Alongside Choosak and Mum Jokmok, Pongsak Pongsuwan, better known under his stage name Teng Terdterng, is among Thailand’s most famous comedians. Here, he talks about his not-so-comedy life behind the onstage laughs.

My personal life is actually not funny at all. I had to leave school in the fourth grade to join a likay troupe. My family has been performing since my grandparents’ generation, so it’s deeply rooted in me.

I left my home in Sukhothai at 13 because I wanted more life experience. There were times I was so hungry, but I had no money. I drank water from toilets. I met some sam-lor (pedicab) drivers who let me join their group.

Then I found out about a dishwasher job at a noodle stall in Udon Thani that paid B50 per day, with 21 nights work a month. That was the first time I saw a thousand baht.

I spent three years without any contact with my home. My parents probably thought I was dead. Then I finally went back on an impulse. There were tears of joy.

There wasn’t anything for me to do once I got back, except join the likay again.

One day I saw a likay actor, who had played the part of a king at the previous night’s performance. He was fishing with a net. I realized I didn’t want to be a poor actor like him. I wanted a good future, so I went to Bangkok.

I’ve been a comedian for nine years. It was the golden age for comedians when I started. Stand up comedy at cafes was still thriving.

I had to go through countless tough times. When my wife was pregnant we had to live on the second floor of a noodle shop. When the owners left at night, I would creep downstairs and steal kai pa lo (cinnamon eggs) for her.

In 1995, I entered the monkhood and dedicated my good deeds to the Princess Mother, who had died that year. I prayed and asked why my life was such a struggle, even though I always tried to do good deeds.

The turning point in my career came when I joined Mum’s troupe. When you are with him, getting on TV is easy. Then again, there are a lot of people out there who are on TV and haven’t become famous.
I feel sorry for comedians nowadays because there aren’t many cafes open anymore like in those golden days. Anyway, I guess we always have to keep on adapting.

I want to tell other comedians that I am not famous because of television. Many things contributed to my fame. Maybe it was my good karma from my last life. But I would also suggest that they find a different profession.

If I knew I wasn’t ever going to be famous, then I would probably have sought another profession. But there are comedians who really love this job and would never do anything else.

Education is the best foundation for everything. I had a tough life because I don’t have any education. I am lucky that I got many opportunities despite that.

I tell my kids, you don’t necessarily have to graduate, but you must be a good person and show respect to others. If you do something wrong, then apologize.

I don’t let my children watch any movies with swear words. That’s why I don’t want my movies to have swearing. I don’t want them to see me say one thing but do another. If you bring your children to my movie you can be sure it will be appropriate.

I wanted to do a monk movie, Teng Nong Jee Won Bin [in theatres now], because I’d never heard of a monk flying on an airplane, so I talked with a screenwriter to write a script with that concept.

Having lived 45 years, I now understand why old people love to go to temples to find peace. All I seek now is a quiet place.

I don’t work weekends. That time is only for my family.

I want to be a catwalk model. I have never seen a comedian become a catwalk model. It would be pretty cool.

I believe in destiny, but not in fortune tellers. I believe that we will get what we want if we try our best. You have to believe that you can make your own destiny too.

I love to be on stage. I want to do it as long as I can, even though I have a plan to retire at 60 and go live a quiet life. I


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