Life is just a joke for Ryan Higa

By Candace Kwan

Fans just love Ryan Higa's zany humour

By Candace Kwan |

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Ryan Higa relaxes during his visit to Hong Kong last week.

If nothing else, Ryan Higa (known as NigaHiga on YouTube) has changed the way we view wordplay - have you seen puns visually represented literally? Didn't think so - but his latest video alone, The Best Joke Ever! is proof he sees things differently from us mere mortals.

Higa may humbly dismiss his comedic genius as just "how [his] brain works", as he "always thinks jokes before seriousness"; but with more than 5.6 million subscribers and 1.2 billion views, he's onto something.

"If I just post about how I really feel about things, it seems to be really different from how other people think and feel. They find entertainment in that. But that's how I view life, as a joke. Life is just a big joke. [I'm] just having fun with it."

Part of Higa's appeal is his spontaneity - how often do you see comedians use cast lamps as characters? Higa has. "I needed someone to play a character but I believe I used a lamp ... I did that once and people seemed to like it", the Hawaiian-born comic said. What evolved out of sheer necessity has become an inside joke for him and his fans, many of whom like to give him "lots of lamps" at meet-and-greets post-show.

That loveable randomness was evident during his short stay in Hong Kong. On Wednesday, the audience at a Q&A session in the Kitec auditorium got to take part in a special project where his fans got to play an active role in one of the types of videos he most enjoys creating.

"I really enjoy doing music videos. I think it's definitely a lot more work but it's so much fun ... it's really easy to get a song done and record funny shots," Higa says. "It's sort of where I started out because I get to lip-sync to my own song. It's so much fun for me and it sort of brings me back to why I first started".

His YouTube career blossomed from videos of him lip-syncing to eventually branching out into producing music videos - for example, Shed A Tear (originally Far East Movement's Rocketeer) and originals Bromance and Nice Guys - all of which involve collaborations with other Asian-American YouTubers, such as KevJumba and Chester See.

It's no coincidence that there is a rising Asian-American presence in the YouTube community. Although Higa bemoans the lack of Asians in the mainstream media when he was growing up. "YouTube [has given] everyone an equal opportunity and Asians are proving that there's an audience out there willing to watch Asians do entertainment."

With 125 YouTube videos on his main channel, a 35-minute short film and more collaborations than we can count already under his belt at the age of 22, there's no sign of him stopping anytime soon.

By now, most, if not all fans should know that Higa's signature "TEEHEE" sign-off in his videos are all unique - he "records a new one every time". Guess his fans deserve at least that effort; if the incessantly-hurled compliments ("I love your face, Ryan") aren't dedication, we're not sure what is. TEEHEE.

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