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Calvin Sit

Five comics defining stand-up in Hong Kong

Knock knock. Who's there? Five established stand-up comedians leading the charge for laughs in the SAR

Written by
Graham Turner
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A melting pot of east and west, Hong Kong is rife with characters and scenarios that be to be skewered. The city's comedy scene has been a consistently lively one ever since TakeOut Comedy opened as Asia's first full-time comedy venue in 2006. From grassroots comics to international headliners, there's always something going on. There's a tight group of stand-ups that all offer something unique that help make it happen. Let's meet some of them. 

Catch these amazing comedians and others every Tuesday at 8pm at TakeOut Comedy and the first Sunday of every month at 7.30pm at Honi Honi Tiki Lounge

Five comics defining stand-up in Hong Kong

Tamby Chan
Calvin Sit

Tamby Chan

How'd you get into stand-up?
I tried the open mic night at Hong Kong Brewhouse [which is now unfortunately closed] and became hooked. After that first set, I went to every open mic night I could and signed-up for every show in town for years until my girlfriend became pregnant. 

Any amusing stories from your years spent performing?
One time I asked this guy sitting in the front row, named Ali, if he was named after where he was conceived. His friends all laughed but he got super angry. One of the other comics told me to stay backstage for a while after the show because the guy was drunk and wanted to beat me up or something. Also, apparently it was his birthday.

What's your take on the stand-up scene in Hong Kong?
The Cantonese scene is on the upswing with more solo shows, Melbourne festival shows, etc. For comics, it's basically a lot of fun. It's easy to get stage time everyone's really nice.

 

Garron Chiu
Calvin Sit

Garron Chiu

How'd you get into stand-up?
I did a lot of public speaking and debate in college – you know, because I'm so cool. I had a friend who I helped write for a comedy sketch group and he eventually said to me, "you do public speaking and write jokes, why haven't you tried stand-up?"

What's been a high-point or a low-point?
Once, after a gig in Shenzhen, two other comics and I were headed to the bus station to get back to Hong Kong. During the drive, I noticed we were heading towards a toll booth with a big sign saying 'Welcome to Guangzhou'. That's when we realised we were being kidnapped. We jumped out of the cab at the toll booth and were soon surrounded by police we were three drunk comedians running along a Chinese highway at 3am. We explained what happened and they nonchalantly replied, "oh, that's quite common,"and drove us to the border.

What's your take on the stand-up scene in Hong Kong?
I feel like the scene's in transition. We're kind of top heavy – there are about six to seven very good veterans, and a few other reliable, solid comics. We're missing that young, hungry new wave of talent. 

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Dannie Higginbotham
Calvin Sit

Dannie Higginbotham

How'd you get into stand-up?
I've always been that person who tries to make others laugh, but I never gave comedy a serious thought until I moved to Hong Kong. I started doing open mic and after about a year, I got my first spot on a show at Backstage Live [also sadly closed] in Central. A while after that, I took over the Varietea Party at Hong Kong Brew House until it closed down. 

What's been a high-point or a low-point?
About a year ago, some of the other female comics and I put together a show called Broad Appeal, with an all-woman lineup, and the turnout was amazing. Brew House was packed, and we got a lot of great feedback from women who said how grateful they were able to finally have comedy they could relate to and to finally see women owning the stage. The vibe of the night was so great and it was really inspiring.

What's your take on the stand-up scene in Hong Kong?
I'm so happy that I found comedy because it's helped me find a sense of community in Hong Kong and made it feel like home. We need to find some new venues, but it's hard to find places that are big enough to accommodate a full-on comedy show. I feel like there's a lot of great talent here and we just need more places to show it off. 

Ryan Hynek

Ryan Hynek

How'd you get into stand-up?
As a kid, I dreamed of one day hitting the stage at a local bar called Jester's Lounge. When I finally turned 21, I went to check it out and discovered that it was just a crappy suburban townie bar that was comic in name only. I finally managed to get on stage years later in Hong Kong at an open mic competition at a no-longer-standing Wan Chai bar called Down Under.

What's been a high-point or a low-point?
The highlight so far has been taking third place in the Hong Kong International Comedy Competition. There some stiff competition and all the acts were amazing.

What's your take on the stand-up scene in Hong Kong?
I've been involved with the local comedy scene since pretty much the beginning and I can say that the shows we put on now are far and away superior to the early years. That being said, I think we could use some new comedians to shake things up a bit.

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Pete Grella
Calvin Sit

Pete Grella

How'd you get into stand-up?
I took classes with TakeOut Comedy over the years and eventually started performing with People's Liberation Improv. After that, I started going to the stand-up open mics and eventually cracked.

What's been a high-point or a low-point?
Highlights include the couple of times I made the finals of the Hong Kong International Comedy Competition. Low points... Any time you go up there and can't connect with the audience, that feels horrible.

What's your take on the stand-up scene in Hong Kong?
I'm excited for the scene. There are an increasing number of opportunities for us to grow as comedians, not only here in Hong Kong but around Asia.

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