympathy with public activism, as well as his own generosities as an entertainer.

In settling on what makes Re:Birth worth watching, it’s not just that’s its funny. Quite the opposite in some segments; some of it, such as his rap / dance / Cockney japes, is frankly a little upsetting to watch. However, it’s also quite comprehensive in terms of the material it grapples with. For example, a recurring theme is his toying with the concept of “simulacrum”, the analysis of something that looks like or represents something else. He employs this effectively in his portrayal of his expectation vs. the reality of watching his child be born, or in his description of the anticipated authority of 10 Downing Street feeling more like a deserted movie set when he visited it during his involvement in the New Era Estate rent row. This disconnect can be extended to Brand’s self-perception as a political comic firebrand / radical / Daily Mail nemesis vs. his personal introspection regarding his efficacy as a political commentator and activist. In fact, he spends a good part of his special arguing that he might be best steering clear of complex political commentaries and forms of activism altogether to avoid jeopardising the possibility of left-wing policies he favours. As he reflects in his material on the successes of the New Era Estate rent row, he argues, “that’s what happens…when people come together, in pursuit of common idea, there is great power. So, I suppose, the lesson was, ‘Russell, shut the fuck up.” [Laughter.]”

In doing so, Re:Birth provides a refreshing take on contemporary British political comedy in the way in which it questions its own worth in the public sphere. While British comedy is nowhere near as traumatised as its American sister and its cultural defeat at the hands of the satire-proof titan of Donald Trump, Brand’s special gives glimpses into the nature of this mode of culture and its relationship with public commentary and politics. While his stand-up provides a poignant example of the championing qualities of British political comedy, with its exploration of alternative ideas, protection of the downtrodden and its ridiculing of old cruelties, Brand also gives us cause to reflect on the exalted role of comedians as contemporary social and political guardians by highlighting their own limitations. In doing so, it stands out as an intelligent and self-aware piece of stand-up comedy and I look forward to his future contributions. I just hope he goes a bit easier on the dad raps next time.

James Nixon

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Preview: Dave Gorman

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Dave Gorman is in Edinburgh this week…


Funny man Dave Gorman comes to Edinburgh Playhouse this week as part of his With Great Powerpoint Comes Great Responsibilitypoint tour. It was announced in June that the upcoming (already largely sold out) tour has been extended for a second time with 19 new shows added in early 2019.

Starting this September and now playing 61 shows at some of the biggest theatres in the country, including Edinburgh Playhouse on Sunday 9 September, this tour will see Dave combine his unique and critically acclaimed style of stand-up and visual story-telling. As the title suggests, Dave is bringing his laptop and projector screen with him so expect the ‘King of Powerpoint comedy’ (The Guardian) to have more detailed analysis of those parts of life you’ve never stopped to think about before.  Hey, not all heroes wear capes.

Ratings and critical hit, Dave Gorman Modern Life Is Goodish returned to Dave in 2018 for a fifth series – attracting a peak of 1.5 million viewers and regularly receiving a total audience of over a million per episode, the show is one of UKTV and Dave’s (the channel) most successful original commissions.

This will be Dave Gorman’s first new live tour show in four years and follows on from Dave Gorman Gets Straight To The Point* (*The Power Point).  A two-time extended sell-out UK nationwide tour, it saw Dave sell out four shows at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, as well as the Hammersmith Apollo, and take the show to New York for a ten-night run off-Broadway.

 


With Great Powerpoint

Comes Great Responsibility

EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE

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Sun 9 September, 8pm

www.atgtickets.com

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An Interview with Amy Shoshtak

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Vancouver, watch out, because Gossamer Obsessions are coming to town with sketch comedy unlike any you’ve ever seen before. The Mumble managed a wee blether with the lady member of that most fearless duo…


Hello Amy, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Amy: I was born and raised in Edmonton, and now I am based in Vancouver.

When did you first develop a passion for performing?
Amy: As a kid, I was always putting on “plays” and “magic shows” for my family. I loved being in front of people! But then, the self-consciousness of being a teen crept in, and I became shy, and forgot about that passion. During high school, my very encouraging drama teacher suggested I join the improv team, and the rest is history!

So, Amy, your improv skills are much sought after, you’re like the Don. How did your teaching of improv come about & where are you with it today?
Amy: Well, I don’t know how much I am like a mob boss, but I certainly do love teaching! I started teaching years ago through Rapid Fire Theatre, coaching in their tournament for high school students, and also running classes for adults and children. In Vancouver, I teach with Blind Tiger Comedy.

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Can you tell us about CHiMPROV?
Amy: It is Rapid Fire Theatre’s weekly long form improv show. It’s really excellent. Every Saturday you can catch different troupes doing very interesting improv. The troupes will experiment with editing, genre, and character in a long form setting.

Can you tell us about your trip to Monkeyfest in Bogota?
Amy: I visited Colombia several years ago to see my friends at Picnic Improv. They run a very cool improv school, as well as circus classes. Bogota was beautiful – I’d love to see more of South America one day!

What does Amy Shoshtak like to do when she’s not being funny?
Amy: I love going to metal concerts, and hiking in the mountains. I also love nachos.

