Jack Neo, Mark Lee in search for successors

The ‘Comedy Night’ duo voice their concerns for the lack of Chinese comedians in Singapore’s entertainment scene

Jack Neo prays for a “comedian successor”
Jack Neo prays for a “comedian successor”
15 Nov 2016

Jack Neo prays for a “comedian successor”

Photos: Melinda Woo
Video: Yixuan Tay

Fans of hit 90s TV show Comedy Night are in for a treat. Apart from watching re-runs of the old series on Toggle, you can now catch the original cast and characters coming back in a brand new Channel 8 informational variety show called Happy Can Already! that is meant for the elderly, presented entirely in a variety of dialect, including Teochew, Hokkien and Cantonese.

At the media preview-cum-lim kopi session of the upcoming programme, local director Jack Neo, who will be reprising his role as the beloved Liang Xi Mei, lamented about the lack of a successor, when asked to pick potential Mandarin-speaking comedians who are able to “take over” from him and longtime partner Mark Lee.

Letting out a big sigh, the actor-turned-director mused, “Actually, I have always been worried about this problem, when I think of this I really get a headache!” and conveniently mentioned Liang Ximei’s trademark line – ‘Shang Nao Jing ah’ in his reply.

“I think we do have a lack of variety show comedians, but we still have Aunty Lucy (played by Dennis Chew) and Mr Unbelievable (played by Chen Tianwen)! I won’t let them slip away!” he chuckled.

(Continued on the next page: Who are the new members of the Comedy Night cast?)

Jack Neo appears in Liang Xi Mei getup
Jack Neo appears in Liang Xi Mei getup
15 Nov 2016

Jack Neo appears in Liang Xi Mei getup

In fact, he intends to let these two characters make cameo appearances on their new programme too and will be roping in actors Benjamin Tan, who acted in this year’s Chinese New Year flick Long Long Time Ago and Jaspers Lai from Ah Boys to Men 2. The 56-year-old father of three also admitted that he had difficulties looking for younger actors that are fluent in dialect to act as Liang Xi Mei’s younger son, Albert and Lion King’s (previously played by Henry Thia) son, Merlion King.

Fortunately for Jack, he has his Ah Boys to rely on. Having personally groomed them from their first movie, Jack shared that he is not ruling out the possibility of having them on his variety show in future. In fact, he said that many younger audiences look up to them and it is a form of good exposure for them to try different kinds of performances, including comedy.

However, Jack maintains at the end of the interview that he is still on the lookout for a successor. “[I’m] praying for a new comedic actor to ‘drop’ from the sky, because [I] really can’t find one,” he laughed.

Click through for more interviews with the cast of Happy Can Already!

Mark Lee sings praises of Jeremy Chan
Mark Lee sings praises of Jeremy Chan
15 Nov 2016

Mark Lee sings praises of Jeremy Chan

Before he gained mainstream success, Mark roughed it out acting as Xi Mei’s older son, Robert in the old Comedy Night. “It was so difficult then because the scenes kept changing, and they were never guaranteed to run as rehearsed. We never ever knew the exact way the show was going to be even before we went on stage,” he lamented. Despite his experiences in Comedy Night, the actor is still very excited to be speaking in Hokkien, a dialect he is most familiar with, on television for the very first time.

The 48 year-old, who is currently filming 2017 comedy flick The Fortune Handbook, admitted that although he feels “as energetic as a teenager”, he does not wish to still be one of the few comedy entertainers in the industry when he turns 60s.

Instead, he is banking his hopes on Jeremy Chan, who will be next seen in 118 Season 2, and even named the latter as a suitable candidate as his successor.

During the interview, Mark heaped praises on Jeremy for his performance on Toggle Originals web series, I Want To Be A Star, and said, “I feel that he is familiar with the tempo for comedic effects in a variety show. He just needs a little fine tuning on his performance technique”. 

Next slide: Is Wang Lei thinking of retiring?

Wang Lei reaps success of Eat Already? role
Wang Lei reaps success of Eat Already? role
15 Nov 2016

Wang Lei reaps success of Eat Already? role

Getai veteran Wang Lei will be playing various roles in Happy Can Already!, but he will mainly appear as Xi Mei’s father, Ah Gong. Although he has been in the entertainment industry for the past 17 years and has acted in numerous Jack Neo productions, he is still getting accustomed to his newfound fame for his role as Bird King in Channel 8 dialect drama, Eat Already?

“I have been working so long, but just a single role, Bird King, made me popular!” he marveled. “The elderly now know me as Bird King, and they always ask me [if I’ve] eaten already. It is really a record-breaking feat for me.”

The 55 year-old aims to break his personal record and joked that he wants everyone to call him “Ah Gong” once Happy Can Already! airs on December 2.

When asked about his possible retirement plans since it would be one of the topics that the variety show will be touching on, he joked, “Not anytime soon, I will carry on acting until no one is watching me, why would I quit such a lucrative job?”

Happy Can Already!
Happy Can Already!
15 Nov 2016

Happy Can Already!

The 10-episode dialect variety series will be produced by Mediacorp and J Team, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Information. Each 10-minute episode will reinforce relevant health messages and support schemes for senior citizens.



Wang Lei, Jack Neo and Mark Lee dressed as their characters
Wang Lei, Jack Neo and Mark Lee dressed as their characters
15 Nov 2016

Wang Lei, Jack Neo and Mark Lee dressed as their characters


Wang Lei, Toh Xin Hui, Mark Lee, Jack Neo singing theme song for Happy Can Already!
Wang Lei, Toh Xin Hui, Mark Lee, Jack Neo singing theme song for Happy Can Already!
15 Nov 2016

Wang Lei, Toh Xin Hui, Mark Lee, Jack Neo singing theme song for Happy Can Already!

Child actor Toh Xin Hui, who is dressed in pink, will be acting as Mark Lee's on-screen daughter, Xin Hui.

Benjamin Tan as Liang Xi Mei’s younger son, a university undergraduate, Albert.
Benjamin Tan as Liang Xi Mei’s younger son, a university undergraduate, Albert.
15 Nov 2016

Benjamin Tan as Liang Xi Mei’s younger son, a university undergraduate, Albert.


Jaspers Lai as Lion King’s son, Merlion King.
Jaspers Lai as Lion King’s son, Merlion King.
15 Nov 2016

Jaspers Lai as Lion King’s son, Merlion King.


Getai star, Hao Hao singing hokkien tune, Hang Jeng Ho.
Getai star, Hao Hao singing hokkien tune, Hang Jeng Ho.
15 Nov 2016

Getai star, Hao Hao singing hokkien tune, Hang Jeng Ho.


Happy Can Already! premieres December 2, 12 pm on Channel 8.

WATCH: Liang Xi Mei is back!!!

Related:
Jack Neo and Mark Lee reunite for new film Long Long Time Ago
Director Royston Tan rates Elvin Ng’s Hokkien 0/10


Report a problem