Time Out Singapore: Bill Burr

The American stand-up comic is a regular on David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon’s shows, and is famed for his rants against marriage – until he got himself a wife last year. He’s all set to bring his signature, mildly offensive brand of humour to Singapore, but first, he tells Gwen Pew about his life, love and laughs.

Photo: Koury Angelo

Photo: Koury Angelo

1 Feb 2015:

Is the guy we’re seeing onstage the real Bill Burr?

The guy you see on stage is how I am when I’m in a bar or hanging out with my friends. I’m not always like that. Right now I’m lying on the couch with my dog watching a movie.

You’ve said you don’t research before you talk about certain topics – how much do you wing it?

I wing it about 30 percent of the time. On a good night, when the ideas are flowing, it gets up to about 60 percent. But yeah, I don’t know what I’m talking about most of the time.

Have you made any joke onstage that you regret after?

In 23 years, I’ve only had that happen a couple times. I’m telling jokes. It’s not serious.

Do comedians have a line that they shouldn’t cross?

As long as you’re being funny, I don’t think there’s any topic or subject that you can’t joke about.

It’s been just over a year since your wedding! How’s your life been so far?

She hasn’t left me yet so I think it’s going pretty good.

And how about women? Do you feel your understanding of them has, well, improved?

I understand women enough to know not to answer that question.

What’s the best thing about being a comedian?

The best thing about being a comedian is lying on the couch with your dog during the middle of the day, watching a movie, while everybody else has to go to work.

Convince us in one sentence to see your show.

The thrill I’m going to have performing my jokes in Singapore cannot be summed up in one sentence.

Time Out Singapore: ‘The History of Singapore Part 2’

The Dim Sum Dollies are staging their official comeback show with Denise Tan replacing the late, great Emma Yong. Gwen Pew chats with the group’s newest member

Photo: Dju-Lian Chng (The Primary Studio)

Photo: Dju-Lian Chng (The Primary Studio)

10 Dec 2015: It’s 8pm on a Thursday night, and Denise Tan is tired after a long day. She spent the morning and early afternoon hosting Lunchtime Jukebox on Gold 90.5, and rushed over to rehearse for the Dim Sum Dollies’ comeback show straight after that. Comfortably curled up on a sofa at the Dream Academy HQ, however, her bubbly energy immediately resurfaces once we ask how rehearsals were going.

‘We’re doing choreography right now! I love choreo!’ she gushes. ‘I’ve always loved dancing. It’s fun and it burns calories, so what’s not to love?’ Denise had already been practising with the two original members of the Dollies – Selena Tan and Pam Oei – for a few weeks before we met, and most of the show had already been created. ‘Selena is sort of the Mama Dolly, so she came up with the main concept,’ Denise explains. ‘But it’s very much a collaborative process.’
The most recent full Dollies show in 2007 – The History of Singapore Part 1 – took us from the birth of Singapura all the way to 1965, and as we approach our city-state’s 50th birthday next year, it’s only apt that the Dollies now take a look back at how far we’ve come since 1965 in, well, The History of Singapore Part 2.

‘The story pretty much wrote itself as it’s based on facts. But while I don’t want to give away too much, let’s just say it won’t be anything like what you’ll get in your history textbook,’ Denise grins. ‘I’ll give you a hint, though. We’ll be making references to all the government campaigns held throughout the years while dressed as various local fruits, chickens, schoolgirls, mermaids and other characters.’ In fact, there will be so many costume changes that Denise even jokes that ‘the real show is actually happening backstage’.

The production also officially marks a new chapter for the Dollies, as it’s the first complete show they’ve staged since their third original member, beloved actress Emma Yong, tragically lost her battle with cancer in 2012. Denise has succeeded her and made several appearances with the group since then, including last year’s edition of Crazy Christmas, stepping into the big shoes Yong left behind with grace and the same wicked sense of humour.

‘I guess it’s kind of a big deal, but it’s also not,’ she says, referring to the upcoming show that will solidify her status as the newest addition to the Dim Sum menu. ‘We want to carry on Emma’s legacy. She had insisted that the show should go on.’ She adds that while she does feel a bit of the pressure, it’s not the first time that she’s shared the stage with Selena and Oei. ‘We’re all friends. I’ve worked with both of them since I started out in the late 1990s.’

