I love comedy (which you may already have noticed). Many of my closest friends are people I met in the comedy world, and much of my free time over the past decade was spent performing, or watching friends perform, or hanging out at the bar (because let’s be honest, there’s always a bar) before and after shows. And although I mostly stepped away from performing over a year ago because of my schedule, the comedy club still feels like home to me, a place where almost everyone is weird in ways I understand.
Because of work, I find myself in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for several weeks, a place I knew almost nothing about before getting here (I haven’t even seen Entrapment, which is what my dad recommended to me as research material). And although it’s a very accessible city for a dumb American such as myself (it’s thoroughly modern, almost everyone speaks English, and there’s tons of familiar Asian foods that I enjoy), I find myself still feeling a little adrift — everything is vaguely familiar, yet different enough that it’s been hard for me to really settle in, to feel like I have some sort of normalcy around me.
In search of that normalcy, I end up in a strip mall somewhere in Kuala Lumpur. I have no idea where I am, other than that I am vaguely west of my hotel. The street is unfamiliar, the people friendly, but they all can instantly tell I’m not from around here.
I find my destination: Crackhouse Comedy Club, which claims to be the only full-time standup venue in the city. A chalkboard sign points the way, up the dark staircase to the second-floor entrance.
Nobody is at the door, but the sign assures me they’re open.
The chairs are cheap, but get the job done. Same goes for the beer. The air conditioning is trying its best to keep up with the humidity; it’s warm, but not unpleasantly so.
The room eventually fills, the host takes the stage, and the show begins.
I’m in an unfamiliar country, surrounded by strangers. I am almost certainly the only American in the room. The references are unfamiliar, and jokes are sometimes punctuated with words or phrases I don’t understand. In many ways, I have nothing in common with anyone here.
And yet, for the first time in weeks, I feel what I’ve been missing. That normalcy. That comfort.
That feeling that I’m home.
The strangers are still comedy fans. The beer is still cold. The comedians vary in skill and experience, but the jokes are still jokes. And even without any real understanding of local politics or grievances, the punchlines are still punchlines, and I am still moved to laugh — not out of politeness or groupthink, but because the comedians and I are speaking the same language, and we understand each other, and our shared goal — to entertain and be entertained — is powerful enough to overcome the cultural barriers between us.
Most of all, I am happy to discover I was wrong to assume I had nothing in common with the people here; the people in this room are comedy weirdos, just like me. In another life, this would be my home comedy club, and these fans and comedians would be the friends I watch and perform and have a beer with.
Comedy is important, for the truths it can tell, the joy it can bring, the friendships it can forge. But right now, at this moment, thousands of miles away from everything I’ve ever known, I’m thankful for comedy as a universal language — one that encourages a shared experience, that brings strangers together. Comedy reminded me that even on the other side of the world, where so much can feel like it’s in flux and almost everything is unfamiliar, it’s possible to find your weirdos. It’s possible to find your home.
Header Image Source: Dan Hamamura