There is no dispute that Singapore homegrown comedian-actor Mark Lee is one of those people who have the ability to make you laugh, no matter what type of mood you may be in. That talent was evident at his stand-up comedy talkshow, Mark Lee Rally 2009, staged to celebrate his 20th year in the entertainment business.
The 40-year-old self-confessed Ah Beng had the entire audience at the Drama Centre roaring with laughter throughout his two-hour performance that was delivered in a trilingual stream of English, Mandarin and Hokkien. Though this was not highbrow theatre, it certainly was truthful and heartfelt. And yes, funny.
In his loud and forthcoming style, Lee entertained his audience with what seemed like an endless stream of taxi-driver jokes, riffing off commonly discussed quips about MM Lee, PM Lee and nationalism, among other familiar topics. Even when he was being funny, he was able to provoke thought about issues that affect the country. Of course, who didn’t love his ditty ‘Count On Me Ah Beng’ (to the tune of ‘Count On Me Singapore’)?
Lee was funniest when he was being self-deprecating even as he pretended to be defensive. He explained to the audience the difference between an “Ah Beng” and a “Lo Muah” (“gangster” in Hokkien). Lee had no qualms in being labeled an “Ah Beng”, but he drolly expressed his frustration at being referred as a “Lo Muah” throughout his years in showbiz. A Lo Muah and Ah Beng may both be lowly educated people whiling away their time at the kopitiam, but according to Lee, an Ah Beng was one level higher than a Lo Muah because an Ah Beng does not pick fights. Rather he watches other people fight, or “kuah lang sio pak”.
The Hokkien-savvy crowd lapped it up.
Actor and humorist Bernard Loh, 29, was bowled over by Lee’s wit and creativity. “He (Lee) is really sharp and spontaneous on stage,” says Loh, referring to Lee’s catlike ability to land on his feet even when he made a mistake. At one point, Lee pointed at the wrong display screen, and swiftly made a joke of it by blaming the multi-media team for not informing him of the change. “He never missed a beat.”
Another audience member Cassandra Oh, a 46-year old homemaker who is a loyal fan of Lee’s said she turned up to show her support, and was delighted to witness his success over the years.
“He has been successful because he is very real as a person and tells it as it is,” said Oh. “It is his ability to identify with the common Singaporean that helps him connect with his audience.”
It was good fun to watch the veteran comedian weave lessons from his personal life as an Ah Beng into a hilarious comedy routine. Despite this being Mark’s first stand-up performance, he used the best platform to pay tribute to his fans and to win over his critics.