The Jokes Were Hot At Spice Night
The Asian and queer communities of Melbourne came together for a night at the Comic Lounge, to see four Asian queer comedians. These guys had collaborated for the Asia TOPA festival to deliver a night of biting humour and offered the insights and perspectives of their diverse cultural and sexual backgrounds.
Let’s start with the MC for the night, Joanne Kam. Making her the MC was a smart move, as she had been doing comedy for the longest time out of the four. When roasting a 23-year-old audience member, she joked, “I’ve been doing stand-up since before your parents had sex!” Joanne was like every typical auntie you’d find on Asian TV dramas – she was jolly, she was brash and she was honest. As she had to do a set before introducing each comedian, she was able to warm up the crowd with a wide variety of topics. Her stories covered her Tinder experiences, names to call your vagina, and her friends’ attempts to make her a healthy person. She could comfortably roast her own appearance, “I know I look like a drag queen but I’m not”, as well as roast the audience. She lived up to her title of Malaysia’s Queen of Comedy.
The first comedian she introduced was Navin Noronha. It was his first time in Australia and while he had plenty of nervous forehead sweat, his stories were incredibly funny and personal. As a gay Indian, he shared stories about discovering his sexuality, coming out to his family and an ill-fated relationship with someone in Dubai. Each segment flowed smoothly into the next and he had a strong grasp of physical comedy. He’d wildly flail his hips to describe a strange encounter on a train and squatted to describe an awkward toilet conversation. His movements helped the audience visualise his stories and it would be great to see him come back to Australia for more.
Singaporean comedian Hirzi Zulkiflie was possibly one of the most anticipated acts. Hailing from YouTube fame, he came out to many a “Whoop!” and later thanked a girl who had driven all the way from Adelaide to see him. His stories were timely, as he reflected on his time going through customs and on the current coronavirus epidemic. As many in Australia are now wrongfully suspicious of Asian people, he trolled the audience by coughing into the mic and said he’d just landed from Singapore, “less than a quarantine period ago”. He reflected on the state of gay rights in Singapore and was able to comfortably interact with the audience.
And finally, there was Filipino-Australian Margot Morales Tanjutco, who tried something different to the others and performed a few songs and skits. While the use of music and sound effects meant that there was no room for audience interaction or improv, she did touch on some ideas that made the crowd laugh in that fearful oh-shit kind of way. She criticised the exploitation of workers, visualised the apocalypse in the form of a Barbie doll and shared her need to shop as a psychological aid. Given the campy advertising for Spice Night, these heavy themes were unexpected but also appreciated. Margot also charmed the crowd with the quintessential, millennial style of self-deprecating humour.
Overall, there was something really special about being able to see a range of comedians with a range of different life experiences. It was a safe place where they could discuss relatable issues that may not often be talked about in mainstream or commercial spaces. It would be great to see more comedy nights like this in the future, because different voices bring out more unique takes on comedy.
Written by Nicole de Souza.