Why I Started The Most Outrageous Open-Mic Comedy Night The World Has Ever Seen (In Possibly The World’s Most Conservative City – Singapore)
When I returned to Singapore in 2009 (after working in India as a TV consultant), I decided to continue promoting and producing International Comedy Shows and eventually partnering with Comedy Club Asia.
Open mic comedy is when rank amateurs get up on stage for 5 minutes and try and make the audience laugh.
Often, they fail.
However, it is an important part of developing a live stand-up comedy scene as acts have to start somewhere and the only way to really test material is in front of a live audience.
Even experienced comedians of 20+ years understand that even if something is funny in their head or on paper, they still need to test out new material in front of a live audience.
The first time experienced open-mic comedy was at Comedy Masala, which is still running today in Singapore and produces outstanding shows
Up until that point, I had only ever experienced professional live shows, either ones I’d attended in Hong Kong, Singapore, the Edinburgh Fringe, Melbourne Comedy festival or shows that I had put on all over India and all across Southeast Asia.
Regressing to watching amateurs – both Singaporean and expats – was a depressing and boring experience.
After seeing thousands of hours of extremely good comedy to go to watching people stumble, fluff and basically die on stage, was about as entertaining as washing your dog’s hemorrhoids.
However, one of the partners of CCA and first act I ever took to India Jonathan Atherton, convinced me I should not be so snobby and elitist and that we should in fact set up our own night, give local comedians, Singaporeans and an expat more opportunities for stage time.
Reluctantly, I agreed.
Jonathan came up with the name “Talk Cock Comedy”.
I designed the logo and we were off.
The nights were okay. The audience was small. The acts were variable. But on the plus side the venue gave us unlimited free Tiger beer.
I slowly grew to enjoy the open-mic (probably helped by the free lager) and understood that it was important part of developing live comedy across Asia.
However, my ambitious nature meant that I was never going to be happy with just providing a venue, a stage and a microphone to a bunch of amateur comedians.
That doesn’t stimulate me, doesn’t push me enough.
So, I came up with a concept called “Fight Comic”.
Originally, it was going to be called “Comedy Fight Club”, but that was too many words and I like to keep things brief [unlike these blog posts…] and shortened it to Fight Comic An article about Fight Comic in SG magazine
After a couple of months of knocking around ideas in my head and writing them down, I came up with a 90-minute format of 8 rounds.
I borrowed various elements from various live and TV comedy shows I’d seen and adopted them to Singapore open-mic comedy.
For example, one of the rounds was called “The Mass Debate”, a hilarious play on the word “masturbate”, in which two opposing comics were given ridiculous things to argue about.
Other segments included F*ck the News & Heckler for the Win
[Short clip of Fight Comic #1] WARNING PLENTY OF EXPLETIVES NSFW
[Short clip of Fight Comic #2] WARNING PLENTY OF EXPLETIVES NSFW
Essentially, I was asking the 20 or so stand-up amateurs comedians that existed in Singapore at that point, 2011 to really push the boat out and try and excel and exercise comedy muscles they may not even have.
I was expecting a lot of them. Yes, the first show was a bit ropey. There were certainly technical issues.
Especially as thanks to my extensive television background as a news feature, documentary producer and consultant, I made sure the show was visual as possible.
So, each of the rounds was accompanied by slides and music stings. This gave the show a funky, fast-paced, cutting-edge, edgy style that I thought would make up for any shortfalls in the comedy.
In other words, if the comedy was shit, at least there would be some fun visuals and music to listen to.
However, the amateur comedians totally rose to the task.
By Show 2, we were getting some extremely funny one-liners and just responses and the audience grew and grew.
Often we got standing ovations at the end of shows as the audience where:
- Impressed with the quality of jokes
- Shocked that such edgy humour was allowed in stuffy ol’ Singapore
Occasionally the jokes went so far audience members walked out, another time an angry German said he was so offended he was going to call the police (because, you know, Germans are famed for their sense of humour) an actual fight broke out and during one memorable night one of the comedians (who shall remain nameless got so drunk they stop performing to be sick on the floor.
Personally I loved the chaos and actively encouraged it, it gave the show an energy a vibe you never ever seen at Open Mic comedy nights.
It wasn’t all offended audience members and vomity chaos though, by the end of 52 weeks of running the show, we were selling out a hundred tickets a show with people standing room only.
What was particularly interesting to me, was that I would often bring professional stand-up comedians of many years’ experience to watch the show, occasionally to perform and each one of them without fail expressed amazement that:
- The Show is allowed in Singapore.
- That the local comedians were so good,
- The professional comics as expressed regret that they never had something so complex and so much fun when they started their journey has open-mic stand up comedians.
I quickly learned that in fact I had created something no one had ever attempted before in the history of open mic comedy – expecting amateurs to simply leap-frog into highly demanding improvised, “think on your feet” style of comedy which normally takes years of stage craft to expect.
You see, when amateurs start out they are essentially memorizing jokes they’ve written before and regurgitating them in front of a live audience.
Eventually of course amateurs become pro’s (if they stick it out long enough – most don’t last that long) and learn the skills of ad libbing and being able to deal with hecklers.
It takes years. And hundreds of hours of performing to get that confident and smooth.
And I wanted them to do it after many a dozen appearances and a handful of short 5 min spots.
Just through a sheer bloody mindedness to want to entertain myself.
As I said, I found local comedy dull at first, a bit more interesting later but ultimately, I made Fight Comic for myself.
As it turned out, the comedians loved it. The audience loved it and it became a huge talked about hit.
We even ended up with a sponsor “Dark Dog Energy Drink”.
After a year, we lost the venue and then trying to find a new venue to replace it became somewhat of a drag and it was taking up too much time and effort when I had other career opportunities.
So, I knocked it on the head.
Even today, I get requests from audience, members and sometimes comedians asking me to bring the show back.
Since then versions of Fight Comic has sprung up in India.
I licensed it to an Indian comedian Amit Tandon who ran Fight Comic India several times before taking a version of it to TV and also a guy called Phillip Raskin, one of the performers in Singapore asked if he could a version in Korea. Of course, I said yes.
While researching this article I noticed a friend Scott Mitchell is producing a tribute version of Fight Comic called Comedy Wars at his club in SG called Merry Lion.
It’s exciting to see it grow across Southeast Asia and my wish is that those shows do well.
There’s also a strong possibility we might run a version of it in each country on Channel X as we grow and our own local comedy writers get more confident.
∙ Authored by Quilliam Potter
∙ For TV Consultancy Work or General Enquiries about Channel X Global, email firstname.lastname@example.org