Of course, things were very different when she first hit the scene. She made her professional debut as a member of the ensemble in the 1998 restaging of Beauty World – where Yong starred in the lead role of Ivy Chan – getting paid just $300 for three months’ work. ‘Pretty much no one in the cast was a full-time actor back then, so rehearsals would only start at 5 or 6pm, after everyone was done with their day jobs. And there was no welfare system in place for the actors. There’s no way the companies would even provide you with tea or biscuits,’ she laughs, gesturing towards a cupboard filled with snacks and drinks at the Dream Academy studio. ‘If you want biscuits, you bring your own! The kids coming out from the arts schools these days have it much better. That said, I loved it. I always found the theatre to be very embracing of differences. I used to be short and round, but I never felt out of place.’

Having experienced the tougher days of yesteryear has made Denise a tough cookie, and she now has little trouble switching between her various roles. It does, however, explain her fatigue. ‘It’s a bit better now. When we first started rehearsals, I was filming for a TV show and doing radio and rehearsing here every day,’ she says, almost in disbelief. ‘Thankfully, the filming’s done now. They say curiosity killed the cat, and I can tell you curiosity definitely almost killed this cat!’

Denise is unlikely to take a breather for the remainder of this year, though, as the Dollies’ show will be running until mid- December, and they’ll also be taking part in MediaCorp’s New Year’s Eve concert.

‘Maybe next year, I’ll go on a holiday. Maybe,’ she hesitates. ‘I’m not really a beach kinda person, but maybe I’ll go to a mountain, get some peace. And just sleep.’

Time Out Singapore: ‘Kings and Queen of Comedy Asia 4’ Preview

We adore them for their ability to make us giggle the night away – but things don’t always go smoothly for stand-up comedians. Here, Gwen Pew got the five superstars in The Comedy Club Asia’s upcoming Kings & Queen of Comedy Asia 4 to tell us about their most embarrassing moments on stage (and their favourite jokes!).

UK comedian Imran Yusuf, in the form of a bobble-head. Image courtesy of Comedy Club Asia.

UK comedian Imran Yusuf, in the form of a bobble-head. Image courtesy of Comedy Club Asia.

1 Oct 2013:

Jonathan Atherton

‘High school play. I played Julius Caesar and had to jump off a parapet to escape Egyptian soldiers. I was wearing sandals and a toga. What I wasn’t wearing was underpants… Let’s just say the play gave me a lot more exposure than I bargained for.’

Favourite joke? A guy walks into a bar and orders a bourbon and Coke. He says to the bartender, ‘I really shouldn’t be drinking this with what I’ve got.’ He then orders another and says the same thing. This happens two or three more times until the bartender finally asks, ‘Mate, what have you got?’ The guy replies, ‘A dollar fifty’.


‘I’m always on stage but once I fell off. Talk about the naked truth.’

Favourite joke? Foreigners.

Danny Bhoy

‘I once hosted a show where a man came up to me at the interval and asked if he could get up on stage in the second half and propose to his wife? I obliged. What neither of us was banking on was her saying “No”. It was the most awkward moment I ever remember on stage. I still cringe when I think about it now.’

Favourite joke? A snail knocks on the door of a hotel and asks if they have a room for the night? The angry owner replies, ‘We don’t serve snails!’, then picks up the snail and throws it down the bottom of the garden. Two years later, there is a knock at the door and the snail says, ‘What was all that about?’

Imran Yusuf

‘I once thoroughly peed my pants. I emptied out my entire bladder and went on stage with a massive wet stain showing. Fortunately, I was five years old at the time and got away with it without too much embarrassment.’

Favourite joke? You have to come watch me live! (That’s not the joke…)

Sheng Wang

‘Once I had to take an impromptu two minute intermission in the middle of my set because I needed to pee.’

Favourite joke? Why did the bicycle fall down? Because it was ‘two tired’.

Time Out Singapore: Hossan Leong

To celebrate his 20th anniversary in showbiz, beloved local actor/comedian Hossan Leong, 43, has decided to put together a show to look back on his journey in the entertainment industry thus far. While the path hasn’t always been easy, he has managed to maintain an infectiously optimistic attitude. Gwen Pew catches up with ‘Singapore Boy’.

