The continual rise of the local and international comedy scene in Bangkok is no laughing matter. Well, actually it is. It’s belly-busting fun.
Words by Robin Westley Martin
In Bangkok, there is a great music scene. You’ll find excellent dining and spectacular cultural shows as well. We have grand temples, vibrant nightlife, and shopping opportunities abound. So what is missing from the mix? Ah, comedy! Well, no worries, because look in the right places and you’ll discover plenty of that too.
The expat community in Bangkok is extensive and diverse, as are the audiences. At local comedy gigs, expect to be rubbing shoulders with people from all continents. Comedy isa universal thing, and a good belly-laugh makes us all feel that little bitbetter.
It all began hereabout 15 years ago with comedy gigs at the Roadhouse, The Bull’s Head, and the Punchline Comedy Club in the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel (now the Marriott Marquis). These founding venues offered a comedy night out to Bangkok’s night-owls that were looking for an alternative (or an addition) to the raunchy nightlife of the city. However, it was the open-mic nights at The Londoner, initiated by Chris Wegoda in 2012, that first nurtured local talent, and was the foundation of what we see today.
The comedy scene has naturally grown and matured since those seminal days and is continuing to do so, thanks to the clubs with their regular weekly gigs that showcase a fine bunch of top-rated expat performers. Internationally recognised stars also drop in and the city has hosted the likes of Bill Bailey, Doug Stanhope, Eddie Izzard, and Jimmy Carr. These guys usually play in bigger venues, but it’s the clubs that have about 80-90 seats, that offer a more intimate atmosphere, so you can have a chat at the bar with the performers during the interval, or after the show. Alcohol is part and parcel of a comedy night out, and after paying the admission fee, discounted drinks will often flow freely.
In many cases, it’s the comedians themselves who run the comedy clubs, and their passion for the genre is easy to see. The best of the bunch is The Comedy Club, run by Chris Wegoda, The Stagetime Comedy Club, run by Matthew John, and the Khaosan Comedy Club, run by Jonathan Samson. There is also Raw Comedy at the Live Lounge, run by Max Rapkin and Charlie Banks, where comedians can hone their new material. Finally, and importantly, there is Magic Rock Pte, promoters and event organisers who mostly bring the bigger names to the city, and also put on the annually held Magners International Comedy Festival. Magic Rock is run by Managing Director, Matt Bennett, and Comedy Director and comedian, Aidan Killian.
Performers are what makes comedy clubs tick and in Bangkok, they are an eclectic bunch indeed, with diversity in the name of the game. They come from all walks of life, guys and gals who have made their way to live and work in Bangkok, hailing from places as far away as England, the USA, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and France, as well as those from closer to home, such as Vietnam or Cambodia—and yes, Thailand as well.
There are 15 to 20 regulars on the scene, and they are not stuck in one particular club, you can find them performing all over the city, and also at the occasional pop-upvenue. They seem to be friends with each other too—no petty rivalries in Bangkok.
Some of the performers let me know how they think the comedy scene here is continuing to grow, year by year: Brian Aylward (Best Stand up Canada 2016) from Newfoundland, Canada, based in Bangkok when not touring, said that “Bangkok is on the way to becoming the best place for stand up in Asia.” There is no substitute for stage time here, and he has the opportunity to get just that. Jonathan Samson told me that the Khaosan Comedy Cub is the “only full-time comedy club in Asia; the international and local performers at Stage time turn people into regulars pretty quickly.”
And the big news for Chris Wegoda’s Comedy Club is that, apart from his weekly club nights, he has just partnered with BEC Tero, and will be bringing big names to The Scala theatre throughout 2019.
The city will explode with laughter when Jim Jefferies, Jim Gaffigan, and Jimmy Carr hittown. Magic Rock’s big draws in the first quarter of 2019 include Shazia Mirza, Trevor Lock and Aidan Killian at the Westin, with the Magners International Comedy Festival again hitting the city in April. Tom Green is a must see in April too. So, join the crowd in Bangkok’s comedy club scene; you’ll be glad you did.
You can check out all upcoming events on the following Facebook pages: Comedy Club Bangkok, Stagetime Comedy Club, Khaosan Comedy Club, Raw Comedy Open Mic (Live Lounge Bkk), Standup Asia (Magic Rock).