just jokes Is No Joke With Their Weekly Sold-Out Shows
Published on 19/01/2024
While joking around with friends and family may seem effortless, imagine the challenge of delivering laughs to a weekly audience of strangers. As the local stand-up comedy scene grapples with the quest for identity and acceptance within the community, just jokes consistently achieves sold-out shows every week. We share your curiosity about the magic trick behind this achievement, so we spoke to Mahyar, the founder and one of the comedians of just jokes, and here is how it went down.
ALL ABOUT just jokes:
1. How did the idea of just jokes come about, and what inspired you to start a comedy show in Malaysia?
The idea for the shows came about when I was performing and felt the need to improve, as that's the only way a comedian gets better at their craft. I felt like I wasn't getting opportunities to grow, so, therefore, I decided to, instead of waiting for the opportunities, start creating them myself and help the scene grow. just jokes is for the community at the end of the day – the shows are nothing without the performers and the audience. Having another show in town enables us to enhance our craft and continue putting on great shows in Malaysia and potentially worldwide! I also have experience working in hospitality and even in a comedy club, so I was very eager to add my own personal touches to the shows! just jokes also gives the local and even visiting comedians an opportunity to display their craft for a very diverse audience!
When we first started doing pop-up shows, we realized a lot of the brands and venues we collaborate with do not have a “stand-up comedy” set up so we had to purchase chairs, stage and even additional fans to keep our audiences comfortable and happy! Even today, since a lot of our shows end up selling out and sometimes we as performers and staff don’t have a place to sit! We recently purchased our own FLAG! We have a flag for our comedy show! We do small quirky things like this - we really celebrate the little things in our journey!
2. Any inspiration or reference behind the quirky show names and fresh material for each show, considering the stand-up comedy scene here isn't big? (because we all love it!!)
We carefully curate each show! Whether it's a New Jokes Night featuring a mix of Netflix headliners, newbies, and rising stars, or a super Headliners' Night with the likes of Douglas Lim & Fakkah Fuzz, we name the shows to connect with as many people as possible. It's a unique opportunity to experience such a show! We often like to keep some surprise special guests a secret, so the audience is pleasantly surprised and genuinely awestruck when some big stars pop in for the shows. We name the shows in an interesting way to grab potential audience attention when they see our poster, whether it's online or in real life!
We’ve even had card-game based shows based on popular card game ‘Cards Against Humanity’ where the comedians have to improvise 5 minutes of jokes based on the prompt/card that the audience picked!
Material-wise, most of us are always writing, and at just jokes, we encourage our acts to try some new stuff at every show! Always give it your best! We've had many comics develop killer bits on the spot at the shows because of the immense pressure of the sold-out crowds we have. Personally for me, ever since starting just jokes my improvisation skills have gotten so much better as we have to keep it fresh for every show.
CREATIVE & IDEATION
1. In the world of comedy, timing is everything. How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and ensure that just jokes remains relevant in the ever-changing landscape of stand-up comedy?
Honestly, we navigate just jokes by playing it by ear and wholeheartedly embracing trial and error. Taking risks in our promotions and designs is our modus operandi, and yes, there have been times when we've ruffled a few feathers. One of our internal mottos encapsulates the spirit of just jokes we created it to try and fail, try and fail—because that's the very essence of stand-up comedy!
In our personal lives, a substantial part of our work revolves around social media and graphic design, immersing us deeply in the market. We constantly ponder the kind of experience we'd crave attending a comedy show, and that perspective guides us. For instance, we incorporate elements of music and theatre into our live show productions. We even went the extra mile by collaborating with the local art brand/artist Tragikomedi, crafting a unique show centered around the tragic lives of millennials and Gen-Zs!
We are also open to suggestions and feedback from everyone within the community - we are going to experiment with a bunch of new formats and headliners in the coming future so y’all have to stay tuned for those!
2. What do you think is the most important element each time you curate a show?
Internally, the paramount focus for all of us is to ensure the audience has a positive and unforgettable experience at our shows; that's the ultimate goal driving each performance. We thrive on creating moments that resonate, leaving the audience with a lasting sense of joy and satisfaction.
Externally, the show's setup holds significant importance. From the arrangement of seating and the play of lights to the integration of sound and the careful curation of comedians and lineup—it's about crafting an atmosphere where the vibes are just right! A well-thought-out show setup enhances the overall experience, fostering an environment where laughter and enjoyment flourish.
Moreover, we pay very close attention to the pacing and variety of the performances. It's crucial to strike a balance between different comedic styles, ensuring a diverse lineup that also caters to the varied tastes of our audience. We try to have a very fair representation during our shows as well! We believe that a well-crafted mix keeps the energy high and the laughter going which makes for an excellent night of a comedy experience!
3. Humor has its unique language. How do you identify and collaborate with comedians whose styles resonate with the Malaysian audience while also pushing the boundaries of conventional comedy?
We strongly encourage our comedians to authentically showcase their personalities without hesitation! When people invest their money to attend our shows, they deserve a performance that reflects the genuine essence of each comedian. We urge our hosts and performers to embrace risks within reasonable bounds, to create unique moments and laughter throughout the show. We're blessed enough to have people return to our shows - and we keep it fresh for them by having new jokes and cater certain performance elements unique to the venue and the night! For instance, we can use crowdwork techniques or quickly come up with jokes about the venue we are in.
In addition, we make a deliberate effort to collaborate with different artists as well! Our performances now feature musical comedies and even a Tiny Desk music segment, all of which are essential parts of our shows. These collaborations add an extra layer of creativity and entertainment, ensuring a diverse and engaging experience for our audience. We have received an abundance of feedback from our audience members, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The majority of individuals have expressed their satisfaction with the shows, and are extremely happy with the overall experience. It's wonderful to see such a positive response and we appreciate all the support and feedback we've received.
