Bringing more laughter to life

Samuel Park

Imagine Russell Peters touring Shilin Night Market and letting loose some of his hit Asian jokes for the locals, or Kevin Hart holding a stand-up comedy night at the bar near your house. This probably will never happen, but it would definitely make headline news. So what is it that makes stand-up comedy different from other comedy? In the midst of Taiwan becoming more global, are Taiwanese audiences ready for it? Most historians trace the origins of stand-up back to a very specific time and place: the burlesque shows in New York City were probably the first venues. Despite being widely known for racy female performances, burlesque also starred lively, fast-paced comedy acts. Back in those days, comedians targeted immigrant workers and working class people. These audiences were comfortably familiar with the physical and messy nature of modern city life, so they weren’t interested in traditional campfire tales anymore. Today, stand-up comedy has become popular among people of all ages, races and genders, flourishing in major cities around the world. Taiwanese stand-up comedy still has a long way to go to become mainstream, but the scene has been growing in popularity in recent years. Kurt Penney, or Mr. Sanbadi (�T�K��) in Chinese, a stand-up comedian based in Taipei, recalled how his audience was mostly foreign expats and teachers, but nowadays, he doesn’t know ��how these people get in!�� ��It’s definitely become more diverse, which makes it exciting but also challenging at the same time,�� he told The China Post. Typically, the comedy act starts with an easy joke to test the waters and hopefully to break the ice. The goal is to push people, especially newcomers, out of their comfort zones just enough to make them laugh. Penney explained that his acts are mostly scripted, but he’s always ready to improvise whenever necessary. Stand-up comedy is all about the pace and timing. Once you lose the flow, it’s hard to get back on track. Plus what’s different about Taiwan is that the audience is much more conservative, so sex jokes and parent jokes are somewhat risky. ��There’s a fine line between creativity and absurdity,�� said Penney. ��And so it’s important for a comedian to respect the culture and not go overboard. Despite this rule, don’t be afraid to have a thick skin, as some would say: ‘After all, they came to laugh.’�� Penney is one of many comedians trying to pursue this dream. Unfortunately, many people still don’t treat this ambition as a real career. Most people still have the stereotypical view of comedy as second-job work, but in reality, it’s as challenging, time-consuming, and requiring of expertise as any occupation in the market. Penney loves Taiwan passionately, and he hopes to continue bringing more laughter to the Taiwanese people. Now the question is whether or not Taiwan is ready. ��

► Kurt’s next show will be at 9 p.m. on Jan. 17 / AnHe LeLi (�w�M�֧Q) / AnHe R. Sec. 2, Lane 23 No. 11, Taipei (MRT Xinyi AnHe Station Exit 3,) / Entrance fee: NT$250 (drink specials included) / For more of Kurt’s shows, please scan the QR code below.