Making people laugh can be a serious thing. Humour can be situational. What amuses one group of people may be greeted with silence by another. British humour, for example, can be very different from American humour.

After a recent visit to Kuala Lumpur’s Crackhouse Comedy Club (CCC), I needed a rethink. The language of comedy is universal, as I found out, after attending one of CCC’s International Headliner Nights,

How else can you explain a full house of Malaysians and a few expats laughing their sides off at the stories from Tamby Chan, a Hong Kong-based Canadian comedian? The broadly built, bespectacled comedian’s wildly offbeat stories of married life, racial stereotypes, and crazy escapades struck a chord.

“When my daughter was born, my wife said, ‘Tamby, isn’t she a little miracle? And I said, uh, not really. Do you know what the word miracle means? It’s something that has never happened before. Do you know how many babies are born every day? Probably like, a hundred, and just in Malaysia alone’,” said Chan to wild laughter in the club.

He gestured to a (un)lucky audience member. “Look at this guy. He was once a baby. Does he look like a miracle to you?”

Chan’s appearance was part of the Crackhouse International Headliner Nights, which are held weekly. These nights tend to be the highlight of the week there, as they feature established and international comedians flown in from all over the world. This month saw CCC hosting Ro Campbell, an award-winning Australian comedian based in Scotland, who was crowned Scottish Comedian of the Year in 2010.

Jonathan Atherton cracked jokes about the rather suggestive names of some football teams.

Jonathan Atherton cracked jokes about the rather suggestive names of some football teams.

“Crackhouse has had some incredible shows from international comedians well known throughout their country and region, as well as famous local comics such as Harith Iskander, Douglas Lim and more,” said Rizal van Geyzel, CCC co-founder.

“The stand-up comedy (scene) is in its infancy in Malaysia, but the ground is fertile. Comedy is blossoming, and this month we’re looking forward to hosting some amazing international talents.”

And the night of April 9 (which this writer attended) proved to be an absolute blast. Hosted by the witty Jonathan Atherton (another CCC co-founder, together with Rizal, Shankar Santhiram and Kavin Jay), the show also saw performances by local comedians Rizal and Brian Tan, who kept the laughs flowing all night.

“I may not speak Chinese, but I am very Chinese. So much so that at my last Sport’s Day at school, I didn’t participate, I just bet money on everyone,” quipped Tan at one point.

The night’s headliner, however, was Chan, and he certainly did not disappoint. A finalist at numerous comedy competitions, Chan has shared the stage with legendary performers such as Dave Chappelle and George Wallace, and watching him perform that night at CCC, you could certainly see why.

“There a lot of these rules when it comes to hiring maids. One of them is that she shouldn’t eat with us, because she might think she’s part of the family. Well, yeah, well, I think she knows. There are other clues, right? She’s not going to think, ‘Hmmm, I’m beginning to think I’m not part of this family. For one thing, we’re not related?” said Chan, before adding, “Or am I going to come home up one night, and have the maid walk up, and go ‘Mum, Dad, can I watch Frozen?”

Local comedian Rizal Van Geyzel's witty observations certainly brought the Crackhouse down.

Local comedian Rizal Van Geyzel’s witty observations certainly brought the Crackhouse down.

Not every joke hit its mark, but the ones that did were certainly unforgettable. One of my favourite parts of Chan’s routine was a story about his wife and him discussing abortion, a potentially dark moment that turned out to be one of the funniest bits of the night.

Chan may have come and gone, but local comedy lovers can still enjoy the international comedy programme at CCC this month.

For tonight and tomorrow, guests can enjoy the hilarious stylings of Tim Tayag, an established Filipino funnyman who has been named as one of Asia’s Top 10 comedians. The following week, on April 22-23, the CCC will feature Nik Coppin, a London-based comedian has who performed at the Edinburgh and Adelaide Fringe festivals, as well as the inaugural Hollywood Fringe Festival in Los Angeles. If they were anything like the night I attended, expect a lot of sharp, witty observations about life told in the most unpolitically-correct ways possible. No apologies.

Crackhouse Comedy Club’s International Headliner Nights takes place every Friday and Saturday of the month. Doors open 9pm. For more info visit or email