Gelak:Gempak is a Malay stand-up comedy show which pits talents against one another. Done in the style of a competition, Gelak:Gempak aims to highlight and showcase the versatility and availability of stand-up comics, particularly who perform in the national language, which sadly seems to be lacking – that is until you tune into the show.
From the get go you’ll notice that Malaysia does in fact have quite a number of dormant talents, more specifically comics, who can perform in Bahasa Malaysia as well.
And we’re not just talking about the capability of the star-studded line up of its judges. Gelak:Gempak not only features big names like Dato’ Adflin Shauki, Nabil Ahmad and Sherry Alhadad as the main judges on the show, but there’s also appearances from funnymen like Harith Iskander and Douglas Lim too. All this on top of its funny contestants as well.
On top of the lack of representation for Malay stand-up comedy, another difficulty faced by the shows producers and participants alike was that it was filmed during the MCO period, with strict SOPs in place. Which makes it an even greater achievement, now that the show has been aired.
Rizal kamal, producer
What inspired you to produce Gelak:Gempak?
Essentially it’s to get more people to understand stand-up comedy. A lot of people still think it’s a spontaneous act, they don’t realise the amount of work that goes into writing the jokes and preparing for the stage.
Even within the show, we prime the comics for months in order to do well, and really understand what they need to do on stage and how to be successful on the stage. We actually ran workshops prior to the show for any one interested to participate, where we taught them certain techniques to do well on stage for television as well.
I also wanted to build a product that not just entertains, but inspires as well, and I think we managed to do that with Gelak:Gempak.
Why was it important to get fellow comics as judges?
A lot of people enjoy shows that are done in competition format, think American Idol, Akademi Fantasia and such, but there’s been criticism that sometimes, the judges aren’t well-versed in the art or performance they’re giving their input in. So what I ensured was that the judges were all comedians and qualified to comment on what’s going on on stage, and give constructive criticism to the participants as well.
How did you manage to get such a star-studded list of judges?
I’ve worked with all of them prior, which made things a whole lot easier. Although it didn’t really take a lot of convincing either, they were all happy to be able to contribute to the competition. And all three of them are amazingly professional and seasoned artists, who were such a joy to work with.
What were some of the challenges faced during the show’s production, especially since it was shot during the pandemic?
Oh man, it really was difficult. For one thing, I had to postpone the shoot thrice; so keeping to the schedule was difficult because there were periods where we couldn’t shoot. And when we could shoot, we had to do so under very strict SOPs.
Thus it was difficult to truly cultivate a fun working environment for everyone, to actually work and have fun. However we managed to shoot everything in the span of a month.
But that was definitely a tough challenge. Every time I moved it, the amount of calls and people involved was massive and difficult. Imagine, I had to make 50 calls and convince all of them about the changes etc.
What would you say are some of the highlights of the show?
Believe it or not, the show picks up and gets better during the competition segments, which is where we are at the moment. Even the folks from Astro agree that the content on stage was superb, because it was built in a way to get the best out of the comedians during the competition.
The results is a truly engaging and fun format. For example we had a roast battle on stage; people told me that you can’t do roasts if the person is not famous – even the comedians doubted it.
Although, when I was in Montreal, I witnessed a roast session and I knew that we can do it. That’s the value of having experience, which I brought to the show and it translated well.
You’ll also want to keep an eye out for one the competitors! There’s an Abdullah, who because of his quirkiness and ability to just be himself on stage and have fun, and will definitely garner a lot of fans. Then there’s a couple of contestants who are differently abled. One of the ladies has autism, and there’s another guy who is affected by stuttering. And most of them reveal their stories throughout the competition, and it’s a touching story of triumph, even if let’s say they do not end up ultimately winning the competition and prize money, to the audience, they’re already winners.
What are the challenges of doing stand-up comedy in BM compared to English?
There’s a cultural difference per se; every culture has a different threshold for appropriateness. Those with a more Western influence will be more accepting to things being said, as they’re likely more exposed to other forms of comedy, be it satire, dark comedy etc.
Therefor the comics had to be experienced enough to write jokes that are accepted for television, so I’d say we toed the line between funny and vulgar. We pushed certain barriers, but in the end the content was built by comedians who understand local culture, so we were able to release most of the content.
Sherry alhadad, judge
How did you feel when you were approached to be a judge on the show?
I was extremely excited and happy because it’s my first time ever to be a judge for a comedy show, and on top of that to be paired with great talents like Dato’ Adflin Shauki and Nabil.
Tell us a bit about your experience then as a judge.
I’m a person who is easily moved and touched, so when there are contestants who couldn’t make it into the next round I’d feel bad. It’s very different from just being a TV host, which is what I usually do. As a host, your words are mainly to engage with audiences, but as a judge, you have the power to make or break a contestant, so that’s a little bit difficult for me.
And since I studied performing arts most of my comments were mainly about stage presence, presentation and such. It was fun, but also slightly daunting. Plus, it was fun to see Malaysians performing and embracing stand-up comedy.
What were some memorable moments for you as judge?
The most difficult thing for me was to make the decision to eliminate contestants in each round. I understand their feelings, as I also went through many auditions before hitting mainstream. So the elimination process was really a more difficult for me to deal with; I was afraid to crush their hopes. But at the same time, this is a competition, and we need to choose the best from the rest.
On the other hand, the most joyous moment was seeing the talents who use their weaknesses as strengths, who go on to channel their weaknesses in the right way, and the ones who prove me wrong. There were some who I personally questioned whether they would be able to perform, but their punchlines really had me laughing! So the saying “don’t judge the book by its cover” holds a lot of truth.
How do you think Gelak:Gempak helps the local stand-up comedy scene?
It’s one of the first of its kind shows done locally, so I’m sure that many will see that there’s other mediums to perform comedy. And it’s good that the platform has brought out a lot of talent, so in that way, it has already helped the local comic scene.
Plus, the comments we’ve gotten on the show have been mainly positive so far, so that’s good, and further proof of the show and its impact.
Dato’ Adflin Shauki, judge
What makes Gelak:Gempak standout?
First and foremost, I’ve seen a lot of comedy shows as well as competitions in Malaysia, which I feel weren’t as professionally judged as this. LOL Asia has done such an amazing job producing it, that I’m sure we can produce the next superstar comic in Malaysia. I feel it’s the only true stand-up comic search for Malaysia.
Tell us a bit about your experience as a judge on the show.
I had an awesome time judging the show; it was wonderful to see all the many talents on the show which proved that Malaysia has a great talent pool. All is not lost in comedy in Malaysia, that’s for sure!
What were some memorable moments for you as a judge?
Well there were difficult moments and happy ones. One difficulty was getting the comedians to be television friendly. Because some of the material can be risque, but it was a fun problem. Although, another problem was making the decision on who was the better talent.
On the bright side, I loved seeing that the comics made people laugh by using their own shortcomings. That opens the doors for you to start ‘whacking’ everyone else. For example, there’s a contestant who made use of his situation of having a stutter to. his advantage. That proves that even with an impediment, you can still make it. That’s just one example too, you need to check out the show for more.
Catch Gelak:Gempak every Thursday, 10p.m on Astro Warna (channel 127) or Warna HD (channel 107)