Unbeknownst to many, and especially unbeknownst to me, there is a JB Arts Fest, and they’ve had it for ten years.
This is a bit surprising given all the horror stories we read in our papers about JB and crime – where it’s always “Singaporean Shot While Shopping”, or something like that. Although after speaking with several Johoreans, one suspects the context might have been “Singaporean Shot While Shopping Because He Insisted On Pushing A Trolley Full Of Cheap Groceries Through The Single Basket 10 Items Only Checkout Lane”.
Yes, JB-siders dislike us. If you’re still clueless as to why, think about the nasty things you say about foreigners in Singapore. That’s right. We make everything expensive in JB, we’re loud, crass and rude about it and we don’t care if the locals need to move up north to Yong Peng or Machap to be able to afford a house.
Over the weekend, Hossan and I ventured across the Straits to prepare for his performance at the Arts Festival, and we were stumped by the graciousness and hospitality of our hosts. And for the first time in a long time, we witnessed a bunch of people putting together a festival for the love of the arts, and not money – JB doesn’t yet have an Esplanade, or Drama Centre or Victoria Theatre, but the organisers managed to cobble together what was an impressive line up of events, from comedy to classical music to art and literature workshops.
We did one performance at a restaurant called Eight Lido – al fresco, by the Straits, and another one on a gaudy multi-coloured LED lit boat. Both were sold out to audiences who laughed at every joke, and dare we say, even harder than Singaporean audiences did at our recent shows. To be sharing the stage with an extremely talented troupe called M.A.C.C. (Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians, not to be confused with Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) was also a treat. These fellas were frikkin’ funny lah, can?
I am honoured to have been a small part of the JB Arts Fest (writing Hossan’s script), and am very grateful for the fantastic hospitality of the organisers – especially Allan Fernandez, owner of Eight Lido. Thank you for having us over.