Can you tell us about Gossamer Obsessions?
Amy: Paul and I started working together over a decade ago, doing improv at Rapid Fire Theatre. I really admired his approach to comedy. He always plays smart, while still sharing the joy he’s experiencing on stage. We got together to write a list of “Gossamer Obsessions”. Then we turned that into a performance. And then we wrote more, and started performing regularly. And so Gossamer Obsessions was born.
The show is framed by two curious narrators (The Vicar, and his Petulant Ward), who share parables and cautionary tales with the audience (these are the sketches). The tone of the show is purposefully whimsical, jarring, and still hilarious.

You & Paul live in separate cities. Do your creative processes involve a lot of skyping?
Amy: You nailed it! We skype every couple weeks and work on writing in google docs.

What are the secrets to a good sketch?
Amy: I think if it makes you laugh, then you are on the right track. Finding your own voice in creative work is one of the biggest challenges. Try not to worry about doing it right – just do it, and try it out in front of an audience!

Can you describe your working relationship with Paul Blinov in a single word?
Amy: Depraved.

You’ll be bringing The Morality Puns to the Vancouver Fringe, can you tell us about it?
Amy: The Morality Puns is our third full-length Gossamer Obsessions sketch show.

Where have the sketches come from?
Amy: The ether.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the street…?
Amy: Saturday Night Live meets a fever dream. A critic once called Gossamer Obsessions “19th century stoner humour”.

What will Amy Shoshtak & Gossamer Obsessions be doing after the Vancouver Fringe?
Amy: After Vancouver Fringe, I’ll be working on my Dialogue and Civic Engagement Certificate at Simon Fraser here in Vancouver, and helping produce The 20th Vancouver International Improv Festival. Also, Halloween!


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The Morality Puns

Revue Stage, 1601 Johnston St.

Friday Sept 7: 8:45pm – 9:45pm
Saturday Sept 8: 10pm – 11pm
Sunday Sept 9: 1:45pm – 2:45pm
Tuesday Sept 11: 9:30pm – 10:30pm
Friday Sept 14: 5pm – 6pm
Saturday Sept 15: 4pm – 5pm

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www.amyshoshtak.ca

An Interview with Rob Gee

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The Vancouver Fringe is rising rapidly on the horizon, & impeccable wordsmith Rob Gee is, well, geeing himself up for his gigs, big time…


Hello Rob, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Rob: Raised in Derby, Living in Leicester, currently in Calgary.

Why comedy, what is it about being funny in front of other people that makes you tick?
Rob: I’ve always liked entertaining folk since I was king Herod in the school nativity. And the sound of a bunch of people laughing is lovely. Also, I sometimes talk about some pretty rough subjects in my shows, so it comes down to that thing George Bernard Shaw said about how if you’re going to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you.

You’re also a dab hand with a quill. Can you tell us about your poetry?
Rob: Anyway, basically I do stand up poetry, which is a bit like stand up comedy, but it rhymes and there’s no jokes in it. I used to do loads of poetry slams too. One of the reasons I’m looking forward to returning to Vancouver is its fantastic slam scene.

You’ve shared stages with numerous personalities & luminaries; who have been your top 3 & why?
Rob: Sue Townsend, who wrote the Adrian Mole diaries. She was a really interesting speaker and her books are hilarious. Tony Benn, old school Labour MP. He was a delight. Dick Fish, who sings for punk band the Subhumans. I grew up on punk rock, particularly the anarcho stuff, so Dick was a childhood hero. I gigged with his band, Citizen Fish, once or twice in the 90s, and then he started doing spoken word, so I gigged with him a bit more. He’s lovely and he always spoke to me like we were mates. I was all awestruck and dithery, but it didn’t seem to phase him.

You’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starter, mains & dessert?
Rob: It would have to be the three wise men, surely? They’d be pretty interesting conversation with a few beers in them. Actually, maybe two wise men and a translator. I’m not a very cook, but I live in Leicester and there’s a lovely South Indian place near me. We’d go there.

You’re bringing a show to this year’s Vancouver Fringe, can you tell us about it?
Rob: It’s a murder mystery set on an Alzheimer’s ward. I was a psych nurse for a number of years and I also love murder mysteries. There was also a lot I wanted to say about dementia. So it’s funny, with the occasional moving bit.

What’s the difference between a Canadian audience & a British?
Rob: I can only speak in terms of Fringe festivals, because they’re the only Canadian audiences I tend to do. Generally speaking, Canadian audiences tend to be a lot bigger, because their Fringes are better – the whole model is different. This leads to more questions than answers, I know. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Also, Canadian Fringe audiences are orientated more towards theatre, whereas UK Fringe audiences (particularly in Edinburgh) tend to be more focused towards comedy. In terms of what they laugh at though, it’s actually very similar.

What is the creative process behind writing your comedic material?
Rob: It starts with the idea that makes you giggle, or at least ignites something happy in the old grey matter. Once that happens, I then I like to write many pages of drivel which, several drafts later, I then use to I bore the people around me. Then it’ll do a scratch performance in a pub near where I live, and then it’ll do a tiny Fringe festival somewhere I lick the beast into shape. And then it’s ready!

What are the key ingredients to your style?
Rob: I like lots of light and lots of dark. And it goes in and out of rhyme. And it’s both kinds of funny.

You have twenty seconds to sell the show to someone you are flyering in the streets of Vancouver – what would you say?
Rob: It’s like Clue meets Memento. (That allows a few seconds in case they’ve not heard of Memento, then I can refer them to Google…)


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Forget Me Not

The Alzheimer’s Whodunnit

Revue Stage

Sept 6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 15 (times vary)

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www.robgee.co.uk