Comedy Club Bangkok owner speaks with BK Magazine about the comedy scene coming back.
As part of BK Magazine’s comedy issue, we spoke to five English-language Bangkok comedians on the return of the scene. Find more in a BK Magazine near you.
In many ways Chris Wegoda is the face of Bangkok’s English-language comedy scene, performer and co-owner of the Comedy Club Bangkok. Bringing acts both big and small to the upper floors of the Royal Oak and packed venues throughout the city, Chris has watched the thriving comedy scene he helped build crumble and be built back again.
In addition to being a comedian and an entrepreneur, you’re also an award-winning bodybuilder. Are you trying to make the rest of us look bad?
Yes. That’s your answer. Yes. Normally comedians aren’t bodybuilders. Usually the more normal you are as a comedian, the better. It’s about getting the audience on your side. So I guess I’m making my life more difficult. Also, you forgot, I’m also an award-winning actor and an award-winning club owner. You missed a few of my awards. So I’m just trying to make you feel even worse. Just make sure you include all of my awards.
Can you give us a little history behind the Comedy Club Bangkok?
I started doing improv a long time ago, and then I did a one-off open mic at the Royal Oak before it was the Royal Oak—it was the Bull’s Head. That put me on the path to stand-up and to meet Drew McCreadie, my business partner, and then I started doing open-mic in a pub called the Londoner on Sukhumvit 33 right on the corner. I spoke to Drew about opening a club and he said sure. That was in 2014. It’s been good ever since. Though, obviously, the last couple of years have been shit—on and off. Certainly people want comedy, mind you. But we’re doing reduced capacity shows and [doing two shows a night] allows us to get more people in. We’re getting 40 to 50 people a show, so nearly 100 people a night.
Is it harder finding new talent?
We’ve not been able to get big-name acts in obviously and we haven’t had one for like two years. We only have the local talent. But things are opening up and we’re hoping to get headliners in as soon as possible. We’re looking into getting some really big names in soon—not to the Comedy Club Bangkok but much bigger. In 2020 we were like, hey, we should be able to do a big show by 2021, but that didn’t happen. So it just keeps going. We’re hoping omicron is the end of it.
Any big names planned for 2022?
We’re talking but it’s difficult to finalize. You can’t say to a comedian, ‘Hey, you’re going to perform in front of 50 people, can we pay you half as much?’ A lot of time they’re not going to want to do that. I’m hoping things get better, but in the meantime we’re still continuing with stand-up and workshops.
Speaking of the workshops, do you have any advice for newcomers?
It’s not magic. You can’t teach everything about comedy, but you can teach things so that you won’t bomb. One of the biggest ones is this: tell fucking jokes. One of the biggest mistakes with new people is that they just talk and hope to reach a punchline. Stand-up is set-up, punchline. That’s all it is. People do it in their own way, but it’s always set-up, punchline. We also talk about how people see you, how you’re different. Do you play into it? Do you play against it? Comedy is in many ways very male dominated, so if you’re a woman you already have something that’s different. With workshops, I emphasize that it’s for people who want to do stand-up, not people who just want to build confidence. I mean, it is very good for that. I’m not saying you need to want to be a professional stand-up, but I would like people to do the workshop and then go on stage. Improv, that’s a different kettle of fish, it’s a group thing, super fun. One of the next things we want to do is an improv workshop in Thai.