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James Campbell's Comedy 4 Kids - Perfect Stand-up Comedy for Ages 5+
18/02/2004
The Star
UNIVERSAL BRAND OF HUMOUR
By Melody L. Goh

Not all children’s jokes are about farting and slipping on a banana peel. British comedian James Campbell proved to his Malaysian audience last week that stand-up comedy for children can be quite intelligent and not at all disgusting.

Campbell, whose show was called Comedy 4 Kids, gave four performances at The Actors Studio Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur last weekend. He also did one show at The Gurney Resort Hotel & Residences in Penang on February 11. Tickets to all of his shows, presented by Gardner and Wife, were sold out, which is not surprising since Malaysia rarely has any foreign theatre productions for children.

Comedy 4 Kids started with Campbell giving a 10-minute “warm-up” session to the audience. About 90% of the audience that came to the Friday show at The Actors Studio Bangsar was Caucasian, making one wonder at first whether local children would enjoy it. However, as the show progressed, it was clear that Campbell’s brand of humour was universal enough to reach out to any kid.

His warm-up jokes ranged from how he felt that everything in Malaysia is stronger (“the tea, the beer, the coffee, the women!”) to the funny usage of the word “handphone”. “What do you pick up the phone with? Your nose? What about your feet?” asked Campbell, before proceeding to pick up an imaginary phone with his foot!

The comedian also spoke about how he doesn’t drink milk because it’s too milky. Then he went on to talk about the several kinds of milk available at the supermarket, and the kinds of funny cows that give us the milk. According to Campbell, if you had a cow that’s as huge as a house, it doesn’t give you milk but cheese instead. Now, wouldn’t that be great?

After the warm-up session that lasted about 10 minutes, Campbell “started” his show by introducing himself. He talked about how he got his name and the fact that he has two middle names. He asked if anyone in the crowd also had two middle names, and found one who didn’t have any middle name at all. “Oh, I’m sorry for you,” he said, pretending to sympathise with the boy.

He went on to talk about a boring old uncle who used to taunt him at Christmas dinners and how this uncle once said something to Campbell that made him believe that his first name would eventually “break”. “That’s why we need middle names, in case the first one breaks and can’t be used anymore. Oh, whatever will you do then?” said Campbell, looking at the boy with no middle name.

The interesting things about Campbell’s presentation were how he associated one joke with the other, and how he made a string of jokes out of just one subject, like his name. After he was done with his name, he went back to his boring old uncle and Christmas. Later, he went back to talking about cows and how cool it would be to have a cow as a pet.

Campbell’s jokes may have been simple, but they weren’t stupid. They were also up to date which was one of the reasons the children took to him kindly. He also added local elements in his presentation, like how porridge in Malaysia is so much more interesting than porridge in Britain. “Where I come from, porridge is only eaten by the Scottish, very old people and bears,” he said.

At one point he asked the audience if there was anything in particular they wanted him to talk about. One boy cried out “Digimon” (a popular cartoon about digital “monsters”), to which Campbell asked: “Digimon? Isn’t that a phone network here?” He talked about Beyblade instead (another popular cartoon about spinning tops that battle one another), since he confessed that he doesn’t watch much Digimon.

Another reason Campbell was well-liked was that he encouraged the kids to speak to him, and he would answer them. “How old are you?” he asked one girl. “You’re eight? Well eight’s good, nine’s better, but ten’s the best. Then there’s 11 and 12, which are ok, but after that it’s all downhill,” he said.

When some of the children were laughing uncontrollably, Campbell turned to them and said: “I think that’s enough out of you for now, there are more jokes to come.” The children laughed even more. A man walked out of the hall in the middle of the show to answer a phone call and Campbell called out to him: “Hey, I’m not that horrible am I? Come back, I’ll do better I promise!” He then asked the boy seated next to the man if he was his father, and the boy nodded. “I bet you’re really embarrassed now, aren’t you?”

Comedy 4 Kids was a blast for not only the kids but the adults too. Campbell himself looked like he enjoyed every bit of it, and even gave a “comedy encore” where he recited a poem about a legless lion (earlier it was about a toothless tiger), and got the crowd to repeat after him. Simple jokes do get the most laughs, after all.