Jocelyn Chia’s Biggest Offence Is Being More Cringe Than Funny
Top Image: YouTube screengrab / Jocelyn Chia Comedy

The joke is now on Singapore-born comedian Jocelyn Chia. If there were any jokes to begin with. 

The comedian has come under fire for poking fun at Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished in the Indian Ocean with 227 passengers and 12 crew aboard in 2014. Reproducing her particular joke here would be in poor taste.

Jocelyn, a naturalised American citizen, thought she was paying homage to her Singaporean heritage by stoking the rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia. Instead, she was simply insulting Malaysians in the audience under the guise of comedy

Except for the fact that no comedy was found.  

The joke only roused uncomfortable laughter from audience members praying for an end to her spiel about a tragedy. TikTok has since removed the video of the offensive joke.  

Of course, fearless and edgy comedian Jocelyn, who describes her comedy as “impatient, brash, and fast-paced”, has kept surprisingly silent about the backlash. 

The performer is whisper-quiet on the apology front. Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has taken matters into his own hands, condemning and apologising for her statements.

It’s odd for a Foreign Minister of one country to apologise on behalf of the actions of a private citizen of another. And yet, Minister Balakrishnan’s apology made sense, given that Jocelyn implied Singaporeans would have loved the joke. 

“This joke kills in Singapore,” she says with a smirk. Perhaps the only thing that gets killed in Singapore is the vibe.  

You are forgiven for mistaking Jocelyn for a fledgling stand-up comedian learning how to toe the line between being funny and offensive. Unfortunately, Jocelyn’s website reports that Jocelyn was ranked as one of Singapore’s “best stand-up comedians”. 

When we clicked on the link to that particular listicle, we were redirected to another page. The article with the ranking could not be found. Do what you will with that information.

Curiosities were piqued when we found out that she was labelled a shining star in the local stand-up comedy scene; an impressive achievement for someone trying to make it as an American comic. Plus, it’s not easy being a regular at Comedy Cellar in Manhattan, a revered stage where Chris Rock, Jon Stewart and Aziz Ansari got their start. Let’s study her brand of comedy. 

Dominating Men in Bed 

Rating: 4/10 

A woman talking about her day as some kind of torture is an overused trope. If you see the punchline coming from miles away, is it really a punchline?

Why Liberals Can’t Fight 

Rating: 1/10 

The joke is that she’d prefer people who were present at the January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol to fight wars for the country, picking on the political divide between liberals and conservatives. As far as political satire goes, it’s alright at best.

The joke gets overshadowed by five unbearable seconds of shouting “MURICA” into the mic. I was more concerned that she had a lot of phlegm that night.  

Yes, a Joke About Abortion

Rating: 1/10 

She should really have aborted this joke. 

Audience Member Comes Too Soon

Rating: 6/10  

This probably didn’t happen to her. Nevertheless, we’ll give credit where it’s due. The set-up and payoff about her mother-in-law criticising her fellation abilities was the funniest joke we’ve seen from her so far. Still, more misses than hits. 

‘I want a Bad Asian Boy

Rating: 4/10 

I chuckled in the first half of the video, even though my judgement had already been clouded by what I knew about her. When she inhibited the spirit animal of, what I can only assume to be a thirsty spinster, the character came off forced and unnatural.  

Chuckles turned into cringe when she went far too long about her longing for “bad Asian boys”. 

I don’t know much about “bad Asian boys”, but I suppose they’re probably turned away by badly delivered jokes. No matter how much you put yourself out there.

On Malaysia 

Rating: 0/10 

Tirades about Malaysians and Malaysia by Singaporeans (and vice versa) are tired bits as it is. Comedy can generally be offensive, but she seemed like she was projecting deep-seated, unresolved issues with Malaysia onto the audience, who must have committed so grave a sin in their past life that they found themselves in her audience as retribution.

In an interview with Her World that aged terribly, Jocelyn claims while interning as a journalist at companies like Straits Times and 8days, her first op-ed was about “How political correctness clamped down on free speech”. How apt.

People, and even Jocelyn herself, might ask why jokes about 9/11 seem more socially acceptable than ones about MH370. 

But it’s really about intent. Sascha Cohen, in an article for The Atlantic, writes that jokes about tragedies rarely make fun of the event. They’re more about how people respond to the tragedy. It’s a mechanism to wrestle a sense of normalcy from abnormal situations. 

Jocelyn, on the other hand, misses the point. By making fun of the event itself, she seizes a low-hanging fruit and punches down for the sake of punching down. Contrary to what Jocelyn might believe, being a comedian doesn’t give you the licence to disguise offensive statements as comedy. 

Comics want the freedom to say whatever they like as long as it’s funny. But when the laughs aren’t found, they’re just being cringe. 

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