Comedy Zone Asia
Performers: Zainal Bostaman, Sonali Thakker, Anirban Dasgupta, Fakkah Fuzz and Joanne Kam
Where: Chinese Museum until April 21
By SALONEE MISTRY
The first Bruneian to opt for stand-up comedy as a full-time profession, Zainal Bostaman is performing his new stand-up at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
A part of the four acts that make up Comedy Zone Asia, the comic in his new set speaks about his mother’s need to find him a bride, his need to not and of course the tense situation in Brunei.
Brunei’s new law makes gay sex and adultery punishable with death by stoning – a fact revealed on the day the festival started.
Bostaman said he had to reluctantly add this to the set he was performing.
“I had my comedy set rehearsed and when I tried it out here no one was listening to me because of the things happening back home,” Mr Bostaman said.
“They wanted me to address it and I try to not comment much on political issues.
“But if I wanted them to listen, I needed to add it in and so I had to rework my set when I got here.”
Bostaman’s set is a roller-coaster ride of hilarious and intense moments as he addresses the issues back home. One can easily tell how it is difficult for him to talk about some issues and yet he does an excellent job finding humour in it.
A lot of comedy comes from strong internal emotions and the new set is no exception, he said. Trying to work on the arc of a set and trying to figure out where to place a piece of information for the best effect, is occasionally challenging.
“The audience knows nothing about me, about where I am from and so to make them feel like they want to listen to me is always my top priority,” Bostaman said.
“My jokes come from my raw emotions and I work towards gradually finding the jokes in what I feel."
The stand-up comedy scene in Brunei is slowly growing up still limiting in many ways.
Every time you want to put out a public performance a bunch of paperwork needs to be done and the process can take about six to seven weeks for permissions to come through, Mr Bostaman said.
“The authorities need to see what you will be talking about so the regulation is high as well. It takes one person in the crowd to be offended by what I am saying and I can get thrown in jail for it.”
Religion, sex, politics and anything about the royal family are topics that are generally off-limits there.
Bostaman moved out of Brunei to be able to perform as often as possible and grow his craft. He has been performing in Kuala Lumpur for the past year and in New York and London the year before that.
Once petrified of the stage, Bostaman choose engineering as a career but eventually landed up in stand-up.
“Stand-up is a one man show, it’s all you and so you either fail or succeed and you can’t blame anyone else for it,” he said.
Bostaman draws inspiration from Jerry Seinfeld, for the pure comic he is. Like Seinfeld he too looks at comedy in a structural way and loves how the craft has helped him grow.
The show also includes Sonali Thakker and Anirban Dasgupta from India, Joanne Kam from Malaysia and Fakkah Fuzz from Singapore.