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Malaysian comedian Hannan Azlan on discovering comedy and her unique stand-up

Nicole Wong

Tue Apr 17 2018


Hannan Azlan is no stranger to finding humour in almost anything.

“I’ve been described as gross… I like outlandish stuff,” she says. “I like stupid stuff as well, like memes – that gets me going.”

At the age of 23, the young Malaysian comedian has already established a career in comedy and performance, and has travelled the world to deliver her unique brand of stand up, including here in Australia where she is currently performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival under the Comedy Zone Asia (CZA) program.

“I did not know I was going to get Comedy Zone Asia,” Azlan said.

“This is the best thing that has happened so far.”

For young emerging Asian comedians like her, Comedy Zone Asia is the proving ground and a platform to bigger and better things.

“I didn’t think I was gonna get it,” Azlan said, in relation to the renowned comedy festival’s invitation to include her in the CZA lineup. “I was just, like, stunned cause this is the dream, you know? For stand-up, this is the dream.”

Prior to her gig at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Azlan had limited exposure to Malaysia’s comedy scene. At 17, she knew she wanted a career in performance and initially chose to pursue a career in music and theatre. Never did she expect comedy be a big part of her life.

“I had a gap year and that was the year I think I found stand-up. Stand-up found me.”

After discovering comedy, she began experimenting and developing her style in 2015. It wasn’t longer thereafter that Azlan would get recognised for her work. She began getting offers around Asia – she made her television debut as a performer in Malaysia, her festival debut in Singapore and became the youngest winner at the 10th Hong Kong International Comedy Festival.

Her career took off from there and she has since traveled to other parts of the world, including Scotland – the site of the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“Comedy kind of sucked me into this world, and I’m just riding this wave that I feel like I have no control, and I don’t know when it’s gonna crash, so I’m just going with it,” she said.

In Malaysia, she is known for bringing out her ukulele during her sets. Melbourne audiences can expect the same at her CZA routines. When asked why she chose to sing with her ukulele she felt it allowed her to be more emotionally honest to her audience

“I feel like when I sing, I can show people a part of me I’m unable to show you just by talking. I can be more honest, more vulnerable. It’s hard to be honest you know, in general. I feel like when I sing, I can’t lie.”

Beyond using the comedic medium as a means of being honest with her audience, she also cites it as a useful means for therapy and healing. For artists and comedians, she stresses the importance of enjoying yourself as a performer as well as letting the audience enjoy themselves.

“People make jokes to heal and comedy definitely helps people to get over things, helps people pick themselves up out of a hard situation,” Azlan revealed.

At this point of her life, comedy for Azlan is all about giving. She wants to have a space where the audience can enjoy themselves – to create a sense of community.

“I’m performing but I have to listen, and I have to feel the crowd to make sure that, I’m not just on auto pilot,” she said.

Azlan’s career is still growing but she has managed to stay humble along the way. After Comedy Zone Asia, she plans on having more shows in Sydney. Her future plans?

“My issue right now is to kind of slow down, take a step back, take care of my mental health, emotional health and enjoy life… right now I’m enjoying this pizza.”

Hannah Azlan is performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival as part of the Comedy Zone Asia lineup. Shows are currently on from now to April 22. Tickets to these shows can be purchased on the MICF website.

For more on Hannah Azlan, visit her website.