When Kaohsiung City police officers heard that gangsters were viciously pummeling two Mormon missionaries in broad daylight, they rushed to an alley in Kaohsiung to find their worst fears confirmed: Blood was pouring down the faces of two men who were curled up in fetal positions.
It wasn’t until a young Canadian woman shooed the officers away that they learned they had burst onto the film set of a movie being shot by the Republic of Comedy (ROC), an up-and-coming troupe that is breaking new ground in Taiwan’s comedy scene.
“They thought that we were actually beating up Mormons,” said Cat Weatherall, the assistant director of the no-holds-barred comedy troupe.
It is this kind of humor that has contributed to the Kaohsiung-based, English-language troupe’s swift success.
Weatherall and her husband, ROC director Scott Weatherall, formed the group at a Kaohsiung comedy club just over a year ago, and since then it’s blossomed from a handful of expats performing at open-mic nights to a traveling two-hour act with producers, cast and crew totaling more than 20 members.
The troupe performs regularly in Kaohsiung to crowds of more than 100, has twice traveled to Taichung for shows, and runs Limelight, a film production company that produces short videos aired during transitions in the live shows.
Neil Sherwood, whose Taichung comedy club performed skits before ROC took the stage in a show last month in Taichung, called ROC’s show “edgy” and described it as a multimedia version of a sketch-comedy show like the American TV program Saturday Night Live.
“They really do justice to that kind of genre,” said Sherwood.
Despite the English-language content and sometimes foreign references, ROC’s shows attract multicultural audiences.
What: Republic of Comedy’s X-mas X-travaganza
When: Dec. 11 from 9:30pm to 11pm
Where: The Brickyard, B1, 507, Jhongshan 2nd Rd, Kaohsiung City
(高雄市中山二路507號B1), tel: 0930-518-044
Admission: NT$300 for men, NT$150 for women. Tickets available at the door, or for reservations call (07) 215-0024. Open bar from 10pm to 11pm and two-for-one drink specials until midnight
On the Net: Check out the troupe’s production company at www.limelighttaiwan.com or search Facebook for “R.O.C. Republic of Comedy”
The troupe’s writers make jokes about subjects they know well, which often includes Westerners making gaffes in Taiwan.
Taiwanese audience members don’t need a translation to find that funny, said Veronica Yang (楊怡君), ROC’s head producer.
“They come here to watch white people make fools of themselves,” Yang said.
But no culture is off limits, said Scott Weatherall, adding that the troupe’s motto — “take nothing seriously” — is a message for anyone who might be easily offended. “I like it when you step on somebody’s toes but they can’t say anything to you because they know it’s true,” he said.
After a year of polishing its performance technique and material, Scott Weatherall said the group is ready to focus on the “business” in “show business.” On the horizon are a Webisode sitcom (about cram school workers) and partnerships with local film schools to promote tourism in Taiwan.