Monday, September 05, 2011

Ha! Ha! and Malaysian hrumph

One Man's Meat
By Philip Golingai

We used to be able to make racist jokes and laugh at them because they were so shamelessly funny. But now people have become so sensitive that many things need to be taken into consideration before making a joke.

“WAIT! You don’t like hamburgers! Don’t you? You like ice cream! Ice-cream!” a woman shouted at a man about to take his first bite into a hamburger at a fast food joint.

“But I’m lactose intolerant,” the man protested.

“But it is Summertime!” the woman said in a sing-song manner and the camera focused on her exaggerated look – wide eyes and a gaping mouth.

Introducing “Summertime” (the Hamburger episode), a two-minute plus video clip that pokes fun at the controversial television advertisements which caused a public uproar last month.

It is a series of three video clips which you can view by searching for “Summertime 1tv” on YouTube.

The production of the video clips, according to Davina Goh who played the food police, was “a very casual thing”.

They were shot in about three hours in Petaling Jaya last month.

“My friend Colin Shafer (a Canadian social science lecturer based in Petaling Jaya) felt strongly about the TV advertisements.

“We (together with two actors) wanted a very abstract approach to responding to the controversy,” said the 28-year-old actor, who is currently rehearsing for Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina’s contemporary spy caper The Secret Life Of Nora.

The video clips – with over-the-top acting – were too abstract for some viewers.

“A few of my friends told me ‘I don’t get it’.

“Most found the video clips just funny, but I don’t know whether they understand it or not,” she said.

Here are some of the comments she received on Twitter and Facebook: “love ur cross-eye pose on 1TV. Hahaha!”, “I like your insane twitching eyeball at around 0:58” and “wow ... that’s mean hahaha”.

In making the videos, Goh realised that Malaysia was a complex country.

“There was a scene where I wore a towel over my head, and I questioned myself whether it was appropriate to wear a towel over my head,” she explained.

“That made me realise how Malaysians have become so sensitive that we have lost our sense of humour.”

“No,” the actor corrected herself.

“We have not lost our sense of humour. We have just lost the concept of what is our humour. We don’t know what to laugh at anymore. We don’t know what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.”

“Everyone is just so highly strung that when we think it is appropriate to laugh at something, it is actually not.”

So what is the state of Ha Ha Ha in Malaysia?

“I find it fascinating,” she observed.

“We’re in a country which is a melting pot of everything – culture, race and religion. We used to be able to laugh at ourselves. We used to make racist jokes and laugh at it because it was so shameless (funny).”

“But now Malaysian humour has so much baggage.

“There are so many things you need to take into consideration before you make a joke.”

Here’s a “racist” joke Davina made. “An Indian, a Chinese and a Malay were stuck in a magical room where they could only escape by telling a lie about themselves.”

I’d better not publish the joke. Never know who I might offend. Anyway the punch line is “I think”.

Goh is a TV commercial model (such as for Dynamo, Whisper and DiGi). The Peranakan Chinese has also been on several “most gorgeous Malaysian” lists.

I asked her: “How come you are on FHM (one of 12 finalists for FHM Magazine’s ‘Girl Next Door’ Competition, 2009) as you are more wacky than sexy?”

“Many people have told me that. Why did you do it, you are too intelligent for FHM?” she said.

“I just like dipping my toes into everything.

“Yes, I’m wacky but strangely enough men find that sexy.

“The fact that I am really funny and cooky, men find that really attractive as not many girls know how to let their hair loose.”

One of the tweets on Goh’s “Summertime” video is: “if only I could let myself go like you! Master show me the way”.

Indeed, she’s the master of letting herself loose.

“People like hanging out with me as they say I am one of a kind. I don’t know what that means.

“But I know that I do a lot of things my friends will probably not do because there is a lot of social restraint about handling yourself in public and doing things on impulse,” she explained.

Too bad when it comes to racy jokes about Malaysians, Goh has to tie a bun and be prim and proper.