Harith Iskander’s jokes are no laughing matter. Literally.
Malaysia’s cherished comedian and TV host finished dead last in a chart of stand-up specials to be shown on Netflix in 2018.
The critical mauling came via entertainment news outlet The Wrap who wrote of the Johorean’s I Told You So show:
“Iskander endlessly pats himself on the back just for landing an international stand-up special.
“He asks, what am I going to wear on stage? How should I do my hair (he’s bald)? Should I call my special, ‘The Funniest Comedian in the World?’ Check out my hot wife!” the write-up continued.
“Throw in some pointless crowd work and a hacky rimshot, and this is just painful.”
The verdict spells humiliation for Harith, who only two years ago scooped Laugh Factory’s Funniest Person in the World award after winning the competition’s final in Levi, Finland.
Harith walked away with a cash prize of $100,000 (worth around RM440,000 at the time) and a US tour as part of the honour.
He became the first Southeast Asian to have his own comedy special on Netflix when I Told You So was released in January.
The material itself was far less celebrated.
Jokes about Singapore, past girlfriends and Rick Astley received lukewarm responses from audiences locally and in the region.
Harith came in at No 19 on the list of 19 ranked from worst to best, propping up a table that contains UK’s Ricky Gervais and Chris Rock of the United States.
Singapore didn’t fare much better – Iskander is kept company by counterpart across the Causeway Fakkah Fuzz who entered at No 18.
Fuzz, remembered for causing controversy here in 2016 when he made a joke at Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s expense, was whacked in a similar vein.
“Another Malay comedian, Fuzz’s stand-up is strictly limited to differences between Malaysians and people from Singapore, which would be even more reductive if international audiences had any idea what he was talking about,” The Wrap published about Almost Banned.
Thumbs up for KL’s Kavin Jay however who was pitted as the funniest Malaysian in the list.
His show Everybody Calm Down, released in February, finished in the top half of the assessment at No 8.
“Much of Jay’s charming material comes at the expense of his weight. But he acknowledges he’s not playing just to the room he’s in. “In Asia, parents use [my weight] to discipline children,” Jay says. “In America, I’m a medium.” At one point he even talks to some New Yorkers in the crowd. “I don’t know where that is. And now you know how that feels.”
The Wrap mistakenly credits Jay as the best of the three Malaysian comedians, failing to recognise Fuzz as Singaporean.
Harith is yet to respond to the criticism. He is currently preparing to take the stage in Australia for sold out shows at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. – MMO