Funny fests

Funny fests
Comedians (clockwise from forefront) Imaan Hadchiti, Nik Coppin, Sarah Jones and Jason Chong.

Comedy fans are spoilt for choice this weekend as there are two new stand-up comedy festivals in town.

From tonight till Saturday night, the inaugural Magners Singapore International Comedy Festival and Singapore Comedy Fringe 2014 will feature the talents of close to 70 comedians between them.

The Magners festival has brought in 38 international comics from countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States and the Fringe will focus on Asian talent. The majority of its 30 comedians are from the region, including Malaysia, India and Singapore, though comedians from Australia and the US will be featured too.

The Fringe is organised by Mr Jonathan Atherton, 52, and Mr Heazry Salim, 39, founders of the six-year-old Comedy Club Asia which promotes the stand-up comedy scene in Asia with monthly events in Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.

Mr Atherton says: "Comedy in Singapore was very much about English humour and the audience was all angmoh when we started. Now at least half of them are Singaporeans and we have Singaporeans on stage telling jokes too."

He adds that local audiences "have really embraced comedy and we wanted a festival that showcases local and regional talent".

One of the Magners festival organisers, Briton Quill Potter, 45, was planning a comedy festival with Comedy Club Asia. But differences in opinion on who to bring in and how to market the event led to their split last year.

Mr Potter says: "Our festival is at Boat Quay, a heavily expatriate area, so we decided to target more of the international market with shows that are widely relatable and which would appeal to expatriates and locals."

He moved to Singapore 12 years ago and specialises in organising comedy events in the region. He is organising the Magners festival together with Mr Matt Bennett, 46, managing director of Magicrock events company.

In addition to the traditional format of stand-up comedy shows, the Magners festival includes improvisational shows such as Joke Thieves, in which comedians perform one another's material; or Shaggers, where they talk about their sex lives or the lack thereof.

After the split with Mr Potter, the founders of Comedy Club Asia decided to plan the Fringe on their own.

Mr Atherton says: "We didn't know he had continued planning his festival until February this year and by that time, we had already booked our venue." The Fringe's shows will be held twice nightly at DBS Arts Centre.

He admits that having two festivals in such close proximity is a bit strange and adds: "There's enough room in the market for everyone to have a good time. Between the two festivals and the comedy theatre show Happy Ever Laughter at the Esplanade, there must be 100 comedians working in Singapore this week. It's pretty wild. The consumers are the winners here."

Happy Ever Laughter by Singapore actress- producer Selena Tan's Dream Academy Productions features 13 stand-up comedy performers, including Kumar and Hossan Leong, and newcomers Fuzz and Zul, both of whom were groomed at the Comedy Club Asia.

Despite their split, organisers of the Magners Singapore International Comedy Festival and Singapore Comedy Fringe maintain that there is no bad blood between them.

Mr Potter says: "It's good because it means there's more word about the festivals, more choice for consumers and everyone wins."

Mr Atherton adds: "I hope we will all have a great festival and maybe we can work together next year."

Local comedians and comedy fans are thrilled at the prospect of having so many comedy acts. Singapore comedienne Sharul Channa, 27, who is performing in the Fringe, says she is looking forward to what she calls the comedy world's "United Nations meeting" here.

She says: "Singapore has become a port for comedy and for the first time, we are piecing together the Asian comedy community. I'm looking forward to seeing the kinds of jokes people crack, to watch and learn, and make connections with other comedians so that we can do shows in other countries and learn about different audiences."

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