I finished watching Note Udom Taepanich’s latest stand-up comedy on Netflix – his 13th show. Admittedly, I only found out about this show from the mainstream news on his criticism of the Thai Prime Minister. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have known about his new release.
If this was by design – a marketing gimmick – it worked. Getting a response from the government only boosted his show ratings.
I have already written about the state of Thai comedy. Specifically, the lack of Thai comedians on the international stage, largely due to language barriers and cultural nuances.
Nevertheless, here are my thoughts on his performance.
Note is a little like US’s Jerry Seinfeld. Both use clean jokes, catered towards every age group. Neither comedian uses foul language nor sexual jokes. It just proves that you can make people laugh with clean humor.
Honestly, though, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 denoting laughing my head off, I would rate Note as a 3, coming from someone who enjoys Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the likes – all in English. However, Note’s strength is his story-telling ability. He can hook and mesmerize you with a story. It could be about his experience using the squat toilet or his encounter with a ‘ghost.’ He could turn a mediocre story into an engaging one. And that’s his value.
Many of his jokes are rather childish, which is why they are appealing to the mass audience across ages, as witnessed in his audience. Thus, to me, he is more of a story teller than a classic standup comedian with a ton of punch lines.
That said, his political jokes poking fun at the government were witty. Our dear PM isn’t known for his high IQ and EQ heh?
Note: (In reference to the Thai PM): “He’s smart at talking. But when he doesn’t talk, he is much smarter.”
The truth is that this is nothing new. Politicians across the world, especially in the US in the case of George W. Bush and Donald Trump, were often the butt of jokes and satire. Jon Stewart is a master at this, as is Conan O’Brien.
What Note does look easy; it’s really not. You see, jokes are not universally shared, but are very culture-specific. What Thais find funny might put Scottish to sleep. Countries with greater freedom of speech and individual liberty will push the envelope of what is considered funny much more so than conservative countries (relatively speaking) like Thailand. If Note’s material is sexually explicit, it will put off many, especially women. If his materials are anti-religion, it will offend many conservatives. Too “high” a joke (requiring sophistication and irony), he will lose many audiences. Too low, they will find it crass. Too dark a humor like Jimmy Carr’s latest stand-up, they might just walk out. (Yup, the so-called ‘cancel culture’.)
Western comedy and audience are more tolerant of jokes and humor by and large.
Jimmy: “Do you think we over-reacted to Covid-19?” (The audience yelled out “yes”)
Jimmy: “A lot of the survivors think so”
Jimmy: “What do you do?”
Audience: “I work in marketing for a prosthetics limb company.”
Jimmy: “I’ve never met an arms dealer before.”
Jimmy Carr: His Dark Material on Netflix.
As a rule of thumb, Thai stand-up comedy is PG-rated, whereas Western stand-up is R-rated. No topics are barred. Nothing is sacred or off-limit.
Back to Note Udom, to appeal to a broad middle-class population, his content must reflect that accordingly.
I’m amazed at the size of the audience at Note’s show. Watching on Netflix, I would guess there were a few thousand in attendance. It reflects the demand for stand-up comedy in Thailand. And I hope that stand-up bars and cafes will crop up around Thailand to cater to this growing demand, both in English and Thai. It sure beats watching Thai soap operas (you and I know the scripts as the plots have been the same for decades).
Note is a financially successful stand-up comedian. Why? Because he has little competition in Thailand. He is practically swimming in the ‘blue ocean.’ The low-market comedy segment is plenty and can be found at dingy pubs and restaurants here – at least when I was a teen (those guys were hilarious, by the way).
Crucially, if Note were to perform live in Canada, he would fail miserably due to language barrier, as would Jimmy Carr in Thailand as only a handful could understand him.
Metaphorically, humor is likened to food. Thais enjoy Pad-Thai; the Brits enjoy their fish-n-chips. Each to his own.
In the future, hopefully, there will be more Thai comedians on stage sharing their quirky views of the world.
Jimmy Carr said “Comedy is about making people laugh. If it offends people, that’s a bonus.”
Whether you like Western humor or Thai humor – your pad-Thai or fish-n-chips, go get your bones tickled.