From Tiny to Funny: A Believable Picture of Indonesia’s Stand-Up Comedy Scene
The following is a normal conversation that I often find myself being a part of:
Friends/Colleagues: Do you watch those (Indonesian) stand-up comedians?
Me: Yes, I do.
Friends/Colleagues: Is it just me or are none of them really that funny? Ridiculously not funny.
Trying to convince people of how much talent there is in the local stand-up comedy scene is not an easy task, especially when those you are trying to convince have been fed with years of following professional international acts. It is a bit of an irony, so to speak, that the growth of Indonesia’s stand-up comedy industry seems to be followed by an equally swift growth of non-believer groups who continuously utter “what’s so funny about them?” after seeing one or two performances.
The situation gets immensely frustrating after a while, not only because I lack friends who share my interest in this form of entertainment but because trying to persuade these people made me look like I am the one with a distasteful sense of humor.
There are usually two types of people who would come to me with the questions above. One would be those who have in fact attended an open mic session to check what the fuss was all about and two, those who have never attended any kind of stand-up comedy events and therefore have only gone as far as witnessing programs that are being aired on national television.
I am not much of a TV watcher, so the burgeoning stand-up comedy-themed TV programs are not something I religiously follow. But after a while, the context of what my non-believer friends were saying slowly dawned on me. TV needs to do business. And the idea of adopting the fragile baby – Indonesia’s stand-up comedy industry – is gold. The prospect of this growing trend is something they have to tap into. And there is nothing wrong with this until the quality of materials performed by these young aspiring comics, not waned, but turned old. The number of widely-viewed TV shows grow to something more than their writing process can accommodate and soon enough viewers watching from their screens at home, my friends and my colleagues, naturally give up and return to YouTube for performances by internationally known comics they can only dream of watching live.
Last Thursday, the first winner of Kompas TV’s stand-up comedy competition Ryan Adriandhy made history as he graced the Usmar Ismail Hall stage as the youngest comic to hold a one-hour special show, entitled “From Tiny to Funny.” Mind you, as I was printing my tickets at work earlier that day, a friend yet again sneered, “Pfft. ‘From Tiny to Funny’? The title’s not even funny.”
I attended the show without much expectations because coincidence has it that I kept bumping into Ryan performing in different events prior to the big special show, that I have become much too familiar with many, if not most, of his set. Of course I was confident it was going to be funny, I just did not expect it to be any more different than what I have seen in his past performances. But what followed that night was not something within the premises of ordinary talent.
Opened by equally talented comics Boris Bokir and Ghilang Baskara, the show was off to a good start as Boris’ depicts in the most authentic ways the life of a pure-bred Bataknese guy, followed by Ghilang who shared stories of his life as a student in Bandung who often finds himself living on a very tight daily budget.
The lights were dimmed after the two opening acts and the excitement I didn’t know was there within me kicked hard. After a short introductory video on the widescreen, a tiny guy appeared from back stage all suited up to greet his audience. I couldn’t begin to imagine the things that must be going through his mind as he stood there on the same stage where he embarked on his comedy journey just roughly one year ago. The elimination round of the Stand-Up Comedy Indonesia show (SUCI), of which Ryan is now host, takes place in the Usmar Ismail Hall, so I’m guessing it must feel slightly like home for him to be standing up on that very stage. However this time he had an audience that is his own.
It would be pointless to rewrite on paper the jokes that were spat that night. Safe to say, through each and every set Ryan singlehandedly pushed any limiting boundaries in the delivery of comedy until at the end of the show they were nothing but non-existent. The proportionate use of audiovisual to support his bits were nothing short of mind-blowing, not simply because it was funny but because it takes excellent skills and techniques to be able to pull all of those tricks and Ryan proved himself more than adequate. How he acted out movements that were in excellent sync with a pre-recorded audio of an imagined Power Rangers conversation became one of the highlights of the show along with other bits that were supported with pictures projected onto the large screen.
From youth issues—girl cliques, urban lingo “pecaahh,” and even sex— to other more general topics such as relationships and TV commercials, Ryan addressed his concerns through unusual angles and more acting out techniques that induced thunderous laughter throughout the theatre every other second. It was that night that I realized that sometimes one would run out of laughs to give that all there is left to do was scream or shout. Shout and scream the audience did. It was an experience like no other.
Being quite familiar with Ryan’s routine, I found myself guessing which bit he would use to close the show. Which punchline would be “The One” to give the audience that one last, hardest, laugh before he bows and makes an exit. “How would he close?” was a question that lingered in my mind towards the end of the one-hour show. But to expect Ryan to close with his everyday routine would be to underestimate.
“I went around the world and met different public figures and characters to ask them about what they have to say should they be elected president of Indonesia,” he said with his voice toning down. Little did the audience know that they haven’t seen the best of what the tiny guy on stage had to offer.
“So here goes…” he continued.
The screen this time showed a picture of Disney’s Goofy, as Ryan made an exact impersonation of the cartoon character. But that was not all, for he went one to impersonate not one, not two, not three, but thirty eight different characters from Disney icon Mickey Mouse to President Barack Obama, and closing his show with a precise impersonation of Mongol, another rising Indonesian comic.
The crowd immediately rose to their feet for a standing ovation that Ryan Adriandhy well deserved. Ryan did not set the bar up high that night for he became the bar itself. And the bar said to the non-believers out there, doubters of Indonesian local comics, “I beg to differ.”