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Laughter is Best When Shared

Zainal (middle) pictured with workshop participants


 November 24th, 2016  |  16:34 PM  |   6259 views



What happens when you have an audience of almost 100 people laughing at your daily circumstances and typical situations ? A shared human experience. We interviewed the infamous (maybe good looking - as he proclaimed) Zainal Bostaman, former engineer turned stand up comedian on his journey of being one of Brunei's first stand up comedian.



Could you tell us about yourself?


“I am Zainal. I am almost 30..I work as a writer, a comedian and I am also in charge of a running a production house company . Personality wise I would describe myself as intro perspective. I would prefer to describe myself as an introvert, which usually surprises a lot of people since I work on stage! I tell them it’s different on stage since I don't have to look into people’s eyes. I guess being a weirdo works best on my part which is why my comedy works!”


How did you start your business? 


“ I started doing comedy in Singapore 4 years ago while I was there for a work assignment. Back then Russell Peters was the only comedian that I know of. I have to admit, I was really bad at it (stand up comedy) but I enjoyed making people laugh. I was involved with Toastmasters (public speaking group) in Brunei where I learn public speaking. However, public speaking has its limitations, it’s more structured. People would say “why are your speeches informal?” .I treated it like a stand up. I encouraged my friends as well to do comedy but that time there was no platform. We challenged ourselves to put on a show in 3 months time! it started out very informal with a small office space. After that the crowd grew and wanted to give it a try. That’s when we started doing rounds of workshops and shows.”



How did you mobilize your capital?


“I started with no capital. I was lucky enough to have friends who are willing to provide spaces for free to conduct the workshops. We all had the same intention of wanting to see the comedy scene grow.

We started with the demo show - which was free and we started charging for workshops and the first show. We figured that if we don't charge people don't take the workshop seriously and not do their homework.

A main challenge we faced were our products itself - our comedians. We constantly need to come up with new jokes due to the small scene. Unlike in most places with bigger turnovers, the jokes can be used all over again. But with here (Brunei), you can’t perform the same jokes again because it’s going to be the same audience. To overcome that, we work on our materials together. “



Tell us more of your upcoming event


"The event will be held on Saturday, the 26th. It will be at 8pm at the Collective Maker’s space at Batu Bersurat. We have 6 comedians/performers lined up -these were the people who did really well and as a reward, will be given extra performing times."



What does your event hope to promote? 


“It hopes to promote performing arts and comedy as an art form. Apart from providing a platform, we want to move away from jokes where we use props and storytelling will be involved. This also acts as a progression for the younger generations who were actively involved in performing arts and stage events at school."



What are the business strategies?


“Since the industry is not mature enough, we only target a certain group of people. These people are those who have either been to or heard of standup comedy and they know what to expect when attending such shows. Our main strategy is via mailing list. We use social media a lot for event promotion and awareness. But most of the time it’s the direct approach like forwarding Whats App messages to friends and group chats.


Another strategy is to make sure we balance the pricing. Initially I was hesitant to charge but we have to take note of the effort we have put in to the production and also the ideas and skills  we have invested  into it. At the moment, it is a pressure as we are the only ones in the industry and we are the one who will set the standard. “



How would you describe the trend of the industry nowadays?


“We usually get around 100 people during our events but we are trying to push it more by increasing the quality. The way I see it, we are giving a platform as an opportunity for people to showcase their talent in standup comedy. Overall, we are part of a much larger group in the arts and performing industry. Schools and production companies are doing musicals and they receive great turnovers! Our business sets out from the rest as we focus on comedy and we attract a slightly different crowd, mostly age 23-35”



What do you think is the strength which contributes to success?


“ The people that I work with contributes to the success. It is their drive. There is also a certain hunger in audience. Standup comedy is like a novelty since we have not done the before and there is a group of people that keeps on coming back to support.”


How do you think your business is serving society?


“I feel like the good comes through the comics. The platform gives comedians to express themselves, and to learn a new skill. Some of the people who joined had major stage anxiety and having to perform in front of people did wonders for their confidence. They start to take and improve overall public speaking. There’s quite a number of teachers who joined - And one of them said that it helped him structure his lectures by using models such as using anecdotes and jokes to make their lectures more interesting.


For the audience themselves, it’s a different exercise where you are seeing performing arts live. To have to see it in a room in real time is a nice experience, where everyone is connecting - a shared human experience. And here is the thing; comedy usually talks about real life struggles such as break ups or dealing with bosses. You can look it at the point of view where it can be both negative and positive. However, it is something that we laugh at! I guess this is part of human nature, a form of coping mechanism where we turn our struggles into a joke. These shared experience can make people empathize and will help them cope through similar situations."



Where do you see the potential of your business in 5 years time?


"We are about to go through a major expansion next year. We got contacts in Miri, Kucing and KK and we are hoping to set up a scene there. We are taking baby steps to see if we can stabilize the show and hope that we have the best of comedians over the region”



Any word of advice to future entrepreneurs?


"I did comedy for two and a half years while being an engineer. Whenever people asked me about the ‘jump’ , I told them that it was not an overnight decision,. It was more of a gradual thing. My advice is if you want to try something new, see if you can get an hour or two each day.Reality check is, if you eventually get bored of it then it is not your passion. You will also see the motivation behind what made you start in the first place – whether its to escape your work. I realized this is what I want to do when I was working on the show until 5am. I had to go to sleep, not because I was tired but because I had to.”






Prepared by:

RS of Brudirect.com

Event write ups contact [email protected]




by Brudirect.com


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