Fajar Ardiansyah is a fixture in the Bali comedy scene. Originally from Malang, East Java, Fajar relocated to Bali where he later established his family. As one of the pioneers in the English-speaking comedy in Bali, Fajar narrates a distinctive journey—transitioning from a conservative Javanese upbringing to embracing fatherhood in Bali. His exceptional talent lies in transforming ordinary experiences into humorous tales, regardless of whether they are joyful, sorrowful, or delve into darker themes.
Coconuts Bali sat with him earlier this week to talk about the upcoming debut of his solo show “Fajarhood” this Saturday at Bistro Anwa, which will also feature comedians Reggy Hasibuan and Guntur Pratama.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
What led you to begin your journey in comedy?
So basically in 2009 I watched this show of Rowan Atkinson titled Welcome to Hell. It was technically not stand up comedy, but a monologue. However, it opened my eyes to many other shows. It got my attention because Indonesia is so accustomed to slapstick comedy. I was in awe watching verbal comedy and [immediately] tried to find my local comedy community at that time to join and start performing.
I actually don’t consider this as a career. I’d rather think this is another way to do self-actualization. Nevertheless, I started pursuing this when I retired from English debating because I think making people laugh is more fun than making people argue with me. Though I can still get into arguments during comedy, but hey!.
What are the major distinctions between delivering comedy in Indonesian versus in English?
Mostly in terms of vocabulary and reference. There are actually not too many differences. I mean, when it is funny, it is going to relate to any language, as long as people understand what language it is. But of course the richness of language and common things can differentiate.
Have you ever experienced fatigue from performing?
Yeah, sometimes. Especially in times when you are not feeling it. There are always those times. And usually when I am very busy with work. But for no real reason, I always get back to do it again. Me and doing standup, it’s a toxic relationship. Always painful to do, but I always go back to get the satisfaction.
What’s the most significant compliment you’ve received, and who was it from?
Once I performed in front of my office CEO in 2014 and in front of, like, hundreds of other employees. I got one of the biggest laughs in my life, and I instantly was invited to perform in one of the biggest media events in Jogja, a month after that.
Which show stands out as your favorite among the ones you’ve watched?
You are all Diseased, by George Carlin.
Who has been your most influential figure in the realm of comedy?
I watched plenty of comedians and made them my favorite. George Carlin, Jeff Dunham, Louis CK. But recently I watched Mark Normand, Andrew Schultz, Anthony Jeselnik, Jimmy Carr. But I reckon my biggest influence is Mark Normand.
What are your favorite comedy TV shows?
Not so many Indonesian TV shows, but Extravaganza is an immortal name in my heart. Other than that, Whose Line is It Anyway? is also my favorite.
Who are some of the must-see comedians at present, both from Indonesia and internationally?
Indonesia: Abraham Tino, Iqbal Kutul, Ali Akbar, Marshel Widianto. Abroad: Mark Normand, Anthony Jeselnik.
Which comedians do you think will become notable in the future and are worth keeping an eye on?
I think Matt Rife, Russel Howard, and Daniel Sloss will be absolute monsters in my opinion, in the future.
Could you describe the most cringeworthy moment you’ve ever experienced while on stage performing?
I got a lot of cringe moments during stand up. But one of the worst was when I tried to imitate Nike logo using my thumb and index finger. That was… geez.
Who would you consider your most influential mentor up to this point?
Reggy Hasibuan. Period.
Which venues have been your favorite for performing comedy so far?
Main Hall of Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang, 2013, with an audience of 2,000. [I have] never performed abroad, but doing it in Singapore is one of the things I am really dreaming of.
Congratulations on your upcoming show this Saturday! Could you give us a glimpse of what we can anticipate during the event?
Moral adjustments, haha! I mean, I am telling stories about my life, my previous failed relationship, my family, and the most important thing is about dark things and tragedy that just happened to me. I think one of the highlights is when I talk about my son who passed away.
How can we enhance and elevate the comedy scene within our country?
Having more venues, more stages, with better marketing, different personas of comedians (females, especially), and, of course, less persecution.
*All photos by Franz Mars.