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Jocelyn Chia: US Comedian Calls Malaysia’s Reaction to MH370 Joke ‘Ridiculous’

A US comedian who offended Malaysian authorities with a joke about missing flight MH370 says the reaction from officials has been “overblown”.

Jocelyn Chia told the BBC she was “not making fun of tragedy” and victims, but was trying to find humour in tragedy.

Malaysian police said they would ask Interpol to locate Ms Chia, as they investigate her for incitement and offensive online content.

Ms Chia – who grew up in Singapore – called involving Interpol “ridiculous”.

Interpol told the BBC it had not received a request for assistance in the case from Malaysian police.

Ms Chia had joked in a viral video that Malaysian jets “cannot fly”, referring to the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared in 2014 – a sensitive topic in the country.

She said her joke had been “taken out of context when consumed on social media”.

“I have [performed this routine] hundreds of times and even did a shorter version of it in Singapore. It always cracks the audience up. I wouldn’t have used it again if it didn’t work,” she said.

Ms Chia said “roasting” or poking fun at the audience is part of comedy club culture in New York, where she is now based. She said American comics have in the past used the September 11 terror attacks as fodder for their jokes.

“Americans can appreciate humour that is harsher, edgier and more in-your-face, as compared to in Asia where the stand-up comedy scene is still in its early days. You won’t find a lot of edgy comedy in Asia,” she said.

Flight MH370, a Boeing 777, mysteriously fell off the radar in March 2014 as it was on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. A four-year search over the Indian Ocean yielded some debris, but not the main fuselage. All 239 on board are presumed dead.

Ms Chia mentioned MH370 in the context of the long-running rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia. The two former British colonies were part of one country until a bitter break-up in 1965.

“Malaysian Airlines going missing not funny huh? Some jokes don’t land. This joke kills in Singapore,” she said in a 90-second viral clip that was taken from her performance at Manhattan’s Comedy Cellar on 7 April.

The video stirred uproar in Malaysia and was removed by TikTok, which cited a violation of its hate speech guidelines. Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Ms Chia’s joke was “horrendous”.

Some internet users, including Ms Chia’s fellow comedians, criticised her for being insensitive. Others thought it was acceptable as satire.

Interpol’s main function is to share information about fugitives and bring them back to the country where they committed a crime.

“I just wish I could have seen the face of the Interpol officer who received this request,” Ms Chia said.

“Honestly, if Interpol does do something about this request and things escalate, can you imagine how famous it is going to make me?”

The reaction from Malaysia to Ms Chia’s act comes as comedians in some parts of Asia endure closer scrutiny from authorities.

In July 2022, Malaysia arrested comedian Rizal van Geyzel for posting videos that touch on racial and religious sensitivities.

Last month, Chinese stand-up comic Li Haoshi was detained in China and his comedy group fined for a joke perceived as a “serious insult” to the “people’s army”.

Source : BBC