Legendary comedian and actor King Kaung (Myo Myint) passed away suddenly this morning in central Myanmar, multiple outlets are reporting. He was 55.
For readers unfamiliar with King Kaung, he became famous as part of a popular comedy troupe that performed anyeint thabin, a blend of song-and-dance routines by female dancers and comedy heavy on slapstick and wordplay.
Anyeint, or performance, is essentially a street performance for the masses. Historically, these performances were free of charge, but as performance art faded away under new restrictions in post-1988 Myanmar, audiences were charged admission fees to preserve the art form.
In a 2017 interview with Myanmar Celebrity, King Kaung spoke about his early start in comedy and his passion for working in entertainment and the arts.
“After I finished high school, I began studying Burmese at Yangon University. In my second year, in 1983, our school was organizing an anyeint and I joined it with my friends to be slapstick comedians. That was my first day as a comedian until the present day,” he said.
Myanmar’s comedy scene is dominated by these performances, which can act as both platforms to speak truth to power as well as spaces to perform traditional songs and dances in Pali, the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism.
While censorship became rampant under the 1988 military regime, comedians found alternative ways to poke fun at the establishment, gaining massive followings in Myanmar and also among the Burmese diaspora through VCD recordings and international performances.
Kin Kaung, and other members of Moe Nat Thuzaw Anyeint troupe, including A Yaing, Phoe Phyu and Nga Pyaw Kyaw, were ubiquitous in the 1990s and 2000s, appearing in billboards, music videos, movies, magazines and advertisements.
Popular Burmese comedian, film actor, director and political dissident Zarganar paid tribute to his friend on social media today, reminiscing about their friendship and affectionately calling him by his nickname “A Shay Gyi” — the tall one — and saying he looked forward to seeing him again in the next life.