Dan Riley:Stand-up comedy promoter Dan Riley is the Kingdom’s leading stand-up comedy promoter and a decent joke teller in his own right. With the local stand-up scene reaching new levels of maturity in Phnom Penh (never before has there been weekly comedy nights), he gave Will Jackson a rundown of the best of the regular local shows
The first Friday of the month is Verbal High, which is at Meta House and coming up to its 20th edition. It was originally set up by a guy called Scotty Muldoon and was taken over when he left by one of the regular performers, Sam Thomas. It’s a showcase, so performers have to request a spot from Sam or he chooses people from the pool. Now we’ve got guys coming over from Bangkok or Saigon, or whoever is travelling through, to do spots. It’s $3 a ticket, which raises money for EARS, an elephant charity. It’s a really nice show and a good space for it. They usually get around 50 to 100 people. As far as the character of the audience, Verbal High is relatively prudish and PC. They don’t like comedy that’s too dark or subversive necessarily. You can do those jokes but maybe you won’t get such a good response. It’s maybe more about the intellectual jokes. A little bit more high-brow.
Full Metal Comics
The week after Verbal High, on a Thursday, we have a show call Full Metal Comics, which was started by a guy called Carl, at Sundance on Street 172. The last show we did there was really nice, only three of us showed up and I wasn’t expecting much, but it was packed and we got two guys from the audience who jumped up as well – and they were great. That kind of bar, the vibe in there is more for the big drinkers and older guys – they like the racier and darker stuff. Some of our comics have gone down really well there with stuff they wouldn’t have been able to get away with at Verbal High for example.
The Comedy Club Cambodia
The third Friday of the month, there’s The Comedy Club Cambodia, which always has a headlining international professional comic. The club has been at a few different venues, but we’re currently settled at Show Box. For me, at the moment, Show Box is my favourite room. It ticks all the boxes. Fair enough, sometimes the aircon doesn’t work so well, so people get sweaty and uncomfortable, but I actually like that in a comedy room. You can’t get too comfortable or you might as well be watching Netflix in your underwear at home. We have plastic chairs, which are the best because if it’s too loungey then people won’t be laughing out loud. Another thing is that Showbox has a very low roof. You have all the sound reverberating back, so when you’re performing comedy, you get an instant reaction to your jokes. Next month we’ve got two Aussie pro comics coming out, Marty Lappan and Ro Campbell [left].
The show at Top Banana is the kind of show that we’ve been looking for for a while, because we all spend time writing jokes and we’d like to perform them more than once or twice. So we want to take our sets to a different audience and a backpacker audience is always going to be new and fresh. Top Banana is a popular guesthouse with a popular following and they usually have a good crowd that turns up. I think they’ve done four or five monthly shows there. The good thing about the Top Banana stand-up nights is that it’s not taking away from any of the other shows, it kind of works alongside them. It’s on the Tuesday between Verbal High and Full Metal Comics.
PP Punchliners is the city’s original open mic comedy night. I set it up three years ago and it’s now got a home every fourth Thursday of the month at Sundance Riverside. Anyone can turn up and perform, but everyone gets a maximum of five minutes – trying out ideas and new jokes, maybe refining some ideas or whatever. It’s a show for anyone who wants to do any type of material. A night like PP Punchliners is important for the stand-up scene for the guys who do comedy more regularly, because they don’t want to turn up to a showcase show with brand new stuff which might not work. It doesn’t mean it’s any less funny. Some nights are great and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the size of the crowds and the kind of people. They’re up for it – we have a good time. We start around 8:30pm and it’s free.