TRUMP ’N’ PILLORY As a stand-up comedian I talk about life. I’m very observational. I talk about my family, my wife, my kid, Hong Kong. My sets are never the same; I use current events all the time because the news is funny. Trump and Hillary. You know what, in four years’ time I’m going to run for president and there’ll be major changes. The White House; yellow. Tiger Balm mandatory in all first-aid kits. Dim sum, especially chicken’s feet, served in all schools. And my VP, Jackie Chan.
So you see my style. Four to six laughs a minute is the comedian’s goal.
ROCKS BY THE RIVER I’m Jameson Gong Pui-hung. Gong is “river”, so I think Pui-hung means “rocks by the”. We’re all named something “by the river”. I was born in 1969 in New York City. My mum was born in Hong Kong, my dad in Guangdong. They met in Hong Kong and my brother was born in Hong Kong and then, in 1967, my parents moved to New York for better lives. My brother and four sisters all live in the US. I’m the only one in Hong Kong. So I’ve come full circle to bring my laughter back to Hong Kong (with The TakeOut Comedy Club).
I grew up in Chinatown next to Hispanic projects, very poor welfare-dependent families. Not the safest areas but laughter kept me sane. We rarely saw a Caucasian person. My wife always tells me off for eating really fast, but if I didn’t as a kid there would be no food. She says: “If you eat fast, you will flatulate.” And I do, it’s natural. She claims women don’t flatulate, which is false because I’ve secretly recorded her flatulating.
COMEDY CENTRAL We started TakeOut Comedy initially to revitalise the nightlife in New York City Chinatown after 9/11. This was in 2003. We have the first poster of our first show in Chinatown right here on the wall (in Takeout Comedy, in Elgin Street) next to my Olympic torch. I was the only licensed tour guide in Chinatown, I also had a full-time job and was big for Asian civil rights, so I was nominated to carry the Olympic torch in 2004 (ahead of the Athens Games). So I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and gave it to (CNN anchor) Paula Zahn and it was a moment of my life. One of them.
So my grandmother’s health was deteriorating. I was working for the retail company The Limited, and on my flight over here (in 2002, to visit his grandmother in Hong Kong) I had the vision to bring back entertainment. So the whole idea of TakeOut Comedy I drew on a barf bag, and it’s framed and hanging on the wall. I couldn’t wait to tell my grandmother. But my grandmother passed away during my flight. So I truly believe she gave me the vision and that’s how the idea started. She was always laughing, my grandmother.
We were doing shows in Chinatown and then, in 2003, we organised the first Asian-American stand-up comedy competition. And Paul Ogata won. A Japanese American Hawaiian. And we became good friends and he’s coming here this month for the 24th time headlining our club.
LAST COMIC STANDING From October 13 until November 5, it will be the 10th Annual Hong Kong International Comedy Festival. Every year we have three preliminary rounds (of 10 comedians competing each night) making a room full of people laugh while being timed and judged before the finals, on October 22. We have 22 comedians from around the world and eight local, all competing to win a tour of the top five comedy clubs in the US plus HK$40,000. Anyone can enter. It’s also a chance to network, to meet other comedians. Two of our biggest stars are Vivek Mahbubani and Jim Brewsky. Years ago, when I opened this club, I knew we would get famous comedians like Ogata, but my goal also was to help kick-start people’s careers, and we have, with these two.
GETTING IN ON THE ACT I teach a four-hour stand-up comedy class once every three months. I really go into specifics – everything from writing to performing. I consider myself a professional comedian who happens to run a comedy club. I think more students should take drama classes. Not necessarily stand-up, or improv, but I think more schools should offer drama classes. Because that’s a great skill, to get the confidence to stand up and talk in front of people. It’s a great skill I was never taught in school.
THE COUPLE THAT LAUGHS TOGETHER ... I met my wife, Andrea Lomas, through the club. We’re like the fifth couple who have met and married through the club. So we don’t only bring good comedy into Hong Kong, we’re also a matchmaking club. Comedy unites people. And our son, Emmett James, has just turned five. The love of our lives.
I hated growing up being Chinese, being in the minority, being picked on. Now I love being Chinese. We opened up the first full-time comedy club in Asia, before we even had comedians. So this was my calling. On Facebook I did a little survey, almost 70 cities in Asia have had comedy shows since we came along.
FUNNY GUYS I still remember watching Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. He was doing a five-minute monologue and I was laughing so hard. I said to myself, “Wow, this guy is so amazing, he’s doing a different monologue every night.” Johnny Carson and Bob Hope, just watching him host the Academy Awards. That’s what I appreciate about these comedians. Stay clean, clever and creative.
I took comedy classes in New York in the early 1990s. That was about it. You have to know the basics, that’s why I teach the basics, but you’ve got to get up there and do it. And when you make a room of strangers laugh, it’s the best feeling in the world.