PHUKET: In the run up to The Phuket Punchline Comedy Club’s February 29 ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ show, the Gazette asks each of the comedians about themselves.
Phuket Gazette: Where and when were you born?
Stephen Frost: Leeds, Yorkshire in 1955.
Steve Steen: I was born at home, but I don’t remember too much about it, I was pretty young. Born in the fifties or in a crossfire hurricane.
PG: Any amusing tales from your childhood and/or school days?
SF: In my school nativity play when I was five years old, I was offered the part of Joseph, but I turned it down because I wanted to be one of the inn-keepers because they shout, “no room at the inn”. So I got the part of inn-keeper number two. When Joseph asked “can we stay the night?”, I said “yes come in, how many nights are you staying for?” Big laughs all round.
SS: My first school was run by nuns who looked like penguins and my grammar school by monks who looked like nuns . The art teacher at grammar school used an air gun to shoot pennies balanced on a table at the back of the class while we tried to draw pretty pictures. Even now, I flinch when I doodle.
PG: Did you attend University or some other higher education establishment?
SF: No university for me. Straight from school to drama school in London for three years. Shakespeare, Chekov and drinking.
SS: I went to Oxford, but it rained a lot that day, so I went to Cambridge. People asked me what I read there? I tell them beer pump labels. But it’s not what qualifications you have that open doors in life , but how you turn the knob.
PG: How, when, where, why did you become a comedian/comedy performer?
SF: When I was born, my mother looked at the doctor, who was holding me and said, “stop joking where’s the baby?”
SS: I went to a school that was so cruel that the only way to survive was to laugh.In 1970 I went to the Jimi Hendrix Isle of Wight festival and I was selling bottles of his sweat with a street value of 60 quid. At the police interview, the police asked if I was having a laugh and I thought, “Now there’s an idea.”
PG: Did you/do you have any comedy heroes? If so, what do you like about them?
SF: Tommy Cooper. He would get laughs as soon as he came on before he said anything. Also Steve Steen, Andy Smart and Ian Coppinger, who are in the show with me.
SS: Galton and Simpson, Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais, Neil Simon, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Jim Sweeney, and many others too. They are the people who write the scripts for comedians, comedy performers and actors to screw up or get right.
PG: Which current comedian makes you laugh and why?
SF: A comedian called Stephen Frost. He’s a bit like Tommy Cooper except he’s still alive, just.
SS: Greg Proops. He’s funny, intelligent, fast as lightning, funny, has a big heart, scathing, funny, educational and ..oh yeah, he makes me laugh my ass off too!
PG: Have you been to Thailand before? If so, when, where and what did you like and dislike about it?
SF: Yes, we have been to Thailand many times over the years doing the show in Bangkok, but I have never been to Phuket. I love coming to Thailand. The variety of food is incredible, the atmosphere and of course the people. I am two-meters-tall so they make me look even taller. Dislikes?
SS: Yes I have, we have been to Bangkok many times, love the people, love the temples, love the food of course, love the massages, but still waiting for a happy ending – to this anecdote, I mean.
PG: Have you performed in Thailand before? What was it like?
SF: The gigs were great and very enthusiastically received.
SS: In Bangkok and it was great.
PG: Is there a difference between performing to an audience of expats and an audience from your home country?
SF: Yes, the expats tend to be more excited and easy going, which we like.
SS: Yes, the main difference is the return fare. A lot cheaper in my home country
PG: Outside of your homeland, where is the best place you have performed?
SF: Galway in Ireland. They have a great sense of humor and if they like you, they’ll buy you lots of beer after the gig and sometimes follow you all the way home singing your praises. Mad, but fun.
SS: The best place outside of my homeland to perform is Ireland. Lovely people, sharp as a knife, funny and the Guinness is great. New York is another brilliant place to perform, everyone is a comedian over there and the libraries and museums are peachy too.
PG: Any amusing ‘Whose Line?’ Live Show anecdotes?
SF: In one part of the show I leave the venue and have to come back in later and guess the unusual job that the audience have just made up for me. I take an audience member out with me to prove I can’t hear the job suggestion. At that point, I usually get a beer and chat to them. Once, we got on so well I forgot to go back in and finish the show, the other guys had to come out and find me and drag me back in.
SS: Yes, I’m sure there are, but I drink so much after the shows I can’t remember any of them.
There you have it. All four acts have given us a brief window into their comedic souls. The next stage is that of the Holiday Inn in Patong on Wednesday night, so get your tickets now for a night of guaranteed fun and frolics.
Tickets can be purchased at PhuketGazette.net/tickets.
The Phuket Gazette is a sponsor of the Punchline Comedy Club events.
For more information visit PhuketComedy.com.
— Neil Quail
500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies
Roughly 36% of Thailand’s corporate equity is held by just 500 people, highlighting wealth inequality in the Kingdom, according to a study released by the Bank of Thailand’s research institute.
Each of these 500 amass some 3.1 billion baht (102 million USD) per year in company profits, according to the report from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research. In contrast, average yearly household income in Thailand is around 10,000 USD.
A report out this week from the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Thailand’s Rangsit University also pointed to divisive and polarised politics being another root cause of the economic divide.
Thailand’s private sector is dominated by tycoons running sprawling conglomerates. According to the World Bank, the gap between the mega-wealthy and the rest of the Thai population of 69 million is among the many economic challenges for Thailand. According to Bloomberg, the perception of a divide, exacerbated by an economic slowdown, is a major political fault line.
“Magnates arise in Thailand from institutional factors that privilege certain businesses,” said the executive director of PIER, author of the study.
