Kavin Jay is one of South East Asia’s most sought-after comedians; an integral part of the comedy revolution in Malaysia, he’s a rapid-fire, grumpy, joke-telling machine. He may be grouchy but does it with a panache that you can’t help but laugh. His intense sense of humour has tickled ribs and charmed audiences of all shapes and backgrounds. A travelling comic as well, Kavin has performed in many countries and has been featured in his own Netflix show.
What inspired you to enter the field of comedy?
I really wanted to do something in the arts as I hated the idea of getting up in the morning to do a 9-5 job. I had been a great admirer of comedy since I was in college in the UK, where I would frequently visit comedy clubs, but I didn’t think at the time that I wanted to be a performer. When I came back to Malaysia, the comedy shows were scarce and took longer to set up. So, I tried taking matters into my own hands, asking myself “how hard could it be?”. The answer is very hard. I had invited 150 of my friends and tried (and failed miserably) to tell them jokes. I was adamant that I needed to learn to get better. 13 years later, I am still learning.
Describe what your normal workday looks like.
It really differs. Some days I am completely free; I wake up at 11 am and play my PS4 all day. Some days I’m up at 4 am getting ready to catch a plane to travel to another country for a show abroad. Some weeks I am really free, and some weeks I hardly see my family.
What would you consider to be your greatest success?
I would say being on Netflix is my greatest success. It is the dream of most comedians to have a comedy special on a network with the greats, and I somehow achieved it. It was a shock, as I sometimes feel that I am not the best comedian, or the most famous. I am grateful that they somehow saw something they liked in my act and decided to give me my very own show.
I was adamant that I needed to learn to get better. 13 years later, I am still learning.
What are some of the significant challenges in your industry?
I guess the biggest challenge is the inconsistent income. Some months I have plenty of shows and have a higher income, and some months I am struggling to pay my phone bill. Another challenge is the misperceptions people have of comedians, such as being too vulgar, which deter people from hiring them. That misperception is probably why you didn’t see comedians on TV for a long time in Malaysia.
What do you think are skills/traits needed to succeed in your career?
I would say perseverance is important as it takes years before anyone pays you for comedy. You need to take time to learn and grow into the best comedian you can be. Learn from other comedians and hone your act until it is so polished that people cannot ignore you. All the other skills like timing, confidence, and oration skills can be learned along the way.
What can aspiring comedians do to prepare themselves for this field?
Learn and practice. that is all that you need to to become a good comedian. Learn from other comedians. Watch how they do their acts and learn their process. Practice through open mics. Keep doing it until you are the best at what you do, and when you are the best, keep going back to be better.
Are there are down moments in your career?
There are down moments almost every day. Sometimes we have bad shows and it affects us emotionally. Sometimes bad things happen before a show but we still have to go out and make people laugh. As performers, we sometimes feel that our lives are not our own and that we live a lie every day. However, there are plenty of up moments too, so they balance out.
What do you think is a misperception that the general public has about your job, or an aspect to your job that many people are not aware of?
I think in Asian culture if you choose comedy as a job, it means you’re probably jobless and broke. Sometimes it’s true, but I think I am doing OK. They also seem to think comedians have no discipline and self-control. That is a complete myth. We are like anyone else. Most of all, a lot of people think our personas on stage is the same as our personalities off stage. Most of the time that is not true, as what we do on stage is just a magnification of certain aspects of ourselves, not our true selves.
Did you face dissuasion or negativity from your family and if so, how did you deal with them?
YES! My mom cannot believe I quit a job in Engineering for this. She still tells people I am an Engineer with a hobby. I am a very independent person, and I did continue working while pursuing comedy for a long time before pursuing it full time. I believe that as long as I am financially stable/independent, they are not as bothered.
My mom cannot believe I quit a job in Engineering for this. She still tells people I am an Engineer with a hobby.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
Finding a balance is quite hard as a public figure, but I like my off days. I spend them with my family and also by myself. I play video games as an outlet to escape the stress of the work. A lot of what I do personally is also in the public eye nowadays especially with social media and I guess I am still getting used to that.
How long does it usually take for you to prepare for a show?
It really depends on the show. If it is a corporate show, then I am already prepared; I just need a few minutes to get in my head before the show. If it is one of my specials, then preparation starts as early as six weeks beforehand.
What would you say is one of the funniest things you’ve ever shared with your audience?
As a comedian, there has been a lot of funny things. My favourite would have to be a story I did on my Netflix special, where I talk about how my mom caught me when I was 14, watching a movie I was not supposed to be watching.
Any final tips or advice to the people who aspire to be comedians?
TIME, HARD WORK and PRACTICE. These are the only things that make you a better comedian. No matter where you start from, you can always get better when you learn and apply it to your work.
Keep doing it until you are the best at what you do, and when you are the best, keep going back to be better.