By the time you read this, the first stage of the Magners-sponsored Big V Comedy Competition will most likely be done and humorously dusted. On Friday Mar. 4 at deciBel, more than 15 amateur comics are getting three minutes of stage time to try and earn themselves a coveted place in the finals.
That Vietnam has got so far in the amateur stand-up stakes suggests the development of a vibrant scene. And vibrant it is. In the capital, the Hanoi Comedy Collective has been bringing in the laughter for a good three years. Together with Son Tinh Lounge and CAMA ATK, as well as professional gagmeisters flown in from overseas, they’ve been transporting one of the English-speaking world’s favourite art forms to Vietnam.
Down south has also had its fair share of action. Stand-Up Saigon has been plying the amateur scene for over four years, while Saigon International Comedy has flown in pros from all four corners of the comedic globe to perform at Hard Rock Café, Cargo Bar, Phatty’s and Game On. More recently, Diana and Brian Do Shows have emerged, with nights like Virgin Jokes and Rancid Comedy. It is clear that something is brewing.
Which is where Magners Irish Cider comes in. The main sponsors of comedy throughout Europe, over the last three years they’ve brought their marketing clout to Southeast Asia to put on an annual festival. This year, the six destinations taking part are Hong Kong, Manila, Boracay, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and Singapore. If you’re wondering about Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital is pencilled in for 2017.
The Big V
But back to the competition. What makes it important is not just the chance for comedians to show what they can do, but the prizes. The overall winner of the Mar. 4 show will be flown to Singapore to perform at the regional finals on Mar. 11 — the winner of this particular festival will get an all-expenses paid trip to the Edinburgh Fringe. Then the three finalists from Mar. 4 with return to perform a second time, this time at Saigon Ranger on Tuesday, Mar. 15. There they will compete for 10 million dong’s worth of prize money. The stakes are high — without Magners this would have been impossible.
“Comedy competitions are really good fun, and can start the participants out on an interesting journey,” says Northern Ireland-born comic, Martin Mor, who will be hosting the show at Saigon Ranger. “Even if the comedians only ever do one performance, they have still experienced something that very few people have down. As comedy is constantly evolving and changing, the new acts bring in fresh ideas and keep the more established acts on our toes.”
To add some electricity to the finals, the show will take on a gameshow feel, with Canadian comic Lars Callieou heading up an all-star panel of judges. Also on hand will be UK-born, Irish-Colombian gagster, Matthew Giffen, who will take up the day’s headline spot. At VND200,000 for early bird tickets and VND300,000 thereafter, as value-for-money entertainment goes, this one’s a winner.
Naturally, with three pros in town and the promise of a festival, there will be one more show. This will take place on Wednesday, Mar. 16 at well-known expat sports bar, Phatty’s, and will see Lars, Matthew and Martin woo the crowds for a night of belly-tickling, hilarity-inducing fun. Like the finals of the Big V the day before, the 200k / 300k price to see three award-winning, international comics is very reasonable.
Says festival organiser, Matt Bennett: “If you haven’t seen comedy before, then you need to try this. This quality of performers won’t be back until March 2017. And if you have been to a comedy show, then you will recognise the great value in the ticket prices. Watching comedy will give your brain much more satisfaction than it will have listening to your mates discussing [sport] or their love lives.”
It will make you laugh your flip-flops off, too. And if you’re the heckling type, get ready for some well-polished put-downs.