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Kung Fu Komedy’s Andy Curtain

Sep 7, 2018

I’m Andy Curtain, I’m from Melbourne and I run Kung Fu Komedy. I’m also the head of Live Nation Comedy Asia. I think, like a lot of people my age, watching Eddie Murphy’s Delirious and Raw got me into comedy. I also grew up watching The Simpsons. An insane amount of The Simpsons. And my family’s pretty funny so I always had that kind of leaning. But it was someone at my first job here in Shanghai that suggested I do stand up.

When I first got to Shanghai I was actually a journalist, working for the China Economic Review. But that was pretty brief -- my background is in law so I was working in finance for a few years after that. Not going back though, not in a million years. Obviously my parents are wildly disappointed. No, they’re supportive, I go back to do the Melbourne Comedy Festival every year so they’ve seen plenty of my comedy.

But when I first got to Shanghai there was no stand up to do, Punchline would come through every few months or something but there was nothing we could join. So I got a few friends together I was like let’s get a mic in the corner of Beedees, this tiny little music venue, and tell jokes.

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Kung Fu Komedy formed as the first comedy club in Shanghai. Initially we thought the way to do it was to go to people, and we’ve actually done shows in 40 different cities in China but it was hard because you’d go into a bar and have to turn it into a comedy club. And then someone was like we need to have our own venue and that’s when we went to Masse. That was like our first real space, the side room there that was just for comedy. That was around 2011 and from then on we were in a fixed venue and it got way better, the shows were better and there were more people at shows.

Now the comedy scene is so much bigger, there are shows on every night in the city now. At KFK there are probably more than 50 people that do open mics regularly. We have a roster of like 20 comedians—the standards have improved a lot. And people are doing more stuff. Our top guys go around Asia now and their network is big. We also have a KFK in New York, so if they’re going there they can launch straight into comedy. It’s more like the actual industry of comedy in Shanghai now.

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This is basically all I do. I rarely eat and if I do, I order to the club (usually Saucepan). We’re open six nights a week here and I have a kid. I’m also out of China a lot these days. I’m not in the managing day-to-day as much but if I’m in Shanghai I’m here at the club. We have a lot of exciting stuff coming up like Sean Patton in October and Gad Elmaleh in December. It’s just always busy.

I’m a dad and I think being a dad is stressful but I don’t think it’s more stressful here. I’m pretty lucky I think. There’s a really strong support network amongst parents here; you can get advice really quickly for stuff. You can ask a question in one of these groups and within 30 seconds get an answer. I’m in the Shanghai Papas one, but it’s mostly porn. They have genuine questions but also a lot of porn. The mom’s one is like all these technical questions and the dad’s one’s like, here are some boobs.

Mamahuhu is really Alessio and Matt, they’re the brains behind it. Alessio contacted me at the club saying he wanted to make videos. Actually Mamahuhu was the second thing they did with that group. The first one was Monkey Kings. It was a prank show but they had a prank go really badly and then none of them wanted to do it anymore. Someone dressed up as a zombie on the subway and started spurting out blood everywhere and the entire train fled. It was carnage, people were losing their minds. There was a ban on Halloween costumes on the metro after that. It was wild.

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I’m planning on bringing back my podcast Stuck in the Middle. It’s been on a bit of a hiatus. I really enjoyed doing it but I just got busy with the live shows and all that. To find subjects, it’s like being a journalist: you’re always keeping an eye and an ear out for it. In the expat community here, you’re always one phone call away from anyone. I think the Archie Hamilton one was pretty good, if you’re just getting into it. I also really enjoyed the story that Mohammed from KFK told. He’s got a really interesting backstory, basically having had to flee Egypt. And we did that while getting a foot massage, so he’s telling a really heartfelt story, and every two seconds someone jabs into the ball of his foot.

I think it’s kind of scary watching so many people leave. I don’t know what’s going on with the community. There’s definitely change happening. There’s always ups and downs here but it seems the community is shrinking pretty rapidly these days. But I’ll be here till they kick me out. It’s amazing it hasn’t happened yet. My exit strategy is being told to leave.

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[Shanghai Famous]:

Shanghai Famous is a SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

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