Red Nose brings funnyman Kenny Ahern to Singapore for two weeks of laughter all across the island, from schools to Joyden Hall at Bugis+ this weekend.
Singapore has a “bad reputation” when it comes to emotional health. From being called the unhappiest nation in the world according to one survey, to the recent case of the pregnant BBC writer who labelled Singapore “miserable” and Singaporeans devoid of compassion after a bad experience taking public transport.
But there are those who believe otherwise and who behave differently. One such is City Harvest Community Services Association’s Red Nose, a movement that promotes a better life through love and laughter. Red Nose brings professional physical comedian Kenny Ahern to Singapore for two weeks of fun and laughter.
“I’m very excited to come in and be associated with the Red Nose,” says the award-winning physical comedian. “I love what they’re doing, and it’s very nice to be part of such a wonderful organization.”
Ahern is in Singapore for a two-week festival that started with a school tour to primary and secondary schools from Mar. 10 to 14.
“The purpose of Red Nose Theater as well visits to schools, the elderly home, and hospital is to bring laughter all the people there and Kenny Ahern’s comedy act is able to reach out to this wide age range of audience,” said Knik Pang, director of the Red Nose project.
During his visits to schools, Ahern would get a member of the audience to join him on stage to perform. The entertainer said he would always pick, not the overly excited ones, but “the kid with their hand straight up”, looking right at him eagerly. He enjoys himself very much with Singaporean audiences and appreciates the eclectic humor Singapore has, a trait he attributes to the huge blend and exposure of different cultures.
Faith Denning, a teacher from Northlight School, one of the schools Ahern visited, was impressed with the way Ahern worked with the group of teenagers from Northlight. Northlight is a school for students who have difficulty coping with mainstream curriculum—a number of them have special needs or behavioral issues.
“He has a special way of dealing with the students. When he saw a student being rude to another student, he could point it out in his own way and the student would listen and respect him,” she says. “It was only a one and a half hour lesson and he didn’t need to do that, but I think that’s part of him and it is part of character-building as well.”
“The energy that he brought into the room was amazing. He taught them on focus and he could get the whole class to join in; even the quieter ones. In the end, even my colleagues and I joined in the activity! Red Nose really picked the right person to do the job. The program is highly recommended, not only for students, but for adults as well.”
Ahern will be performing his highlight shows this weekend at Red Nose Theater, also the final show that closes the festival. Titled “To Laugh Is To Live!”, it is an 80-minute family show that plays on Mar. 22 at The Joyden Hall at Bugis+.
NO LAUGHING MATTER
How his career in laughter happened began in college, in circumstances he now calls “serendipity”.
“In 1983, my English professor knew I was interested in clowning,” says Ahern, now in his forties. “He suggested that I audition for the circus that was coming to town—he thought it would be interestingfor me to audition and write a paper, which I did. I was accepted to the circus’ training program and ended up touring with the circus for five years.”
It was a tough decision, but when Ahern was accepted, he decided to drop out of college and his dream s of becoming an elementary school teacher.
“Honestly, when I went to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, I didn’t think I’d be accepted. At that time, there was over 5,000 applicants for only 60 positions and I was one of those 60. It was actually harder to get into clown college than it was to get into Harvard or Yale!”
Since going solo, Ahern has performed in every single US state in the US except Hawaii, and all over Europe and Asia. At times, he found his clients to be quite surprising.
Once Ahern did a show in his hometown in Wisconsin. His client knew he was a silent act but had forgotten to tell him was that over three quarters of the audience was blind. Initially, he did not understand why it took a while for the crowd to laugh at his funny acts. He soon realized that the people who were blind had people sitting next to them describing his every action–thus the delay in audience reaction. After the show, his client got up to him and told him that that was the best entertainment they ever had.
This incident embodies his philosophy about his performances: living through laughing.
“Doesn’t matter where the venue or how old the audience is, I’m just in there to let everyone have a great time and to offer them an escape,” he says. “So maybe things in their life are not going well so maybe coming to my show will give them an escape. Laughter is very healing and so it’s nice to see people smiling when they leave my shows.”
“To Laugh Is To Live!” is a quality family theater show that plays to the whole family. It revolves around a lovable eccentric performer and his whimsical surroundings and his reactions to everything that comes into his way, many times with the help of his “partners in play”: the audience.
The creative team behind “To Laugh Is To Live!” includes award-winning director, Maurice Enders, composer George Maurer who created the original score and scenic designer/sculptor Michael Martino who designed and created the set inspired by Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night”.
Limited tickets for To Laugh are to Live! are available at $35, and $28 for those below 12 years old. Contact Sandy at 6835 9916 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.