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Like Gong and Mahbubani, Matina Leung is a comic who performs routines in both English and Chinese. However, unlike them, she has not considered a career as a stand-up comedian. “It’s not a very popular form of performing art at this point in Hong Kong. We don’t have that big a market to support it,” she explains.
Although Leung went to college in the United States, she never entered a comedy club until she returned to Hong Kong and was drawn by an advertisement for a free stand-up comedy workshop organised by TOC.
Having done stand-up for two years now, Leung has grown “more and more in love” with the format. Still, sometimes she finds it difficult to win over the audience with her jokes because she is female. “Chinese people are more conservative, they think that girls should be quiet, elegant, more reserved, and not funny.”
Being a woman does give Leung certain advantages though. She talks about the woes of being an unmarried Hong Kong woman in her 30s, and of how she used to date “cheap” men. “I can connect to female audiences better in general,” she says.
Despite being the “clown” among her girl friends, Leung still gets very nervous when she is on stage. Through stand-up comedy, she has a better understanding of her shortcomings and has built up her self-confidence.
Apart from her self-confidence and personal development, Leung has learnt to be professional and not let her emotions affect her performance. She remembers she once had an argument before a show. “I could not stop thinking about the fight. I went up on the stage and did a horrible job. I told myself afterwards that I’m never going to let that affect my performance again.”
Leung sees it as her job to make people happy, to make people laugh. She recalls that when the hostage tragedy occurred in Manila last year, everyone was very sad. “But the show must go on. The audience may feel sad too, but they just want to take a break and laugh for an hour.”
Gong, Mahbubani and Leung are all optimistic about the future of stand-up comedy in Hong Kong. “We’re creating a market from scratch. The possibilities are endless,” says Gong. After all, making people laugh is the “toughest but greatest job in the world.”