After covering the comedy scene in Bangkok for the past five years or so, I found myself at a bit of a loss after the last comedy club gig in March, before the Covid lockdown hit – as did many of the foreign and Thai community, who have become regulars at one or more of the comedy clubs in Bangkok.
Apart from the increasingly talented local performers that hail from many different places around the world, yet live in Thailand’s capital city, some of the clubs, and Stand Up Asia, have brought over an eclectic mix of the world’s top comedy performers to get up on stage in Bangkok over the past few years, usually in some of Bangkok’s larger venues. Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr, Jim Gaffigan, Greg Fleet, Martin Mor, Ardal O’Hanlon, Doug Stanhope, and Eddie Izzard immediately spring to mind,
But we have our very own international comedy star living right amongst us. Brian Aylward has chosen to make Bangkok his home.
Brian hails from Newfoundland, Canada, although he has long been a stalwart of the comedy scene in Asia. Brian has been a professional comedian now for 15 years, first treading the boards on a stage in South Korea.
After a bet from a fellow pub regular Brian Aylward stepped on stage for the first time at a rowdy expat bar in Anyang, South Korea. He went on to pioneer the English stand-up comedy scene in South Korea, officially establishing Stand Up Seoul in 2009, and turning the country into a legitimate destination on the international comedy circuit.
Over the past 15 years, Brian has performed more than 3,000 shows in 28 countries. In 2018 and 2019, Brian headlined ‘Best Kind Comedy Tour’, playing to sold-out theatre shows across Canada. In February 2017, Aylward’s solo show ‘Big in Asia’ was nominated for Best Comedy at Fringe World in Perth, Australia.
Brian, who had first visited Thailand in 2006, decided on a trip to Thailand in December 2015, together with his wife Hollie, who teaches at an international school. They had come for a Christmas vacation and by the end of the holiday they had both decided to make Thailand their home.
As someone with family in Newfoundland myself, I am well aware how much Newfoundlanders love where they come from. I asked Brian about this. ‘I’m a proud Newfoundlander, absolutely, but I love Thailand. The weather, the people, the food, the freedom. It's hard to beat. Now, Thailand is our second home for sure, we love it here’, he said.
‘I'm sort of a big brother to the BKK scene, I guess you could say. I'm the only English-speaking professional comedian who lives in Bangkok. I like mentoring young comics, especially to those who really show interest in the craft. Like I said at the release party for Big in Asia at Live Lounge, half the battle with stand-up is not quitting, and dealing with failure. Frankly, it can be a brutal business,
I've been in Bangkok for five years now and I have seen a huge growth in the local scene. There are several aspiring pro comics in Bangkok. Who knows who will come out of the pack? They have only been doing it for a few years. Chris Raufheisen, Christy
Brian is a professional comedian, and needs to bring the bucks back home, so he spends approximately six months of the year travelling the globe. The year 2020 has been – and still is -- proving difficult for us all (the new abnormal) and travels for us all have been put on hold. However, after the recent discovery of three vaccines for Covid that look as though they will be rolled out soon, he looks forward with hope, and is eager to get jabbed and get back out on the road.
But in the meantime, all is not lost. You can get to experience a comedy fix from Brian, right in your own home. Towards the end of last year he received one of the most exciting pieces of news since his comedy career began 15 years ago: his comedy special, and his first solo show, ‘Big in Asia’ has been picked up by a major American distributor.
Big in Asia was nominated for the Best Comedy award at Fringe World in Perth, Australia in 2017, and last November he performed it at a comedy club in Mongolia and hired local company AFE Films to shoot it as a comedy special.
‘I love Mongolia, and a big thankyou to my friend comedian Martin Mor for telling me about it. The hospitality there is off the charts and UB (Ulan Bator) Comedy Club is the coolest venue I’ve seen in Asia. It’s amazing. ‘He continued, ‘the film company was excellent. It was so professionally done and I was really happy with how it turned out. A whole new experience for me.’
Brian is essentially an observational comedian, and is able to extract humour from just about everything he sees or does. You will empathize with him, and laugh your socks off as you imagine yourself in similar situations. You might even start to look at life in a different way yourself. Brian is one of the most genuine people I have met, and if he calls you friend, you know he will always have your back.
Perhaps the greatest achievement for Brian, though, is that he still makes his wife Hollie laugh every day, even through the long months of Covid lockdown, and the recent motorbike accident that has left him in a wheelchair or on crutches for the last month or so. For Brian and his wife the old adage ‘Laughter is the Best Medicine’ sure rings true. Catch his special, available now, details below.
Comedy Dynamics has announced that they’re releasing Brian Aylward: Big In Asia, and released it through their hybrid distribution system composed of Comcast, Amazon Prime Video, Spectrum, Apple TV, Dish, Google Play, DirecTV, Vimeo, YouTube and many more last month. The album is available on Sirius XM, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora and more. The special was filmed live in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and is the first special from Aylward, who is the former Canadian Comedy Award winner for Best Stand-Up Comic.