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By Gayatri Bhaumik | July 15th, 2020

Before becoming the General Manager of The Riff, Australian comedian Andy Curtain has spent the last nine years touring through the US, Asia, and Australia, and is now on a mission to build a strong comedy scene in Hong Kong. In 2019, Curtain had a full schedule on the comedy circuit, touring with Jim Gaffigan and Jim Jeffries and working with big names like Kevin Hart, Dave Chapelle, and Gad Elmaleh.

A little Background

In 2019, Curtain took on the role of General Manager for The Riff, a hot new comedy club in Hong Kong. Among the many other hats he wears, he’s also the head of Live Nation Comedy Asia, a founding writer, actor, and director for the Mamahuhu YouTube channel, and host of the “Stuck in the Middle” podcast.

[Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted before the new government’s new social distancing guidelines came into force on July 15, 2020. The Riff HK is temporarily closed, and the comedy classes and new cocktail menu referred to in the interview have been suspended until its reopening.]

5 Things You Should Know about comedy in Hong Kong

1. Hong Kong’s a great place for comedy

We had the idea for The Riff before we chose Hong Kong, and we chose this city because it’s one of the best scenes in Asia. The local comedy is packed with talent and the crowds are great. Being an international hub with a cosmopolitan community, it has a unique mix of interesting and diverse audiences which makes for good comedy.

Live Nation is the world’s biggest live entertainment company. Over the years, we’ve sold out shows for the biggest names in comedy across Asia, including Kevin Hart, Dave Chapelle, Gad Elmaleh, and Jim Jeffries. We saw a great opportunity in Hong Kong, not just for big international acts that can fill arenas, but also for intimate club shows – The Riff allows us to do just that.

We are seeing a huge amount of amazing talent both locally and regionally come through The Riff. Through our regular open mic nights, we hope to support and nurture the new and emerging names making their mark in the comedy world. Our goal is to promote this comedy culture not only in Hong Kong, but across Asia.

2. Hong Kong’s comedy scene is just hitting its stride

The scene is popping right now. Comedy shows are selling out, and the standard is very high. Laughter really is the best form of therapy and this year has proven we need to laugh. Canto comedy is developing quickly which is really great to see. At The Riff, we provide more options and variety to the local comedy scene and we’re definitely in a new phase now – it is exciting!

3. Comedy can be very subjective

Comedy is something created to make you laugh, and different people laugh at different things. Some people find a guy falling down a flight of stairs to be the pinnacle of comedy; others find it offensive. The business of jokes keeps you on your toes.

4. Educating people is a big part of comedy

Education is a huge part of developing a comedy scene. We don’t just want people to watch, we want to find new talent and get others more involved in the scene. We’re offering comedy classes through The Riff, which includes support at up to four open mic nights and culminating in a special graduation performance with classmates and a taped performance.

After completing this program, our students will be able to write standup material ready for the stage, understand the fundamentals of comedy, know the tools of stagecraft, and perform in a graduation ceremony show. The classes are also great for people who just want to sharpen up their funny, and it is a powerful tool for public speaking.

We launched our first series of comedy class in mid-June. The response has been overwhelming and we are very excited to launch the second series this weekend on July 18. We only have limited spots and are filling up already, so get in quick if you’ve ever wanted to try stand up.

5. Anyone can get into stand-up

The reality is that anyone can be funny, but for some people, it’s not intentional. My best advice is to go to an open mic. Watch the least funny person and tell yourself, “I can do better than that.” Then sign up for the next one.

We run three weekly open mic nights – the Chinese open mic is every Monday while the English open mics are on Wednesdays and Sundays. This is where you can see aspiring and veteran comedians hone their craft. It is free and we welcome everyone to come and have a good laugh.

Looking towards the future?

We will have an expanded diverse line-up and more shows in Cantonese. We’re also working to bring in more female comedians – that’s really important. The club is designed to be a platform for comics to turn pro, and pretty soon you will see a city with a strong line up for full-time professionals. And, we’ll be flying in big names to perform when we can. In the short term, we’ve got local comics headlining and we are about to drop a new cocktail menu that will knock your socks off!

Read more Hot Seat profiles here.