Hossan Leong, aka 'Singapore Boy'. Image courtesy of Marcus Mo.

Hossan Leong, aka ‘Singapore Boy’. Image courtesy of Marcus Mo.

29 Jun 2013:


The title of the show, Hossanah!, is a tribute to Leong’s grandmother, as that is how she used to pronounce his name. ‘This show is a “thank you concert” dedicated to my family, friends, fans and everyone who’s supported me over the past 20 years,’ he explains.


Leong never received any formal theatre training – in fact, he had originally studied to become an electronics technician at the French-Singapore Institute, having been kicked out of Anglo-Chinese Junior College after failing his Mandarin exam four times: ‘I can speak and understand the language but I just don’t understand the squiggles [of Chinese characters]!’


His first acting role was in Alvin Tan’s 1993 debut production of Off Centrewith The Necessary Stage. ‘I got thrown in the deep end and ended up spending six months researching what it’s like to have mental issues. It was intense!’


When Leong was six, he asked his parents for a piano. His mum asked if he was sure he’d play it, and then used her entire life savings to buy him a second-hand one, which he used until his teens. Piano remains one of his passions.


Though supportive, his father didn’t take his acting career seriously until he started appearing on TV and was eventually conferred the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 2010: ‘I’ve never seen my father cry – but at the ceremony, he was in tears!’


He applied for a place at Sydney’s renowned National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and got through to the final audition round, but the dean at the time – Tony Knight – said he was doing Leong a favour by not accepting him. Now Knight is a Programme Leader for Musical Theatre at Lasalle, and has invited Leong to help direct the school’s graduate show next year. ‘I’m a firm believer that when one door closes, a window opens.’


‘My most embarrassing moment was when I did my first TV show [Channel 5’s Under One Roof in 1994],’ Leong admits. ‘No one had taught me how it works so I assumed that since the longshot camera was at the back of the room, I had to shout really loud. The guys on the sound deck were not happy as they indicated that the mic was actually right in front of me!’


He gets nervous before each show: ‘I feel constipated before I go on stage! But you know what they say – if you’re not nervous, you’re not doing it right. And once I get going, it’s fine; I enjoy entertaining.’


One of the songs that inspired him the most is Whitney Houston’s ‘I Look to You’. Can we expect a rendition of it in Hossanah!? ‘I’ll try!’


What else can we expect in the show? ‘An updated version of We Live in Singapura!’

Time Out Singapore: ‘Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow 2013’ Preview

Laugh yourself silly with these highlights from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. This year’s roadshow – coming to Singapore for the ninth time – features award-winning comics Frank Woodley, Nazeem Hussain, Tommy Dean, Kate McLennan and host Daniel Townes. Gwen Pew picks their brains.

The hilarious Australia-based American comedian, Tommy Dean.

The hilarious Australia-based American comedian, Tommy Dean.

19 Jun 2013: 

Tommy Dean

What’s your favourite joke?
Knock knock, who’s there? Door bell repair man.

What’s the best (by that we mean worst) heckle you’ve ever gotten?
Where’s your mum now?

What’s your most embarrassing moment onstage?
My most embarrassing moment on stage was when I was performing stand-up in a theatre venue where the stage was all carpeted and I felt myself standing in a spot where there was a trap door. I continued my stand-up and began to dance and, the next thing I knew, I fell four feet below the stage. It got worse when I needed people to come and help me get out.

Sum up your impression or expectations of Singapore in three words.
Hot. Exciting. Shoppie.


Kate McLennan

What’s your favourite joke?
Kid’s jokes are my favourite because they often make no sense at all – like the time my four-year-old godson rang me up and said, ‘Aunty Kate I have a joke. Today I went to Kinder and I did a wee up my back and in my shoes.’ So proud.

What’s the best (by that we mean worst) heckle you’ve ever gotten?
Someone once yelled out in the middle of a set, ‘I slept with your sister.’ Apropos of nothing. It threw me, not only because it interrupted my routine but because I was genuinely curious. I wanted to pull him aside and say ‘Really? Gosh, she’s a dark horse!’

