NOW into his 14th year as a professional stand-up comedian, Andrew Netto – who was only 19 when he started his foray into a slowly burgeoning stand-up scene in 2006 – managed to prove to his family that pursuing comedy full-time was not something he did on a whim.
Among his career highlights was being the opening act for his idol Russell Peters during the latter’s Notorious World Tour Live in Kuala Lumpur in 2012.
Netto has been busy with shows not only in Malaysia, but has also been travelling abroad since. He was supposed to headline a couple of shows in April, but once the movement control order (MCO) was declared, the shows were cancelled.
He was also scheduled to go on a nationwide group comedy tour under the label The Angry Indians, but Covid-19 restrictions put a damper on their plans.
“It is a bit of a downer, but we are looking forward to doing it in mid-2021,” said Netto during a recent teleconference interview.
“I did have one or two shows online during the MCO. I have a full-time job as well, so it is hard to commit time. I did host an online concert recently. It featured all Malaysian artistes and a short reel of a show I did a while back,” said Netto, who added that he had not been active on social media like several other fellow stand-up comedians during this time.
Netto works for an events management company, and the reason he took this job was not because he can’t make a living as a comedian.
“Comedy does pay, but I wanted something more concrete. I wanted my EPF, and I wanted a steady monthly income that I could depend on.”
He had previously worked with a comedy show promoter, ran a comedy club and also worked in a production company.
Speaking about his parents’ reaction to his decision to become a comedian, Netto described his mother as a sweet supportive parent.
“My father told me from the very start: ‘This cannot be your main source of income’ and ‘You have to go get a full-time job’. At first they were a bit worried.
“Once they started coming to my shows, I got their full support. They still come for almost all of my shows until today.”
Netto credits his career to Rizal Kamal and Jack Jeganesan, who own LOL Events. They are the ones who pushed for a local opening act for Russell Peter’s first live show in Malaysia, and helped him land the highly coveted spot.
“It was a huge moment, one of the highlights of my career so far. To be able to share a stage with Russell Peters. He is the reason I started stand-up comedy, he is the first stand-up comedian that I watched. He has always been a big part of my life. During the show, we became friends, and we are still friends until today. We keep in touch online.”
Much of Netto’s comedies are based on things he observes, and therefore the audience is able to connect well with it.
“When you make up material, funny or not, people will know that you are making it up, and that it is not real. A lot of the stuff I do is based on my life experiences.”
He also worked a lot with the Godfather of Malaysian Comedy, Harith Iskandar.
“I actually learn something new every day. Not only from the established comedians, but also from the newer ones. It is a non-stop learning process when it comes to comedy. Every day you learn something new. Harith taught me about audience engagement. Harith interacts a lot with his audience. It gives the show a personal touch. Harith also has a funny face, he has so many expressions.”
Even the best comedians have a bad show. When asked how he handles it, Netto said: “Until today I have had shows where ten minutes into the show, I noticed the entire audience was silent. I was off my game.
“I once tried new material at a public show where I shared the stage with three comedians – and it bombed. It is scary, because you could be on top of your game and then you mess up.”
Netto said sometimes material that works with an audience in one country may not work so well for an audience of another country.
“Sometimes the material that I perform does well in Singapore, but not so well in Malaysia. There are on-and-off moments depending on the demographic of the crowd.”
He admits that it can be scary when he tours outside Malaysia, especially when English may not be the first language of his audience.
“The only thing you can do is to keep going at it. My first show in Jakarta was a private event. I did not do well. I could not gauge the audience well. The second and third time I performed there, the shows got better. I knew what the audience wanted now.
“Every time you travel overseas, you learn what works, and what doesn’t.”