The institute said Thailand needs to promote competitiveness to reduce profits from monopoly power and bolster entrepreneurship to create a more equitable distribution of corporate wealth.
The research is based on analysis of 2017 Commerce Ministry data on the 2.1 million shareholders in Thai firms, and was funded by the University of California San Diego.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers
PHOTOS: Daily News
The answers are in the banana leaves.
Thai people LOVE playing the lottery (and gambling generally). In fact they’re BANANAS about the twice-monthly lottery (it was drawn again today). Daily News has reported about two unusual banana trees growing in front of a shop in Klong 4 Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok. The trees did not have blossom and on one plant two bananas were pointing skywards. On another there was a whole bunch pointing up into the sky.
There was a steady stream of the faithful lighting incense, praying and rubbing powder on the trees to get lottery numbers. One group thought ‘542’ was the magic numbers and a path to riches (we’re not sure how they came to this conclusion). 53 year old Surachai says the trees had been growing for a few months and that he’d never seen anything like it before.
An unnamed agricultural expert suggested that there was probably something wrong with the banana plants. Trees and malformed animals are a favourite source of inspiration to select numbers for the lottery, as are numbers of houses and vehicles involved in events where people experience “miracle” escapes from danger, or even bizarre accidents.
SOURCE: Daily News
The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival
On the streets, in parks and garages, seven Cuban youngsters spent seven months practising K-pop moves to secure a spot on their dream stage: an appearance in South Korea to imitate their idols. 13 final teams from 80 countries are competing in the 2019 event.
At the grandly titled and government-funded Changwon K-pop World Festival contestants from around the globe perform imitation dances or sing cover versions of the genre’s biggest hits, with thousands of fans cheering them on.
In terms of global heft, South Korea is overshadowed by its much larger neighbours China and Japan, but the event is a way for Seoul to derive soft power from one of the country’s biggest cultural exports. In terms of pop-power, South Korea’s K-Pop is now a recognised world-wide music phenomenon with bands like BTS and Blackpink figuring amongst the other big-hitters on the Billboard charts and outselling their western counterparts with millions of albums and downloads.
Finalists for this year
Cuba’s Communist government is one of North Korea’s few remaining allies: when President Miguel Diaz-Canel, successor to the Castro brothers Fidel and Raul, visited Pyongyang last November he was only the third foreign head of state to do so since leader Kim Jong Un inherited power in 2011.
But rather than geopolitics, Havana performer Karel Rodriguez Diaz – whose mannerisms and sleek hairstyle could easily be mistaken for those of a K-pop star – is more motivated by high-tempo beats and superslick dance moves.
“We never had a place with a mirror or a choreographer who could teach us the steps” but they kept on practising, he said.
His team-mate Elio Gonzalez added: “We are so excited to represent not just Cuba but also the whole of Latin America.”
Some 6,400 teams from more than 80 countries entered the competition, according to organisers, with 13 groups from places as diverse as Kuwait and Madagascar winning through to the final in Changwon, where they appeared on stage waving their national flags.
“This is like watching the Olympics, a K-pop Olympics,” said the event’s host Lia, a member of K-pop group ITZY.
The Korean Wave
K-pop – along with K-drama soap operas – has been one of South Korea’s most successful cultural exports to date. A key part of the “Korean Wave” which has swept Asia and beyond in the last 20 years, the K-pop industry is now estimated to be worth $5 billion, with boyband BTS its latest high-profile exponent, becoming the world’s most successful band in the past 12 months, selling out stadium concerts within minutes, around the world.
The South Korean government has financed a variety of K-pop themed events in what CedarBough Saeji, a visiting professor at Indiana University Bloomington in the US, said was a form of long-term “soft power diplomacy”.
“When you are covering you get to ‘become’ those idols for the three and a half minutes of the song,” she said, adding that performers will go so far as matching their clothing, accessories and hairstyle to their heroes and heroines.
“The cover dancers of today will be diplomats, news reporters, and business leaders in forty years,” she went on.
“And hopefully they’ll still have a soft spot in their heart for Korea. Korea can’t win the world through hard power – armies, economic bullying – but with soft power even a small country like Korea has a chance.”
The music also provides an artistic alternative for overseas fans, especially those in developing countries, Saeji added.
“The West, especially the United States, has been so dominant culturally for so long, and having a different cultural pole to look to provides hope that one’s own country can experience similar success in the future.”
Be who you want
Beneath its glitz and glamour, the K-pop industry is also known for its cutthroat competition, a lack of privacy, online bullying and relentless public pressure to maintain a wholesome image at all times and at any cost.
Sulli, a popular K-pop star and former child actress who had long been the target of abusive online comments was found dead on Monday, with her death sending shockwaves through fans around the world.
“I think a day where (people) would be ashamed of the K-show business will surely come,” a South Korean online user wrote in the wake of the star’s death.
“I think an industry that makes money by (making people) sing, dance, undergo plastic surgeries and go on a diet to please the gaze of others since they are teenagers should really go bankcrupt.”
But for Kenny Pham, a finalist from the US at last week’s contest, K-pop’s diversity – with some tunes having dark themes, while others were “cute” or sensual – is what gives him a sense of liberation.
“I like how expressive you could be,” the 19 year old told AFP last week.
“I feel like it’s a place where you could show the passion you have for music, dance or fashion. No one is bashing you for what your likes are.”
SOURCE: Agence France-Presse
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14% of condos around Bangkok are empty – good time to buy
Voice TV report paints grim picture of Thailand’s tourism problems
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