It’s a common sight to witness Malaysians and Singaporeans engaging in playful banter, which, in a twisted way, has actually strengthened our bond.
Malaysians might take a dig at the subpar quality of food in Singapore, while in response, Singapore might playfully lament our ill-fated separation from them. But where exactly should we draw the line?
Jocelyn Chia, a stand-up comedian hailing from the lion city of Singapore, recently found herself in hot soup with Malaysians due to a video she shared on social media, showcasing her performance at New York’s Comedy Cellar.
What initially started as a blunt joke seemed to have taken a personal turn. In the first few minutes of the clip, Chia jests about Malaysia being the one to leave Singapore, yet it is now the struggling party.
“My country is Singapore. After we gained independence from the British. We were a struggling little nation. In order to survive, we formed a union, with a larger, more powerful country, Malaysia.”
“When my Prime Minister went on TV to announce you guys had dumped us, he cried because he thought we were not going to survive without you. But then, 40 years later, we became a first-world country.”
“And you guys? Malaysia, what are you now? Still a developing country…”
Here’s where the controversy stirred. In the subsequent parts of her act, Chia jokes about Malaysia being the clingy ex attempting to rekindle ties with Singapore.
Chia mockingly says, “Why haven’t you (Malaysia) paid me a visit in forty years?” and then impersonates Malaysia, replying, “I tried but you know our airplanes can’t fly,” making a sly reference to the MH370 incident that occurred nine years ago.
Her remarks earned her disapproving glances from the audience, to which she cheekily responded, “What? Malaysian airlines going missing is not funny huh? Some jokes don’t land. This joke kills in Singapore.”
For context, MH370 was an international passenger flight operated by Malaysia Airlines that vanished on 8th March 2014 while en route from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to its intended destination in China.
The ill-fated flight carried 239 passengers, all of whom remain missing to this day.
Chia’s jokes about MH370 faced backlash from Malaysians, who deemed her remarks distasteful as the families of the victims are still grieving over the tragedy.
Online users wasted no time in throwing shade back at her in the comment sections of her Instagram and TikTok accounts. Nonetheless, Chia has taken the precaution of limiting comments on her Instagram following the recent wave of criticism.
On TikTok, users called her humor “lame” and tagged Uncle Roger, a famous comedian from Malaysia, to return the favor.
In the realm of humor and playful jabs, lines can blur and sensitivities can be tested. Jocelyn Chia’s comedic act sparked a firestorm of controversy, highlighting the delicate balance between laughter and empathy.
While Malaysians and Singaporeans have long engaged in good-natured ribbing, it’s essential to recognize the limits and be mindful of the pain others may carry.