Review: Comedy Zone Asia

Thuy On

A worthy reminder that making people laugh is indeed a global phenomenon, not just restricted to privileged first world white folk
Review: Comedy Zone Asia

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a white male is the default comic figure when it comes to stand up comedy and a quick glance through the program tends to confirm this. It’s refreshing then, to see five comedians from Asia who are all, in their own ways, hysterically funny and a worthy reminder that making people laugh is indeed a global phenomenon, not just restricted to privileged first world white folk.

Malaysia’s Prakash Daniel is the MC and does a fine job introducing the other acts as well as performing his own patter. The others, Takashi Waka (Japan), Karunesh Talwar (India), Hannan Azlan (Malaysia) and Azeem Banatwalla (India) are on stage for roughly 10-15 minutes each.


All are very aware of the preconceptions that come with being Asian and cross cultural confusions. Daniel, for instance is not the first one in the line up to make light of his skin colour and his beard to joke about terrorism ('I will not explode'), while Talwar touches on some homelessness and beggars in his home town. Banatwalla mocks Melbourne traffic compared to the Mumbai sprawl he is used to and Waka makes fun of his countrymen’s cleanliness fetish.

Nothing is out of bounds in this Comedy Zone and when not riffing on racial profiling the quintet’s frank sex talk is unabashed and hilarious. (Listen out for a snort-worthy bit about watching American porn with a a dictionary in one hand).

As the only woman Azlan was a revelation. With her white knee-length socks and glasses, her sweet schoolgirl demeanour belied her wicked little heart: her filthy songs about a whole host of ribald acts were comic gold.

Staged, appropriately enough, in the Chinese Museum, Comedy Zone Asia is definitely a highlight in this year’s MICF. A star for each performer.


Comedy Zone Asia
Chinese Museum, Melbourne
Until 22 April

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
28 March - 22 April 2018

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Thuy On is a freelance literary journalist and critic and the books editor of The Big Issue.