The funny guy, who will soon be on stage for The Noose & Kakis 2: My PSLE is Better Than Yours, says he never took his PSLE. But come on, Chua Enlai is clearly intelligent enough to give a solid opinion on the purpose of comedy.
8 DAYS: First things first, do you remember your PSLE score?
CHUA ENLAI: People want to know how much I scored for my PSLE? They will never know. [Because I moved to New Zealand when I was seven], so I never took the tests.
Last year's show, The Noose and Kakis: 11 Months of Fresh Air took on the haze situation. This year, The Noose gang and their comedian 'kakis' or pals — Kumar, Fakkah Fuzz, Rishi Budhrani and Sam See — are tackling education. Why education?
It affects everyone. Every year it's a nightmare for a lot of people. I have friends who have kids and they’re planning ahead — like moving houses so that their kids can get into elite schools. It's just something that is all-encompassing. What's there not to say about education? It’s an evergreen topic. Consider the merging of junior colleges and the abolishment of the PSLE T-score. [The latter] is major because how are we supposed to rank ourselves anymore!? It’s part of the Singapore psyche to try to be better than everyone else — to be No. 1! How can we be kiasu anymore?
What else will the show touch on?
Like the TV show, we talk about current affairs. This year's show will definitely touch on various hot topics like North Korea, Trump, tuition centres, chopeing tables and the culling of chickens.
What do you remember most from last year’s show?
I think what was really memorable was interacting with the audience as [Thai correspondent] Pornsak Sukhumvit. Every night just became longer, bigger and more intense. But it wasn't meant to happen that way. It was just meant to be a little bit of interaction but suddenly it became like, wow, I started talking with the audience a lot more and it was very fun to be in the audience. Also, last year Pornsak was talking about Uber and Grab and now Uber and Grab are huge in Singapore. So maybe whatever Pornsak talk about this year will become huge next year.
And what is he predicting this year?
Pornsak is going to heal the world. All you need is love. So I think love will become big this year. Nowadays, it’s all bad news — economic and political uncertainties, threats of war, Brexit and Frexit.
What's the easiest and hardest thing about doing a live show compared to a TV show?
For TV shows, if you get a line wrong you can stop and do another take. But on a live show, the lines are written specifically to lead up to a joke. They are cues for the lights and sound engineers and your co-stars. If you don't say the right line, your co-actors may get lost! That is the magic of theatre lah — you can't [mess] up. It happens, though. The live show is actually more of an ensemble effort than the TV show. For the TV version, we filmed a lot of the skits [without our co-stars]. So it’s quite nice to do a live show together. It’s very rare! The [TV] show was so segmented; we could go through half a season without getting all of us together.
Is political correctness making it tougher to do comedy?
This is a hot topic right, very controversial. But what we do in theatre and on TV is make-believe; we’re not making documentaries. What we do is like holding up a mirror that reflects society. We don't see ourselves all the time, but we get to see our flaws through the characters we play, no matter how stereotypical and over-the-top they are. It's about starting a conversation. If we don't allow this sort of self-reflection, how are we going to recognise our flaws? Let's not be ostriches, with our head in the sand.
You’re also going to be in Army Daze 2: Remember the Daze in August.
It’s the 30th anniversary of the first Army Daze and the sequel follows the four original characters, now older and wiser, as they look back at their past. They’re reunited by my character, Corporal Ong, who once disciplined them. There’s some drama going on with him, and he's the reason [the ex-platoon mates] get together again. I liken my role to the clown in Stephen King’s It.
Catch The Noose & Kakis 2: My PSLE is Better Than Yours, May 19-21, at the MES Theatre at Mediacorp. Army Daze 2: Remember the Daze premieres Aug 4 at the Drama Centre Theatres. Tix for both shows from Sistic.