30 May 2017

Racism in Singapore comedy? Goodness gracious me!

Youtube influencer Shrey Bhargava attended an audition for the next installment in Hack Neo's "Ah Boys to Men" NSploitation comedy series. It went badly because the casting director requested Shrey to put on a funny Indian accent, and Shrey refused because it was insulting and racist.

Blogger influencer Xiaxue hit back hard, twice, at Shrey. So did his potential cast mates. All hell has broken loose.

Take it from us: This entire thing is a clown show. One that demands your attention.

And why should you listen to us? We actually have writing credits for The Noose. Made our own short films that were screened at The Substation when it was a cultural hub, as well as at the National Museum. And we've even written stand-up routines for local comedians. So let's begin, shall we?

The Insider's Guide to Comedy in Singapore

Meanwhile, Steve Martin is conducting a masterclass online. He can teach but you'd have to pay.
Funny or Stupid Funny: Got Accent Means Funny Already?

Singapore comedy is stuck in the stone age. By and large, audiences, actors, and producers actually think that performing with an accent automatically makes everything funny, regardless of what's in the script. Actors think that using an accent makes them comedians, regardless of quality of script (and scriptwriters put in blood and sweat to ensure a skit is funny even on paper!) or ability to improvise or ad lib.

But they sure like to improvise. Yet the moment a local actor goes off script, there is a steep decline in the comedy. The actor continues, unaware of their inability to improvise and their lack of innate comedic talent, supremely confident of their ability to create an accent that will carry them through. That's even though they've gone way off script, digressed, and bloated a 1 minute stand-up joke into a 5 minute meandering yak-fest.

There are very few comedians in Singapore who write their own scripts and stand-up routines. They are actually aware that comedy means far more than just funny accents.

When a casting director asks you to put on an accent...

There's no need to say, Shrey what did you expect when you auditioned for Hack Neo's Ah Boys to Men? That unlike the film, the audition process won't be crass and insulting to the intelligence?

When a casting director in Singapore tells you to put on a funny accent, it's just proof that Singapore comedy is still stuck in the stone age where actors, producers, and directors think that an accent makes everything funny. So obviously, that casting director was way out of his depth and not professional enough.

But say your casting director is not professional or competent enough to give proper direction. What do you do?

A. Throw a chair and verbal abuse at the director.

CHOOSE A ONLY IF YOU ARE LILY TOMLIN. Lily Tomlin is one of the best comedians around. She knows her stuff, she writes her stuff, and she's professional enough to throw a fit without holding a grudge.

B. What every professional actor does in real life
As in, they'd pretend that the director did actually say: Could you speak more like a Singaporean Indian from this class or social backgroundCould you speak like a Singaporean whose main Indian language is functioning as a substrate of English?

And proceed to do just that and more. That is, create a character with a plausible accent, and at the same time, crafting a routine that's actually funny with or without the accent.

And here we come back to the same problem: Comedy in Singapore is in the stone age. It's so backward, even wannabe actors and youtube influencers think that knowing how to put on an accent makes them comedians.So from his actions, Shrey was way out of his depth and not professional enough either.

This concludes our public masterclass on comedy in Singapore, and accents in comedy. Or, you could pay $90 and watch Steve Martin teach you that comedy is far more than just playing with accents.

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