Q&A: Comedian Brian Aylward on Doing Standup Comedy in Asia

Brian Aylward knows stand up in Asia. From the seven years he cut his teeth in Korea as the founder of Stand Up Seoul, to the launching this month of Mad About Comedy Bangkok, to the hundreds of shows he’s performed across Asia since 2005, he’s seen the good the bad and whatever comedic rejoinder you would like to insert here that’s to your liking.

This week Aylward returns to South Korea with the Rice Kimchi Laugh Comedy Tour which will see him performing along with international and locally-based comedians in seven cities across the peninsula over a 10-day run.

Branding in Asia recently caught up with Brian Aylward in Bangkok to talk about stand up in Asia, what keeps him coming back and the pros and cons of being a professional stand up comic.


What’s been keeping you busy lately?

I was on tour in Canada for the month of March. I’m writing a book. Recently, I binge watched a Marco Polo marathon on Netflix. There is my constant battle with health and exercise. I’m always tired and hungry.

In May, Mad About Comedy Bangkok launches as well and I’m running that. Mad About Comedy Bangkok is part of the international Mad About Comedy network and presents only the world’s best stand-up comedians.

The comedy circuit throughout Asia now is amazing. In the past 5 months, I have toured 12 countries.

Each month we will host the world’s best stand up comedians in Bangkok at The Drunken Leprechaun Irish Pub. These comics will tour all over the world under the Mad About Comedy network. First show is May 9th, with comedy legend Phil Nichol. Exciting stuff.


You got your start in comedy living in Seoul, far away from home. How did that affect your development as an artist?

Interesting question. I think because I cut my comedy teeth in Korea, without the influence of a comedy industry, I was able to experiment more and find my original voice. Ultimately, it gave me an outsider perspective. I’m like a big, fat fly on the wall that nobody really minds having around.

You eventually went back to Canada and racked up some impressive accolades. Why are you back in Asia?

Thanks. I missed Asia. That’s really it. I come from a small city in Canada, where you can’t get a decent sandwich after 9pm. I live in Bangkok now, with is nicknamed “the city of angels.” A few weeks ago, I was at a bar and watched a women peel a banana with her dick. I don’t know if she was an angel but she was trying her best.

Crowds can be tight in Singapore sometimes. There are too many ridiculous laws in Singapore and people taking themselves too seriously.

Besides the sandwiches and bananas, Bangkok is actually a great central hub to be based out of. The comedy circuit throughout Asia now is amazing. In the past 5 months, I have toured 12 countries.

My girlfriend Hollie works in Bangkok at an international school. We wake up with smiles on our faces everyday. We live in Thailand! The comedy industry is basically a facade, so I want balance with my comedy and life, and in Asia is where I want to be right now.

Having done stand up in several countries in Asia, which ones have been the most receptive and which not so much?

People want to laugh, regardless of geography. Having lived in Korea for seven years, I obviously have a special connection to the comedy scene there. I recently played Hanoi, Vietnam, and I loved it. Crowds can be tight in Singapore sometimes. There are too many ridiculous laws in Singapore and people taking themselves too seriously.

Method-wise, is there are process you go through on stage to get a feel for the audience before you go in a particular direction with your material?

I’ve done over 2000 shows in 11 years, in almost 20 countries. My instincts are pretty good now. I usually know a crowd as soon as I walk in the venue. If I think they might be a little tight, I do a joke off the top that may be considered edgy to gauge their sensibilities. Go from there.

Has there been a time on stage when you’ve said to yourself, “Shit, maybe I shouldn’t have gone with that.”

All the time.

Yet, commitment is a big part of stand up. You have to commit to what you’re doing on stage. There’s 23 more hours throughout the rest of the day that you can beat yourself up about it.

Your audience is comprised mostly of expats. Is the presence of the local community in the audience increasing?

Depends on where I play. In Korea, it’s mostly expats for sure. In places like Malaysia, India, Singapore and China the audiences are mostly native, as English is widely spoken.

Who are some comedians you like in Asia that we should keep our eyes out for?

Jinx Yeo. Muhammad Fadzri. Papa CJ. GB Labrador. Harith Iskander.

What are the Pros and Cons of being a standup comedian in Asia?

Pros: Making people laugh for a living, regardless of where it is. Better food after gigs. The unlimited potential of the scene throughout the continent. Being a part of helping develop the relatively new scene here in Bangkok. And I live in Thailand!

Cons: Travel. Loneliness. Shameless self-promotion. Greasy comedy bookers, agents and comedy club owners. I miss my family, of course, and a lot of a comedian friends from home.

The Rice Kimchi Laugh Comedy Tour kicks off in South Korea on May 18. You can get more on that here. For more about where you can see Brian in other countries around Asia visit his site: www.brianaylwardcomedy.com

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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