Kangkung now hot topic in comedy and satirical humour


by Elizabeth Zachariah
The Malaysian Insider
January 18, 2014

When Datuk Seri Najib Razak suggested people should appreciate that kangkung prices had fallen and praise the government for it, the poor man’s greens usually associated with belacan (shrimp paste) became an overnight sensation to deride the prime minister and his subsidy cuts programme.

In the past two weeks, the water spinach has appeared in newspaper headlines, in conversations at dinner tables, in jokes good and bad, and has gone viral in social media.

An example is the latest edition of That Effing Show, hosted and produced by Ezra Zaid. Its latest episode, “That Effing Show #99 – Let Them Eat Kangkung”, was uploaded on Thursday and has since garnered more than 21,000 views.

The six-and-a-half-minute clip took a dig at Najib’s comments as well as Malay rights group Perkasa, the MCA and MIC by featuring “representatives” from fictional organisations Persatuan KangKung Satu Malaysia (Perkasa), Malaysian Choi-sum Association (MCA), Machas Institute of Cucumber (MIC) discussing the “kangkung” remark.

“The prime minister’s sudden and unexpected announcement regarding the value of kangkung has caused all kinds of chaos across the country. Panic selling has resulted in plummeting prices and soaring tempers,” says a brief about the video, alluding to the fiery political climate in the country just eight months after the General Election 2013.

Ezra told The Malaysian Insider that comedy and satire attempt to tap into the public consciousness.

“People can find solace in comedy for a lot of things that they cannot understand,” he said in Kuala Lumpur.

The arena of comedy and satire is a wide spectrum, he added, through which to “discuss what is difficult” under normal circumstances.

“It’s more flexible than a politician’s world. When audiences relate to a content, it helps them deal with the issue at hand,” said Ezra, who belongs to the PopTeeVee collective that produced the parody show.

Actress and artistic director of The Instant Cafe Theatre Company Jo Kukathas said comedy and satire change the way audiences think and their attitudes towards politicians.

“The art does not move politicians directly but rather, it first changes the audiences who are the people who vote,” she told The Malaysian Insider.

“The audience get to see what we do and they definitely get affected.”

Most Malaysians have a feudal attitude, she said, and they find it rude or unacceptable to laugh at leaders.

“But when we make fun of those up there, we make people laugh. And when they do, the people feel more powerful.

“Only then do politicians notice the shift in attitudes of their constituents, that the people see them in a different way,” she added.

Describing it as “breaking free of bondage”, Penang Institute political analyst Wong Chin Huat concurred, noting that comedy and satire helped to “democratise society”.

“The impact is on the ordinary people. We tend to fear authority in this feudal society.

“Anger does not help to overcome fear but laughter does,” he added.

Fear is gone, Wong said, when the people start laughing at those in power and as a result, the people become more powerful.

“It is impossible to fear someone that you laugh at. But when politicians say something stupid and we laugh at them, we become emboldened,” he said.

Ezra added that art forms, such as comedy and satire, play a role in forming the people’s opinions.

“It is very important to note that this kind of discourse is actually taking place. People are now able to express themselves,” he said.

However, poking fun at the leaders and the country comes at a price.

There are those who strongly oppose this type of humour, including Perkasa which had lodged a police report in October last year over an episode of The Effing Show, which the Malay rights group claimed mocked the Appeals Court decision to bar the Catholic Church from using the word Allah in their publication.

They had said that the clip – “The Effing Show #95: Allah, Apa Lagi?” did not respect the sensitivities of Muslims in the country.

In response, Ezra said that the government’s ability to handle a joke is a “litmus test” of how strong it is.

“If the government cannot handle a joke, then it shows that it is weak. Any government which tells you that you cannot do this or that, then something is wrong.

“The more you curb, the more harm you bring,” he added.

Kukathas said: “Politicians live in a cocoon. Even with the BBC report on the kangkung… they didn’t like it.”

She was referring to Thursday’s temporary inaccessibility of a BBC article on Malaysians making fun of Najib over his “kangkung” remark.

“Politicians know the power of humour and satire. When humour is aroused, that’s when the politicians have less power over the people,” she said.

On Wednesday, PKR Machang Bubuk assemblyman Lee Khai Loon led a group of some 15 people in Alma, Bukit Mertajam, mainland Penang, in a flashmob, with an effigy of Najib and posters criticising his kangkung remark.

They also stuffed kangkung into the effigy’s mouth while singing a modified version of the popular children’s song “Lenggang-lenggang Kangkung”.

Umno politicians – who had previously remained silent over the kangkung remark – jumped at Lee’s actions, accusing him of ridiculing “the nation’s leader”.

“Do you realise that you are ridiculing the leader of this nation? This means you are ridiculing yourself,” Umno’s Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed had said.

Umno blogger Dr Novandri Hassan Basri took on a more extreme stance, choosing to lambast the Chinese members of the opposition.

“Pakatan Chinese are becoming more extreme and insolent. They openly insulted the prime minister by stuffing kangkung into the mouth of a replica of Najib,” he was quoted as saying.