To keep up with the preferences of our audience, we pay close attention to their reactions and identify the performers that resonate with them the most. We take note of every piece of feedback we receive, which helps us improve our approach in the booking process for future shows. We are committed to being responsive to our audience's preferences, which ensures that each just jokes show is tailored to both the comedic tastes of our audience and the comedic styles of our performers.
BUSINESS STRUCTURE & MARKETING STRATEGIES
1. Marketing plays a crucial role in any business and it won't be any easier for stand-up comedy shows. How did you initially promote just jokes, and can you share any memorable marketing campaigns or strategies that stood out in attracting a diverse audience that you are using until today?
just jokes started growing from word of mouth. We shared it with our friends and family and DMed hundreds of people on instagram and facebook to invite them to watch our show. In addition we also started running social media ads to promote the shows on a weekly basis. We have even collaborated with a very famous tiktok content creator to create an ad for just jokes ! See here: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CxzRsTXJw3y/
We also regularly use familiar elements of design from our favourite childhood shows, musical albums and memories in our marketing material to expand our outreach and connection with our audience - as a lot of them are roughly in our age group. In our designs, relatability and clear information is very important - every poster has a distinct design that makes it memorable and also they include every information the interested audience would need to know.
For our shows - we make them as accessible to get to as possible - we make sure its very easy for people to purchase their tickets - whether its direct or through an online ticketing platform. I believe if someone is interested to get tickets they shouldn’t have to jump between hoops to get it. During the shows as well we promote our future shows and express to why they should come for the shows. Every show we do should be better and our best yet - that’s why we work so hard on a weekly basis to ensure the shows have a certain level of quality.
Social media marketing is very important in these times as well - creating content and promotional material that engages and communicates the message within a few seconds of viewership is very important! We have a clear and defined audience targeting through our social media ads - on instagram, facebook & tiktok.
2. Stand-up comedy has grown significantly in Malaysia. What do you think sets just jokes apart from other comedy shows, and how do you maintain a distinctive brand in a competitive industry?
We have cool posters for every show! Also We treat every show like it should be better than the last - the feelings, the experience and the vibes. I also tinker a lot with the venues we perform at - we play with the lights, seating, sound and music - we usually never accept things “as is” and are always looking ways to tweak it to maximize the comedy experience. We also communicate with our audience directly and very personably - when I share stories on instagram - I am talking to the person seeing the story - not addressing them as a crowd or “customer”.
Our brand is basically an extension of my personality - whether it is in replying to people on instagram or how we structure the shows with a warm up before the show starts. I think originality and trying new creative things is one of the things that sets just jokes apart from not just comedy shows but other live performance shows.
We keep our brand distinct and unique by trying new things and we compare ourselves to all arts-related events/show - whether its music, poetry, a concert or a festival - we are always looking into how to grow into bigger and a more well known brand - so i would say our brand originality and what we’re willing to try is what sets us apart from other shows.
3. How does just jokes adapt its business model to stay relevant in the ever-shifting landscape of audience preferences while upholding its commitment to providing a safe and enjoyable space for everyone?
We value accessibility and affordability - we want everyone to have equal access to the shows. We believe as long as we are easy reachable and put on great shows - our local audiences will come back and support us along the way. I remember the only reason I used to be able to watch comedy at a comedy club was because they had student pricing available - so this has left a certain importance in my head that we need to ensure everyone can afford to see the show and see such great stars and acts in action! I think by now our audience trusts us enough to show up for shows regardless on who is performing because they know it’s gonna be a great time!
4. just jokes has been changing its venue each time it has a show. Is there a specific reason behind or is it one of your strategies to attract more audience crowd? Do share with us where has been your most favourite venue so far!
For me personally, travelling and moving around is part of stand-up comedy - so we are replicating that in a way by moving between different places on a weekly basis. We bring our shows to different locations as their areas or neighbourhoods may have never had comedy shows before, or that they’ve never been to a show simply because it’s too far from their home and work. We want to bring comedy to the people to enjoy - also yes, my going to new areas and cities, we are growing our brand awareness and spreading the gospel of stand-up comedy!
My favourite venue so far in Selangor / Kuala Lumpur has been tattoo parlour Wayang Kulit Tatu in Subang Jaya & creative/photography studio Lingkar PJ in Petaling Jaya! Another favourite of mine would be a traditional malay house venue called Whateverworks Coffee!
In Penang, my favourite venue so far has been the Black Kettle at Georgetown!
We feel so much love and energy in these rooms that it’s impossible for us to not return to this places! The venues, owners and their staff are so cool with us!
5. Have you noticed any trends or changes in audience preferences over time and how do you sustain?
We listen to them and collect feedback. Our team personally talks to audience members after the shows to ask them how things were, what can improve or what the audience wants to see! We keep our ear to the group to really understand what our audience desires. With cloudjoi now - we have a easy way to collect our visitor’s feedbacks on the shows!
6. Balancing the art of stand-up comedy with the business side can be challenging. How do you strike a harmonious balance between providing a platform for artistic expression and ensuring the financial success of just jokes?
I think with every growing enterprise there’s lots of sacrifices to be made. I think everything boils down to time management, teamwork and communication. I am a performer too at the end of the day and I need to improve on my craft - this is where delegation and sharing of responsibilities is very important - all of our team members is capable of running the physical shows from the beginning to the end - and we all have chip in our fair share of time and effort into the marketing and promotions of the shows. I think once you have a good balance of all things in your life - personal, professional and creative, you can really get a lot of cool things done!