Post Curtain Call:
La La Lian (Kuching)
As a performance, stand-up comedy is the hardest form of art.
A performer either has the comedic chops or not, there is no middle ground. And for this reason, not many would dare to stand on stage for comedy. To hold court and keep an audience entertained takes skill and experience. Stand-up comedy in Malaysia is saturated by slap-stick comedy or the gag-concert variety we see on prime-time television. So, I felt it rare that someone would come out with a solo show with a nation-wide tour like Joanne Kam’s La La Lian.
I arrived early to a sold-out auditorium, which comprised off a surprising number of Kuching’s thriving ex-pat community. I had purposely not read any promotional material or reviews for the show, wanting instead for the show to explain itself to me. The show proper started with Joanne walking on stage and instantly grabbing the attention of the uncles with her “tetek” monologue. Her over the top persona was perfectly complimented with diamond jewelry and a huge hair-do – reminded me of a certain ex-PM wife.
The first part were stories from her childhood up to the day she left for Singapore and the setting up of the Boom Boom Room in Kuala Lumpur. And for me, these were the funniest bits – the typical Asian parents’ mentality towards raising children, the frustrations of body size and shapes, and the pains of growing up when her family was uprooted across several states till the time she reaches 19 years of age and eventually gaining the opportunity to work in Singapore as a stage artist. These were the formative years that shape Joanne Kam into the steely, strong woman she is today.
Her telling of the dynamics between her father and mother sheds much light into why she is such an independent woman. Her words on describing the death of her mother stuck with me, “She finally got the rest she wanted”. The second part were her accounts of working in Malaysia and her misadventures in relationships with men, women and eventually the events that led up to her decision to be a single parent. Her honesty in telling her experiences as a “fag-hag”, navigating relationships with both gays and women was commendable. The “no balls in the house” bit was an acute observation into lesbian relationships.
There is a poignant, sincere and honest moment towards the end where she explained her reasons for choosing to be a single parent. This brought home the message that more than a comedian, or a self-made woman; she was also a mother who struggled with the desire for happiness, love and belonging. La La Lian is very much a monologue peppered with humor. Joanne is not afraid to poke fun at herself, her parents, her siblings, her work and definitely has no qualms at poking fun at past lovers. The show is a self-contained, insulated, personal narrative on the who and the what, that makes Joanne Kam.
And herein lies a major gripe for me. Comedians, in today’s world, are social commentators and there were several moments where she could have included comments on the current situation in Malaysia, given her unique insight into LGBT relationships and single-parenthood. This was the missing punchline in her narrative. It would have added a “world-view” component to a very “self-viewed” introductory narrative.
At 90 minutes long, Joanne Kam’s La La Lian does enough to keep your attention but the missing sub-text in her monologue was too big for me to over-look.
Joanne Kam will be continuing her nationwide tour in Johor Bahru, and Kuala Lumpur till October 2018. Tickets can be purchased at Tix.my (http://www.tix.my)