Telling jokes to a roomful of people is no small feat. And in a context like Singapore’s, where an enduring – and documented – case of the blues presides, that is an even more mythic undertaking. But even in such a climate, Fakkah Fuzz hasn’t just managed but flourished into a LOL-inducing icon in his own right. The path to the throne he sits on is paved with quips of a lip-smackingly local flavour and wisecracks that sting with the power of good sambal. Later this month, he’ll lift the veil on a particularly distinct honour, his own one-hour Netflix comedy special Almost Banned. In the ensuing interview below, he dishes on this milestone and shares some insights on the importance of comedy.
How do you feel about getting your own special on Netflix?
Honestly, it’s surreal. Ever since I started out in comedy, I’ve aspired to have a one-hour special. It’s like an album release for comedians. Artists put out singles and albums and comedians have specials like this. This is like a portfolio for me. To have this out of the way is definitely a milestone. All I want to do now is make more. Now that I’ve captured the element of the moment, I want to know what my next album will sound like.
Can you tell us anything about your approach to the material for Almost Banned?
I would say that this special is really the culmination of the Fuzz that you know. It’s a showcase of the current incarnation of my art. The fans that appreciate the short videos of me doing my thing will get a whole hour of that. As far as the jokes are concerned, Netflix has told me to be myself – all the way. That’s something I really appreciate.
“Some problems are going to remain, whether we like it or not. So while we try and solve them, we might as well have a laugh.”
Were you apprehensive about writing material for a project with such high stakes?
I didn’t really think about that. It sounds clichéd but I just told myself to give the best performance I could. When you’re given such an opportunity, the only thought in your head is, ‘Don’t fuck this up’. And that was a special night. We sold a thousand seats in two weeks. It was interesting to see that demographic up front. All in all, I just kept a level head and a clear mind.
You have a way of examining stereotypes in Singaporean culture that’s hilarious. But have you considered if you have a social responsibility to fulfil?
Man, you’re giving me the video-interview questions! But in all seriousness, social responsibility is undeniable. Entertainers like myself definitely have to have a sense of that. My main fight is freedom of speech in humour. I believe that this part of the world can understand the difference between satire and actual opinion. That distinction is so important. It’ll help us lighten up a little bit and not be so serious about things. I talk a lot about real issues and what I’m trying to get across is that these things can be laughed at; they’re not taboos.
Some problems are going to remain, whether we like it or not. So while we try and solve them, we might as well have a laugh. Doing so will help us clear our heads. That’s my stand. At the same time, I want to grow the arts scene in Singapore. That’s part of why I’m continuing to do this. The next step in moving forward is to help new talent. We have to perpetuate this culture if we want the arts to develop here. That’s also my understanding of social responsibility.
And because your humour is unmistakably local, do you see your art as reclaiming the stereotypes that we’re often chastised for perpetuating? Local slang being one example.
Nothing that comes out my mouth is a front. That’s exactly how I talk. That’s how I communicate with my friends. Stand-up is such a beautiful art form because it allows you to amp up your personality. If people get it, they get it. That’s as far as it goes now. There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in local elements that we find funny. The fact that there are local artists making a living out of this now, when it was impossible before, is also something. And over and above that, what I’m trying to do is push this culture to exist in a stronger form in the future.
The big names are almost always accused of saying the same things and/or making the same jokes. As a comedian, what are your thoughts on this?
You talk about what you know. Comedians have the freedom to express whatever they want. However, I can’t deny that some famous ones stick to what works for them. But if it satisfies them, I guess, it’s fine. I can only speak for myself. I talk about certain things but at the same time, I want to grow as an artist. Money and fame give you comfort and it’s hard to stray from that path. But I believe that comedians have a duty to speak about what they know and reinvent themselves if they find they need artistic fulfilment.
Lastly, besides a sense of humour, what must someone have in order to be a comedian?
A life. You need to have a life and self-awareness. You need to go out there, get your heart broken, work under a shitty boss, get beaten by the system, have conversations with people and so on. A life has to lived before it can be made fun of. A lot of kids think they have a life because of social media. But that’s nothing. Social media makes you depressed as shit. Kids look at these influencers and they think that’s it. But consider the comedy legends: The best ones always have material that’s drawn from their own experiences and which is relatable to other people. That’s the difference.
Almost Banned drops January 26 on Netflix.