If you have not been fortunate enough to see his hilarious stand-up routines, you could probably still recognise his brand of humour if you’ve been keeping up with the local comedy scene over the past decade.
Spontaneous, kinetic and straight up hilarious, Kavin Jay is one of the most talented stand-up comedian in the industry today. Incredibly charismatic and witty, much of Jay’s charm comes at his unique use of self-deprecating humor in his content. Winning the crowd over with his willingness to make fun of himself in the name of comedy. Having performed in countless shows all over the world, a Netflix special under his belt, as well as a nationwide tour just around the corner, Kavin Jay seems to be at the top of his game.
During an interview session with August Man Malaysia, Jay was asked about how his Netflix special came into fruition, his time in the United Kingdom, as well as what sets Malaysian comedy apart from the rest.
How did it all start for you?
Well it started 12 years ago, I went to the UK when I was 17. When I came back to Malaysia, I saw that there was a void. My brother always encouraged me to be a comedian but I always pushed it away. Because when you’re young you don’t really put much thought into these.But when he suddenly passed away in 2006, that’s when I realised life is too short. On that same year, I got 150 of my friends in a pub and I tried to make some jokes. I failed miserably. I did really badly because I didn’t know what stand-up was. I was just saying funny things, but they were not jokes, get what I’m saying? There were a lot of punch line but there’s no set up to them. I didn’t know the dynamics and science of it. However, it kept
pulling me back. I’d say when Time Out KL came out, they started the Time Out Comedy Thursday, and we became the backbone of that show. With that, we started to have a monthly stage with a proper audience instead of the type of guerrilla comedy that we were doing before that. We started getting better and better. So yeah, that was the beginning.
Did your time in the UK influence the material that you are doing now?
I guess it did, I watched a lot of stand-up comedy there. There’s this famous place call The Hyena in Newcastle, where I was. At that time, The Hyena has a reputation of destroying comedians. [laughs] It was one of those places where the main goal of the audience is to wreck the comedians and tear them apart. I used to watch famous comedians, like Michael McIntyre and Rhod Gilbert, who are big names now, get torn apart by the audience at the time. I guess it instilled in me that this is not going to be an easy job.
Let’s talk about your Netlfix special, Everybody Calm Down, how did that all came together?
It was very surprising to me. If you were to tell me that I’d have a Netflix Special when I started, I would’ve called you an idiot. In fact, even if you were to tell me six months ago, I still wouldn’t have believed you. Because they already had two comedians that they wanted, Harith Iskandar and Fakkah Fuzz. They had six months to prepare. So, when I came back from Edinburg to watch Harith’s taping, I went up to him and say “Good luck”. He turned to me and say “Good luck to you too”. Apparently, he had forgotten to inform me that I was going to open for his show. I wasn’t prepared and was certainly not dressed for the occasion. Harith tried to lend me one of his jackets, but it looked like a cardigan when it was on me. [laughs] So I went on stage in my Koko Krunch T-shirt and did my thing. After the show, the guys from Netflix walked up to me and asked whether I’d be able to meet the producers in Singapore in a week’s time. So I went to Singapore, and the producers told me that they were looking for a third act, and came to the conclusion that I’d be a good fit. So they asked whether I’d be free in a month’s time. On the outside, I was like “Yeah, let me check my schedule”, but I was actually bursting out of excitement internally. [laughs] Fortunately we were able to work it out. Yeah, it worked out.
What’s unique about Malaysian comedy?
The audience here is a lot nicer, because they are a little more appreciative. [laughs] Most of the time, they don’t hackle. Also, I think the topic that we Malaysians laugh at is different. For example, in the States, race is taboo. But in Malaysia, that seems to be fine. But over there, religion seems to be in open season, whereas it’s tighter here in Malaysia. We all started out with the stereotypes, you know like jokes based on our races? These jokes wouldn’t work in other countries, because they wouldn’t know. They wouldn’t know the context and layers behind them. It’s very different in that sense. So instead of doing that, I do a lot of jokes based on universal subjects. Basically jokes about parents, myself or my awkwardness.
In addition, I think the fact that the Malaysian comedy scene is so small sets itself apart from the rest. Although it has grown exponentially since when I started. When we started there was only a few of us. There was me, Jenhan, Chi Ho, Douglas, and so on. Now, we’ve grown to a point that many of us are doing shows across different countries. People are successful. However, there’s another void now, now that we left. There are new comedians coming out, like Prakash Danial and Ryan Tan. Basically, they need to make the leap to fill in the void. It’s not an easy task, and I know that it’s hard. But if you get comfortable, you stop putting effort to get that hour special.