Najib broke his silence last night, saying that he had only used kangkung as an example.

“I like to eat kangkung, you all like to eat kangkung. As such, I gave an example which everybody eats. If I use quail as an example, only certain people eat it.

“The example should not be ridiculed by anybody because I gave the example on the principle of supply and demand which decides the prices of some of the food commodities not subject to price controls,” he had said. – January 18, 2014.

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  1. #1 by boh-liao on Saturday, 18 January 2014 - 7:44 am

    Definitely we must honor kangkung n hv a National KANGKUNG DAY (just like a National Lampoon’s Day)
    We hv kangkung profesor, now kangkung peeM
    O yeah, kangkung n longkang r great partners

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 18 January 2014 - 8:33 am

    The really bad news is that it does not seem Najib nor UMNO/BN has learn their lesson well enough. This material could be exploited much further by the opposition. Come GE-14, it will resurface in ceramahs and speeches.. There is unlimited permutation 1Kangkung Malaysia. Jangan Biar UMNO terus Kangkong Malaysia, Pemimpin-Peminpin Kangkong UMNO.. UMNO kangkongkan issue Kalimah Allah.. Its virtually unlimited..

  3. #3 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 18 January 2014 - 9:42 am

    ” … comedy and satire helped to “democratise society” …. ‘

    We already have the ‘best democracy in the world’ (according to the Kangkong King) so we don’t need any comedy or satire here is 1Malaysia.

    Besides, UMNO people and their gang of supporters like Harussanni, Ibrahim Ali, Hassan Ali and others have no funny bone so they can’t appreciate what ‘funny’ is. They only have fish bones stuck in their throats so they go ‘Grrr, Grr, Grrr’ all the time. Maybe eating some kangkong might help solve their ailments.

  4. #4 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 18 January 2014 - 9:44 am

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    ” … comedy and satire helped to “democratise society” …. ‘

    We already have the ‘best democracy in the world’ (according to the Kangkong King) so we don’t need any comedy or satire here is 1Malaysia.

    Besides, UMNO people and their gang of supporters like Harussanni, Ibrahim Ali, Has$an Ali and others have no funny bone so they can’t appreciate what ‘funny’ is. They only have fish bones stuck in their throats so they go ‘Grrr, Grr, Grrr’ all the time. Maybe eating some kangkong might help solve their ailments. It is also good for their constipation.

  5. #5 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Saturday, 18 January 2014 - 10:18 am

    SPM
    Biology Paper
    Q.1 U makan kangkung sekarang. 8 jam kemudian apa akan keluar dari … ah-hemmm u?

    (a) kangkung
    (b) wang
    (c) najis
    (d) air
    (e) all of the above.

    • #6 by cemerlang on Saturday, 18 January 2014 - 8:06 pm

      melancong lagi…question like this so not murni…anyway shares for kangkung has gone up …good news for the stock exchange and lots of money for Malaysia…gives you an idea too what to have for your next meal…good for Visit Malaysia year too…don’t forget to introduce all the humble Malaysian dishes…as for this question…whatever you eat, it will come out…input output…input different but output all the same

  6. #7 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Saturday, 18 January 2014 - 12:38 pm

    Hoi cintagenegara what about your rambutans?

    Price got drop ah?

    Got or not?

    Jib got drop your rambutan?

    Celaka punya budak.

    Dont want to answer.

    • #8 by cemerlang on Monday, 20 January 2014 - 2:56 pm

      The price of meat, veg, fruits; whatever we eat is determined by the producer but you have to think about the middlemen, the minyak, the transportation, the packaging; all that goes with it until the final product is what you buy. The workers, the electricity, the water, the advertisement, the list just goes on. To pick on the greatly blessed kangkung is like forgetting all the other factors.

  7. #9 by Di Shi Jiu on Saturday, 18 January 2014 - 3:01 pm

    “…Persatuan KangKung Satu Malaysia (Perkasa), Malaysian Choi-sum Association (MCA), Machas Institute of Cucumber (MIC)…”

    ROFLMAO!!! :))))

    Bloody hell!!! Ezra Zaid deserves a medal for his creativity!!

    I would never have thought of those names in a million gazillion years :)

  8. #10 by good coolie on Sunday, 19 January 2014 - 12:44 pm

    Remember poor (figuratively) Samy Velu? Everyone was laughing at his bloops (hisap dada etc). That was okay because Indian fellows were being laughed at. Its okay to laugh at the Chinese fellow for the porno-acts with hisr “close friend”. I tell the Malay extremists, come and share the shit with us! Everyone gets a turn. What goes round must come round.
    We respect the PM. We know how difficult it is to run a country like Malaysia. When it comes to the crunch, it is kangkung-baiters like us that the country will have to rely on.
    Up the kangkung!

  9. #11 by boh-liao on Monday, 20 January 2014 - 8:52 am

    Next hot-seller movie 2 b produced by a step-son: “The KANGKUNG of Putrajaya”
    Audition is on, looking 4 some1 with pink lips 2 b d main actor

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