Text: Adrian Martinus | Photos: Adrian Martinus & private documentation | Translation: Alfa M. Adiwidjaja
Luqman Baehaqi is an eyewitness, who sticks with the progress of stand-up comedy in Indonesia ever since its “re-birth” in 2011. Luqman is also a comic (comedian), who is working diligently, not only by performing stand-ups, but also by educating comic candidates. His performance in important stand-up events on TV and off-air demonstrates that stand-up comedy can be carried out politely and elegantly, without stirring any sensitive issues or doing slapstick. Today, stand-up comedy has become quite a trend in Indonesia and Luqman shares his thoughts on it;
What is Stand-up comedy?
Stand-up does not only mean standing on your feet. But stand-up also means “stand for or stand guard”. So actually everyone is capable of being a comic, because everyone must have something that they stood for, or guarded. For example; I’d say equestrian is not a sport, because the one who’s doing the workout is the horse. And I will vigorously guard this point of view, through the ways of comedy. So, if I give an opinion about something, the options are only two, either to agree or disagree with it.
Many people said that stand-up comedy is only fit for an intelligent person. What do you think?
Actually a cleverly done comedy depends on its process, whether the process of creating the materials, or the process of taking pleasure from executing it, which requires a mature way of thinking. One must listen and digest it first before being able to laugh on it. Isman HS, a comic, once said that stand-up comedy requires open-mindedness.
What must someone do if she/he wanted to become a comic?
There are sessions called open mic. Open mic is a sort of a training ground in stand-up comedy. Since Indonesia only has one venue for it – the Comedy Café – we have to work proactively, and today, there are a lot of cafés offering open mic session in their place. At the moment in Jakarta alone, there are up to six open mic sessions in a week, held in different places. The open mic session actually benefits everybody. The café gains the open mic audiences as their customers, since they also bought drinks there. As for us comics, we were given a spot to practice, to entertain the audience. There is no money involved, only the café selling their foods and beverages. Try to come to an open mic session, and then you’ll learn the basics and the rules.
In art, wherever it may be, there has to be a set of rules. To learn stand-up comedy, one must master a few techniques. There are terms such as “set up”, “punch line”, and other technical terms. Meanwhile, the contents are ranging from practical jokes to philosophy. In America there was George Carlin, who did stand-up and questioned the existence of God, but people still laugh at it. There’s Russel Peters who’s a racist. There’s also Jerry Seinfeld who did observational stand-up, where he can talk about simple and unthinkable things, and converted them into very funny things.
Where do you get the materials for stand-up comedy?
Some people said that stand-up comedy is a means to express restlessness and concern. But I don’t like that statement; those two words have negative sentiments. I prefer it as expressing opinions, that’s all. But usually, the crankier you are, the funnier you get. As long as there’s a premise (argument), the subjects can change. For example, the word ‘plesetan’ means a humor by twisting words; using a word in a sentence which has a different meaning but sounded like to the real word. While ‘pelecehan’ – which sounds like ‘plesetan’ – means harassment. Then I’ll say “Do you know what plesetan is? It is when a girl went to a mall and someone touches her behind, and that would be a ‘plesetan seksual’ (which is a twist from pelecehan seksual = sexual harassment)”. The premise here is the word ‘plesetan’ itself, which is the twisting of words.
Some people said that if a material has been performed on TV, then as of that moment the material is retired. But I’m still certain that stand-up comedy is not merely a joke telling. There are messages inside these jokes. As long as the message is relevant, it can be represented anywhere. A good stand-up comedy material has to be strong and relevant, and as long as the circulating issues are unvarying, the materials won’t be out of date.
When was the booming of stand-up comedy in Indonesia?
Actually the stand-up comedy fans have been around for quite a long time. Yet since they don’t have the means for this, they search for references – to be a comic – from foreign countries. Once there were some TV stations who wanted to lift stand-up comedy, but they’ve failed to be consistent with their purpose. It has become joke telling instead of stand-up comedy. Joke telling is an act of obtaining jokes from the internet and then conveys them to the audience. Some people who did those already have a funny face. But that is not stand-up comedy.
On one occasion, Kompas TV opened a stand-up comedy audition. The contestants were plenty. One of them, Ernest Prakasa, felt that he still needs more practice, even though he seemed to perform instinctively on stage. It shows that stand-up comedy is scripted. And then Ernest tweeted that later that night he will be practicing at the Comedy Café (Kemang). The tweet elicited reactions from Pandji, Raditya Dika, Isman HS, Ryan Adriandhy, and many more, up to 200 people and it started a momentum. The peak of the momentum was on July 13, 2011, when we established Stand-Up Indonesia. On the next day, numerous cities in Indonesia followed and set up their own movement. There is Stand-Up Indonesia in Jogja, Bogor, Samarinda, Balikpapan, and almost all over Indonesia. As of now, there are roughly 50 Stand-Up Indonesia spread across the country. If it was MLM [Multi-Level Management, red], then all of its founder would have had double diamond achievement. Afterwards, Metro TV created stand-up show, along with its variations; talent show, battle of comic, open mic, and/or talk-show.
How do you encourage stand-up comedy in Indonesia?
The stand-up comedy founders have lots of followers on Twitter. Raditya Dika (@radityadika) has almost 3 million followers. Once he tweets, all of Indonesia would be moving. Stand-Up Indonesia (@standupindo) itself has roughly 43 thousands followers.
The founders often monitored the open mic, because every organization needs regeneration. Hence ‘stand-up night’ was born. It was to be held every month. The person who deserves the right to perform on stand-up night is considered to be an experienced person. In some open mic sessions, the performers were compensated, and the audience must pay to watch the show.
How do you develop stand-up comedy in Indonesia?
Education and our dreams have made stand-up comedy an industry. I wanted to make it as a means (apparatus) for its performers. Outside this country, comics have become hosts for various shows, from the Golden Globe to the Oscar. There are also many who became sitcom actors. Stand-up comedy will be the means, whether in the end they would become writers, actors, or creative drafters. In Indonesia however, we must go with the flow. I, personally, have also tried to be an MC (Master of Ceremony, red). Perhaps later I can be a motivator, or an actor, or even a singer. There are a number of slots where stand-up comics can establish themselves. As long as there are verbal traditions, stand-up comedy can step inside into another form of entertainment. As for sense of humor, that is market segment. Just like music, it has genres.
Full name: Luqman Baehaqi
Resource person in Radio Show TV One
Stand-up Comedy show Metro TV
Battle of Comic Metro TV
Comic Action Kompas TV
Provocative Proactive Hard Rock FM
Stand-up Night Jakarta, Bandung
Bhineka Tunggal Tawa
Judge at Stand-up Competition eX Jakarta
Rolling Stone Café New Year Party 2012