Ask Lord Bobo: Is Comedy Dead in Malaysia?

This article was originally published in The Malaysian Insider on 8 November 2013.

Dear Lord Bobo, I read that Perkasa are demanding that the government take action against those funny fellas over at That Effing Show. This really is so disheartening. Is comedy dead in Malaysia? (Belly Ache, via email)

Surely you must be joking? Perhaps you’ve been living in some cave for the longest time (or a studio apartment in the outskirts of Greater-Greatest-KL because that’s all you can afford with the property prices these days), but His Supreme Eminenceness is truly stunned by your ignorance of Malaysia’s ranking in the Universal Comedy Rankings. Let us relieve you of this burden of ignorance.

For your information, Malaysia is ranked #1,892,735 in the Universal Comedy Rankings (UCR) of “Best Comedy Destinations”. That may not seem like a very good ranking to you, but bear in mind that the UCR list consists of territories within the tens of trillions of planets in the known and unknown universe. Any ranking in the top trillion is worthy of being proud of (and we all know how proud you Malaysians are of rankings in lists and surveys, no matter how dubious).

One of the many highlights of Malaysia’s high ranking in the UCR list is the fact that it’s not just comedians who make jokes. Malaysia should be proud of the fact that even its leaders and top politicians have some of the best jokes ever.

Let’s take the big man himself, your Prime Minister. All the best comics have a classic, trademark comedy routine, and Najib Razak has one of the best trademark routines of all. He hasn’t given it a name, because the only thing he’s more famous for than his comic genius is his humility. But try to be a bit more observant, and you won’t be able to stop spotting his running gag.

The PM says one thing, and does the other. Everything he says sounds so forward-thinking, so liberal, so human rights affirming, so justice-loving.

Almost everything he or his government does is one step forward and three steps back, draconian, and self-serving.

This was how the routine started, but now he’s taken it a step further with his globe-trotting excursions. He has now gone international (as all successful comics do). Within Malaysia, he coins phrases like “Chinese tsunami” and allows the flames of racial and religious tensions to burn ever-so-brightly. Outside of Malaysia, he is the self-proclaimed leader of the moderates, a model leader for all nations. Some say he is Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Tunku Abdul Rahman, and Jesus rolled into one.

For consistency (in being inconsistent), perfect comic timing, big audiences, major media coverage, and sheer audacity, Najib’s comedy routine takes some beating.

The Prime Minister is not alone of course. Bumiputera groups can complain that they don’t get enough benefits or perks.

The police chief can say guns and vehicles which have gone missing could have been dropped into the sea.

The government can say crime is down when everyone can see crime is rising, and then say that draconian laws are needed to curb the uncontrollable rise in crime.

Nazri Aziz could be de facto Law Minister for years and display almost complete ignorance of (or disregard for) the law, and recently threaten to kill and destroy people who dared question him, plus be proclaimed by The Malaysian Insider as “a balm of rationality”!

Then of course there are classic Malaysian running gags like “making a police report”, “religious sensitivities”, “public order”, “national security”, and “sedition”. We could go on and on really.

One factor that really boosted Malaysia’s ranking in the UCR list is the fact that you can find comedy in the national print newspapers. Read the first five pages of most newspapers, and try not to laugh at the jokes printed within! Some say that the satirical online news site The Onion was inspired by Malaysian newspapers, but has yet to achieve the level of audacious fiction. Baby steps.

So you see, comedy isn’t dead in Malaysia. It is all around you. You’ve gotta laugh.

Dear Lord Bobo, it is so upsetting to read the news. Our politicians say the stupidest things but don’t get called out for it. And the government does the stupidest things but get away with it. Why is the world so unfair? (Frustrated, via email)

Ah Frustrated, Your frustration is not uncommon amongst the more well-informed Malaysians these days. Many of you humans are living in very fortunate times, as you have access to information on an unprecedented scale. However, the downside of having access to so much information is that you sometimes fail to properly interpret and understand what the information means. His Supreme Eminenceness doesn’t blame you, of course, as your human brains are puny compared to Lord Bobo’s ampleness.

You see Frustrated, sometimes, you folk need to slow down and think through what you hear or read. Really think things through, instead of speed-reading and clicking-through to the next article on your Twitter feed or online news portal. Breathe, before going on a Facebook rant.

Not all things can be immediately understood properly by your feeble mind, oh Ordinary Citizen. Much like the works of Derrida, Hegel, Kant, and Wittgenstein — perhaps what the government does and says isn’t that “stupid” after all, and just needs to be properly thought about and understood.

Lord Bobo has noticed that some government officials have recently been trying to explain themselves better. This surely is a good thing.

For example, in response to the fierce criticism of the amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act, Nancy Shukri very helpfully spoke up to explain that the detractors were too “obsessed” with the term “detention without trial”. Good ol’ Nancy didn’t stop there, she even suggested a solution: “Instead of saying detention without trial, why can’t we say remand?”

This clarification-ready and solution-oriented leadership surely bodes well for the BN government. Doesn’t it make all things better? Ah, you see, all you needed to do was get the proper perspective, dear Frustrated.

But if you think that Nancy is a one-off, oh no no, you would be wrong. The Malaysian government is obviously intent on helping you Ordinary Citizens comprehend the complexities of running a nation, and the difficult decisions these noble politicians make for your benefit. Deputy Finance Minister Ahmad Maslan also had his clarification hat on recently. After the widespread unhappiness caused by the most recent increase in petrol prices, Ahmad pooh-pooh-ed suggestions that the government had raised petrol prices. “The government never hiked the petrol prices. The government merely reduced the subsidy.” Ah, so you see, those who were upset with the petrol price hike saw their dark clouds turn to sunshine and rainbows, for once again the proper interpretation had been made public.

You see? It’s all just a misunderstanding. The government doesn’t do “the stupidest things”, as you so ignorantly claim in your question. Instead of “detention without trial”, say “remand”. And instead of “price hike”, say “subsidy reduction”. Understand?

Although Lord Bobo already knows your question before you even knew you had a question, as a practical display of your true desire to have your query answered, His Supreme Eminenceness has graciously allowed you to communicate your questions by either emailing [email protected] or tweeting your question, mentioning @LoyarBurok and using the hashtag #AskLordBobo. Now, what the hell are you waiting for? Hear This and Tremblingly Obey (although trembling is optional if you are somewhere very warm)!

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Ask Lord Bobo is a weekly column by LoyarBurok where all your profound, abstruse, erudite, hermetic, recondite, sagacious, and other thesaurus-described queries are answered! It is the ONLY place that His Supreme Eminenceness' thoughts are regularly channeled, via His Lordship's most loyal meditating purple-banana munching minions.

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