Taiwan Fun Magazine, August 2005

Comics Are Standing Up in Taipei

--By Craig Schofield Translated by lrene Chiang

Fresh. New. Unique. Words used over and over again to describe the latest restaurant, club, pub, shop and anything else that someone is trying to convince you to visit. But how many of them really deliver on that promise? Well, here in Taipei, you have the opportunity to witness something truly worthy of those words. Something that, although in English, is accessible to ex-pat and locals alike. Whether you are dying for some entertainment in your native language or want to find out if those expensive English lessons you've been taking are paying off, this is something not to be missed. It's the birth of comedy in Taiwan and you're all invited to join in and laugh along.

I've scored personal invitations to the two biggest comic events to hit these shores since the attempt to spell Taipei road signs in English. I, your faithful chronicler, am going to take you deep into the heart of mirth in Taipei and give you an up-close look at the rather pale, white underbelly of this budding scene.
Two of the finest (and, by finest, I mean only) expat stand-up comics are hosting their own shows within a week of each other, and did I mention that I have been invited personally? Well, that's not such a distinction as it was, frankly speaking, one of the only ways to actually find out that these shows were happening. Scour the weekend papers as you might and you will find no section dedicated to the week's upcoming comedic events. But that is what these two brave comic pioneers are trying to change.

The genius Chris Garvin and the inimitable Hartley Pool have both been plying their underappreciated craft in Taipei for some time now. I have witnessed the highs, the lows and the frankly incomprehensible in the time that I have followed these two comics. Playing to noisy crowds that didn't hear a word spoken and empty houses that also, presumably, failed to hear a sound, they have both impressed me with their quick wit, dedication to the craft and ability to be ignored completely.
There is no support mechanism in place for these performers. No agents to arrange gigs and fees; not even any bars or clubs to really pay them. They thrive or falter based solely on the audiences reaction to them and the willingness of establishments to provide them with the necessary time and space to pursue their art. To this end, Chris Garvin has engaged the services of two musical acts to help sustain his first big Taiwan show.

With the success of their shows, both performers will be sure to want to give it another go on stage soon. Hartley is already talking about another show in October. Hartley also hosts "Spotlight" at The Living Room on alternate Thursdays. Visit his excellent website at hartleypool.com for details on other upcoming events.
That is where my comic heroes and you, my esteemed and loyal readers (speaking candidly, if you've made it this far, you've got my mother beat), come in to play. Get out and support these genuinely funny individuals, or stand up yourself and find out if you have what it takes to make it on stage. Stop amusing yourself and your mates and let the rest of us in on the joke. We may laugh at you instead of with you, but at least we'll be laughing.

Interview with Hartley Pool

TF: How did you get your start in comedy?
HP: I was a member of a writers group in Budapest, Hungary and was invited to read my poetry, which I thought was a bad idea, so I played it for laughs with a poem called "clearing" which consisted of me clearing my throat. Somehow it worked.
I then sent a tape into the BBC and was entered in their yearly talent contest.
TF: How long have you been doing stand-up?
HP: About three years.
TF: Where have you performed?
HP: Budapest, Singapore, all over the UK and now Taipei. Some very high profile gigs in there, too, so you know.
TF: What was your biggest success?
HP: Almost getting my own sitcom on Channel 4 in the UK.
TF: And your biggest failure?
HP: Almost getting my own sitcom on Channel 4 in the UK!
TF: Any comedic goals?
HP: Two sitcoms on Channel 4.
TF: Finally (actually many days later, as I forgot to ask him at the time of the original interview), who is your comic idol?
HP: Steve Coogan (British television and radio comedian most famous for creating Alan Partridge).
TF: Thank you very much.