By Yasmin Bathamanathan
Images courtesy of http://www.douglaslim.com/
My first introduction to Douglas Lim was the much loved Kopitiam. He was adorable, kinda-annoying (in my memory at least) and quite the nice guy. Then I found out he could sing and play the guitar! Oh, I wanted him as a friend (well, I wanted to hang out with the gang of Kopitiam – it was like our own version of Friends, only better and more realistic).
A decade and half later, Douglas has moved on to bigger and better things, in the process creating some really cool funny stuff online and offline as well as flexing his acting chops on stage. I, on the other hand, have yet to find crazy group of friends who hang out and do pretty much nothing. But, I have this the chance of hanging out with Douglas online to bring to you this interview with Douglas on his up-coming stand-up show – Planet of the Apeks.
YB: I just watched your KIA commercials, and I must say they are funny. The humour might be Chinese-centric but they are something all Asians can identify with. Would you say the same applies to the content or concept of Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians shows?
DL: Thank you for finding the commercials funny. It’s my hope to introduce comedy to other fields like advertising and education so I’m glad that I’ve achieved some degree of success with the Kia commercials. Yes, the humour MACC does usually cuts across race. Although the 4 of us are Chinese, the first word in MACC is MALAYSIAN and that applies to us too. We are Malaysian first and foremost.
YB: What can we expect from Planet of the Apeks?
DL: Stand-up comedy in English, performed by 4 Malaysians. Because of who we are, the content will also be very Malaysian, involving issues and aspects of which we are all familiar.
YB: How involved are you in the production of Planet of the Apeks? From the poster, it looks like you are the lord and creator and all the other guys have to do is show up and deliver their lines.
DL: It’s actually a team effort. The bit where my name appears throughout the poster was added to fill up empty space. Chi Ho is our main publicist, Jenhan is in charge of graphics and colouring and stuff while Dr. Jason is there in case we get sick. I er…finance the whole endeavour.
YB: Why apek? You guys aren’t all that old, am I right? Or is that a blanket term for Chinese men above a certain age?
DL: It was a play on the title “Planet of the APES”. Apeks was closest. And I guess all 4 of us do exhibit some form of apek-ness in out behavior.
YB: Personally, what makes you laugh? Do you think Planet of the Apeks will make, say, a 31 year old Malaysian Indian woman get the humour of your Apeks?
DL: As I said, as long as she is Malaysian knows the current issues of Malaysia, she should have no problems understanding and enjoying the show. I think, much more important than race, is the person’s ability to take a joke, laugh at each other and laugh at himself/ herself.
YB: The first time I saw a MACC event poster on my friend’s FB wall inviting his friends to watch the show at penangpac, being the clueless person I sometimes tend to be, I commented something in the vein of “oh, but I don’t understand Chinese, so I can’t watch la”. Needless to say, I kena teruk-teruk from another poster who basically said I was a dumbass for not getting the “English-speaking” clause of MACC.
The story behind MACC ‘s formation is out there, and you (or your publicist or the person who wrote MACC’s profile) point out that it was born out of you not being in the right hue for Raja Lawak and that you were “convinced that the Chinese can be funny”, leading you to hunt high and low for people like you – Chinese and funny. What I am getting to is that the Chinese are known for their humour, which can be quite slapsticky, crude and very no-holds-barred. Is MACC’s brand of humour anything like that?
DL: That’s a really long question. But I’m afraid I can’t give you a yes/ no answer. Our “brand” of humour is actually just staple stand-up comedy fare. You get anecdotal humour, observational humour, some word play, some funny songs, self deprecating humour, etc… But we definitely don’t go out of our way to be crude or offend. We just want to make people laugh.
YB: If no, could you elaborate more on that and what does it mean to be a relevant Malaysian comedian in this time?
DL: The comedy “scene” in Malaysia is still at its infancy but is experiencing rapid growth. And it’s nice to see many Malaysians getting into comedy – whether as a stand-up comedian or an Instagram humourists or Facebook joker. Any Malaysian comedian can be relevant as long as you talk about stuff Malaysians talk about among themselves.
YB: When it comes to comedy, is there any line that you would not cross? The reason I ask this is because our local news headlines are starting to sound even more outlandish than the ones The Onion dishes out, making our current reality like a bad B-grade comedy flick.
DL: You know The Onion? Wow. Guess you’re quite a satire fan. Personally, I think the main problem facing our news agencies is their primary role. I would like to think that the main role of a news agency is to INFORM. In Malaysia, they seem to INFLUENCE more than inform. And the headlines mirror this reality.
YB: In the light of the ludicrous turn the country’s politics and social construct is taking, how do you see the coming future of comedy in Malaysia?
DL: Extremely bright. GOOD things, NICE things, HAPPY things are NOT funny.
YB: Last Question: are you funny because you are Chinese or are you Chinese because you are funny? Why do you say so?
DL: Neither. I really don’t think race has anything to do with “funny-ness”. I guess I have an obsession in always looking for the funny angle in everything. I thoroughly enjoy teasing out laughs from people. Being a “clown”.
YB: Before we end, I have to admit I have always found you adorable. I believe I was in Form 3 when I first saw you on Kopitiam. The fact that your little videos and skits are relatable and outright funny just makes it all the better. This is going up as one of my dream-interviews.
DL: Thank you. Your questions were definitely not the usual ones I’m used to getting. Hope to see you at the show in Penang.
Yasmin Bathamanathan is a published writer, produced playwright and director based in Malaysia. Her script, “We Were Made Fools”, won the Best Script at the Short + Sweet Theatre Festival (Penang) 2012. She also made her directorial debut at the Festival with “Somnus” which won the Best Male Actor award. An avid supported of performing arts, she is also the founder of this blog, PenTAS.