Standup comedy is like flirting, says Kurt Penney.
“You reveal bit by bit, but don’t give it all away,” he says.
Penney tells the Taipei Times that he wanted to keep vulgarity to a minimum for the Christmas Standup Comedy Show, so he handpicked the lineup for tonight’s Chinese-language performance, and tomorrow’s English-language performance. Both shows will be held at Royal Art Cafe, a cozy art gallery-turned-live venue on Leli Road (樂利路) in Taipei. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a family affair. Santa will indeed make an appearance, but you’ll want to leave your children at home.
Photo Courtesy of the Republic of Comedy, Taiwan Standup
NO ‘DICK JOKES’
Penney, a math teacher based in his native Canada, used to headline comedy shows in Taiwan when he lived here years ago. Back for the holiday season, Penney says that one of the most important lessons he’s learned as a standup comedian is to rely on sexual innuendo rather than telling outright “dick jokes.” He prefers to leave it to the audience to connect the dots.
“Your goal should be to make your jokes clean at first, then dirty it up a little,” Penney says. “Once you’re telling really dirty jokes, there’s no turning back.”
Penney, who’s Chinese name Kete (客特) sounds like Kurt, is thinking of changing it to something wittier like Taike (台客) — slang used to describe a person who is “typically Taiwanese.” Or, as Penney says, “someone who wears blue flip-flops and occasionally chews betel nut.”
He adds that, despite cultural differences, comedians have a mandate to force people out of their comfort zone but in a way that doesn’t cross the line. In other words, bending the audience but not breaking them. By assuming the persona of Taike, Penney says he’ll be able to better express how he’s not that much different than Taiwanese.
THE REAL TAIWAN
Like other expats who have lived in Asia, Penney has noticed that comedy about Asians by many North American comedians tends to rely too heavily on ill-informed stereotypes. His ultimate goal, therefore, is to appear on an American television show such as the Jimmy Fallon Show, and promote Taiwan as it is — “a peaceful, safe, democratic country with great food and great people that is not China — and not Thailand.”
From the mundane to the bizarre, Penney draws much of his inspiration from day-to-day occurrences living in Taiwan and learning a new language and culture. One of his favorite jokes for instance, is asking the audience why the Chinese word for “relaxed” (輕鬆) is so difficult to write. “I got tired just writing it,” he says.
Penney will be headlining the English show tomorrow night and the Chinese show tonight as his alter-ego Somebody (sanbadi, 三 八弟). Both lineups consist of a medley of performers including a couple of professional magicians who promise to dazzle the crowd with some holiday magic.
A percentage of the NT$350 cover price will go to the Bright Side Projects, a charity working on building long-term community involvement in the lives of socially marginalized youth in Taiwan.
What: Christmas Standup Comedy Show
When: Chinese shows tonight at 7:30pm and 9pm, English shows tomorrow at 7:30pm and 9pm
Where: Royal Art Cafe, 61 Leli Rd, Taipei City (台北市樂利路61號)
Tickets: NT$350 at the door, includes a drink (percentage of proceeds go to charity)
On the net: www.facebook.com/events/762441967131215/
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