What’s your most embarrassing moment onstage?
I had to sing on stage in a children’s theatre show once. I’m no Mariah Carey but nothing will bring you down to earth more than a seven-year-old audience member turning to their mum and saying ‘She’s baaaaaad.’

Sum up your impression or expectations of Singapore in three words.
Bring. Me. Food.


Daniel Townes

What’s your favourite joke?
How do bees comb their hair? With a honeycomb.

What’s the best (by that we mean worst) heckle you’ve ever gotten?
I got booed on to the stage in England during The Ashes one year. It wasn’t so much a heckle as I hadn’t even started yet but it’s the one that stands out the most.

What’s your most embarrassing moment onstage?
One time i accidentally left the zipper open on my jeans and didn’t know until someone pointed it out after about 10 minutes.

Sum up your impression or expectations of Singapore in three words.
New. Clean. Humid.


Frank Woodley

What’s your favourite joke?
My current favorite: My dog is a cross between a pitbull and a collie. He mauls people and then runs to get help.

What’s the best (by that we mean worst) heckle you’ve ever gotten?
Playing a matinee. A busload of elderly people had come along from a local nursing home and at one point I paused for dramatic effect and the whole audience heard a gentle moan from the audience followed by ‘Oh, why do they make us come to these things?’

What’s your most embarrassing moment onstage?
I got an audience participant on stage and she backed away from the audience nervously and fell backwards off the stage. The audience gasped and I rushed over. She was fine and laughing but she was so embarrassed that she crawled out the back way and wasn’t seen again. I tried to explain to the audience, but all they saw was someone fall backwards off the stage and never reappear. Things were awkward from then on.

Sum up your impression or expectations of Singapore in three words.
Hot. Busy. Fun.

Time Out Singapore: Julia Abueva

At 17, Julie Abueva has already performed in musicals and entertained top dignitaries like Barrack Obama. Gwen Pew catches up with the Manila-born, Singapore-raised talent as she prepares for her first non-singing role in the French whodunit play 8 Women.

Julia Abueva. Photo courtesy of Sing'Theatre.

Julia Abueva. Photo courtesy of Sing’Theatre.

18 Mar 2013: She’s only a year away from finishing high school, but the Manila-born, Singapore-raised 17-year-old singing sensation Julia Abueva has already earned quite a few impressive feathers in her hat. After being discovered ten years ago by local singer Cat Ong, Abueva has performed in front of Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Hsien Loong and other foreign heads of state, including US President Obama. She’s also shared the stage with multi-award-winning Filipina songstress Lea Salonga (the singing voice of princess Jasmine inAladdin), and was invited to perform on The Oprah Winfrey Show as one of the most talented kids in the world at the age of 12 – although she had to turn down the opportunity as the episode coincided with her first sold-out solo concert at the Esplanade here in Singapore.

Abueva has previously been involved in several local musicals, including Into the Woods and Spring Awakening, but she will be making her debut performance in a non-singing role this month in Sing Theatre’s production of8 Women, the darkly funny whodunit (immortalised in the 2002 French movie starring Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Deneuve) about the murder of a lord in a mansion – and the eight women in the house who might have done the deed.

She plays Catherine, the feisty 15-year-old daughter of the murder victim, alongside local theatre veterans such as DBS Life! Theatre Award winner Tan Kheng Hua and Neo Swee Lin – both from the popular TV series Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd – who play the murdered man’s wife and mother-in-law respectively.

‘I have to admit that my comfort zone has always been music because it helps me “feel” more. Standing on stage without music will be a very new experience but I’m very excited,’ says Abueva, although she also notes many similarities between acting in a musical and in a straight play, such as the approach she takes to understanding her character. ‘The first thing I do is read the script to understand the story,’ she explains. ‘Then I try to imagine my character beyond the script – such as what songs she would listen to, what her favourite book is – and basically create a whole person in my head, because I can then understand her better and make the character more truthful.’

While Abueva admits that it does get difficult to juggle homework with rehearsals – she attends the Singapore American School and maintains the regular 11th grade curriculum – she believes it’s worth it and has big dreams for the future. ‘Of course I need an education, but I also know that I need to take advantage of opportunities that come my way,’ she concludes. ‘I’ve started to write my own songs so I want to start getting my music out there. I also dream of being on Broadway or West End someday. That’s still my biggest dream.’