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Bridging the comedy divide

Western comedians today just love identity politics, their jokes reflecting what they identify as – black, gay, transexual, feminist and so on. They also seem almost invariably left wing politically, with Boris Johnson, Tony Abbott and Donald Trump preferred targets. 

Entertainment
By Andy Tong Dee

Sunday 2 October 2022, 11:00AM


Dana Alexander on stage at the Junkyard Theatre.

Dana Alexander on stage at the Junkyard Theatre.

But have such Western comedians today retreated into something of an inward-looking bubble as a result? It could happen all too easily – they crack a joke, some people laugh, and the comedian quickly assumes there is universal agreement with their views when there is not. Comedy in the UK is now so politically biased and identity obsessed that many there now avoid it. I am sure others do too in the US, Canada and Australia. They would rather not sit and be constantly preached at, the sole target of such one-sided humour. Comedy is just not fun anymore for many. 

Asian comedians working in English refreshingly don’t do this, a fine example being the ever-energetic Harvey Walden, who opened Junkyard’s show on Sept 22. His jokes are fast, clever and backed up by a manic, hilarious physicality, a little like Mr Bean on LSD. It’s as if his whole face and body are telling the joke. Not only that, his gags are all about Asian culture and society which we expats, Thais and tourists together can easily identify with. Harvey is just perfect for Phuket being locally-focused with broad appeal.

Next up was the main act, Dana Alexander. Junkyard did well to get such a well-known UK-based comedian who has performed on the BBC a few times. The night’s MC, Chris Wegoda, tempted her over as part of a Bangkok Comedy Club tour with gigs in Bangkok, Hua Hin, Singapore and Vietnam.

Dana was born in Canada, but moved to the UK in 2011. Witty, self-effacing and polite, she is building a reputation as a political and social commentator on the UK right-wing GB News Channel and elsewhere. Presenting an alternative viewpoint calmly and with perfect manners, a warm smile and appealing charm, Dana is just right for that ‒ we Brits far prefer polite, intelligent and balanced debate to the angry, shouting matches we sometimes see on Fox.

Dana’s act was slick and engaging, as you would expect of a star veteran of the UK’s Edinburgh Festival. She too soon had me and my wife laughing our socks off with her mostly non-political and non-woke jokes. I wondered, however, what women in the audience might feel about her deriding those who do not support gender neutral toilets? Only 4% of UK women want them. And how about jokes teasing those unhappy about mass migration to the UK? 64% of Brits want to see illegal economic migrants crossing the English Channel sent straight back, and they cannot all be white racists. And France is actually a very nice place to live, believe it or not. 

I well remember when the Brexit Referendum vote result was announced. It came as a huge shock to UK comedians. They had spent years portraying pro-Brexiters as stupid, racist and xenophobic. How could 51% of Brits vote to leave? Well, we did. Now UK comedians have to come to terms with the fact that people like me, with three degrees, a Thai wife and gay, trans, black and French friends, voted to leave. I wonder if they ever will.

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I could easily see the bubble, a bubble preventing UK comedy from appealing to this large part of the population which it presently prefers to ignore or ridicule. If we see more Western comedians here, we may see something similar happening in Phuket. That might be bad for business. “Go woke, go broke,” as the saying goes.

I loved Dana’s performance and I would definitely go to see her again should she return, and the new Junkyard Theatre is the perfect setting for such comedy. She was candid enough to tell me afterwards that she wanted to be a voice for those who have none. While this is a noble ambition, she may want to step outside the bubble I see most Western comedians as now trapped in. For, in reality, it is the voices of those outside this bubble that are now all-too often excluded, absent or most often ridiculed.

I believe that it is time that voice is heard and respected more online, in the media and in Western comedy.

And cheer up! Comedy will be all the richer and better for it!


Andy Tong Dee is a local expat, musician and singer. Visit his website and read his blog at www.phuketmusicscene.com. Find out more about Junkyard Theatre events at www.junkyardtheatre.com

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