Header courtesy of takeoutcomedy.com
Stand-up comedy in Hong Kong is a relatively new phenomenon. Ten years ago—aside from the occasional big international act that would come to AsiaWorld-Expo—there wasn't much bread-and-butter in terms of comedy. Local acts, community-driven stand-up nights, or even just a platform for people with an interest in comedy were virtually non-existent.
Enter Jameson “Jami” Gong, the Chinese-American whose arrival in Hong Kong sparked a comedic revolution with the opening of TakeOut Comedy, which holds the astounding title of being the first full–time comedy club in Asia. As the club now celebrates its 10th birthday, we thought it was about time to catch up with the man himself and get the nostalgia rolling.
So how did TakeOut Comedy start?
TakeOut Comedy initially started in 2003 to help revitalise the economy in NYC’s Chinatown. We were doing sold-out shows there, then expanded nationally and internationally. I came to Hong Kong nine times in 2005 and 2006 to research why there was no full-time comedy club in Asia before we opened in February 2007.
How does the comedy scene in Hong Kong compare to that of your native New York?
Oh, we have a long way to go, but our club is the closest to any New York-style comedy club in Asia! I compare our club to The Comedy Cellar. There is only one full-time comedy club in Hong Kong while there are about twelve in NYC!
How has the stand-up comedy scene changed in Hong Kong over the last decade?
Since we came along, there are now more stand-up shows in Hong Kong and in Asia! Now there are comedy scenes all over Asia including Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Jakarta, Tokyo, India, and we even did shows in Myanmar. I can say TakeOut Comedy was the catalyst that started this chain reaction.
Have you ever had any complete disasters with a live performer?
Sure, there were times we had hecklers and inexperienced comedians handled them the wrong way.
What have been some of the highlights of the last 10 years?
I would say that one of the highlights has to be discovering and springboarding the careers of Vivek Mahubbani and Jim Brewsky. We also were the first to start regular improv, story-telling and Chinese shows too! Now, these three arts are all over Hong Kong! Finally, our annual Hong Kong International Comedy Festival has grown tremendously! Now, many famous international comedians want to be a part of it and our annual Hong Kong international comedy competition is well respected all over the world!
Who's your favourite stand-up of all time?
I would have to say Paul Ogata, who is headlining TakeOut Comedy from May 18th to the 27th for the 25th time!
Being so relentlessly involved with comedy, do you ever feel the compulsion to just watch something depressing?
I do rarely watch comedy on TV as I prefer the National Geographic channel, Law & Order, and my wife and I just finished watching all of The Good Wife on DVD.
Where do you see yourself and TakeOut in another 10 years?
Hopefully we will still be here and bringing laughter to Hong Kong!
What's your advice to any budding comedians out there?
Take my comedy class and just do it! Many people do want to try it, but think too much. The more they think about it, the more they are not going to do it!
And finally, what's your favourite joke?
Two of them are:
1) The Vera Wang wedding store on Staunton Street is doing so well that they are getting repeat customers!
2) President Obama just called China President Xi to say goodbye and asked if they can stay in touch and be Facebook friends. President Xi then said, “What’s that?” and President Obama then said, “Why don't you Google it?”
TakeOut Comedy, Basement, 34 Elgin Street, Soho | (+852) 6220 4436