Capital’s Comedy on the International Map

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British comedian Will Mars

British comedian Will Mars is analyzing you. Yes, you.
 
And in under a minute he’ll have you read — or so he claims.  
 
Using the audience like a barometer, he times and tempers, delivering his next punchline. The result is a measure of laughter that shatters civility and abandons restraint. Although, he may prefer you retain some self-control.
 
The New York based-comedian humorously recounts one close encounter at an expatriate biker bar. “One of the most horrific shows I’ve ever had was in Asia, in the Philippines,” he says with a wry smile. “Comedy’s very new in the Philippines and I had to do an hour in a biker bar…Ninety-nine percent of the time I’ll know how the hour will go in the first few minutes…Some guy threatened to slit my throat within the first sentence.”
 
“He literally says, ‘You’d better be funny or I’ll kill ya’,” Mars titters, reassuring his other Filipino shows went off without a hitch. Death threats aside, Mars is happy to be back in Asia, performing four shows on the Comedy Club Cambodia’s June program and promoting his latest solo tour “Schtick Shift” — all Asia, all clean — two firsts for the almost 20 year comedic vet. 
 
The moniker is a play on words, describing both his comedic transformation — completing his first clean hour of comedy — and the long hours spent on the road traveling from show to show.  
 
“I think to be an effective stand up you’ve gotta play the world, you can’t just stay in one place. I love the fact that I come to Asia and people know me. I could’ve done [the tour] in Europe but you know what? I’ve done that, let’s come here, to places I’ve never been,” Mars says. 
 
Comedy in the Kingdom has seen huge growth since the founding of the Comedy Club Cambodia in 2011. Back then, only a few sparse shows could be found in the bars and backrooms of Phnom Penh. Now, the city boasts a full-fledged comedic scene, with events held weekly and acts traveling to further provinces like Siem Reap and Kampot. 
 
Comedy Club Cambodia co-founder, Dan Riley, says the organization has built a reputation for itself in the region.
 
“The scene here came from nothing to what it is now, more than a gig a week across Phnom Penh. Sure some gigs are bigger than others, but they’ve all worked at one point or another…I also work regularly with promoters in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar and occasionally further afield like China…Our reputation is strong,” Riley says. 
 
Adding that the club had come a long way, “I am now inundated with requests for gigs by pro comics touring the region [and] we now have a wealth of talent based on home soil.”
 
Mars will be supported by country-based comedians Sam Thomas, Lune Dy and Steven Halcrow. He describes his act as personal, saying the audience will get a chance to preview some of his best work ahead of the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival — the worlds largest arts festival and a launching pad for many British comedic legends — where he will make his fifth appearance. 
 
“The show is funny, a lot of it is very much about me. It’s my 5th hour [of comedy] that I’ve taken to the Fringe. If I put the best jokes from the four hours that I’ve previously written they wouldn’t be half as good as this is.”
 
“If you enjoy comedy and stand up I have absolutely no reason to think you wouldn’t go home having shook my hand and saying well done. It’s that kind of show, it’s the best I’ve ever written,” Mars says. 
 
The Comedy Club Cambodia’s June program will feature Mars and supporting comics traveling on four gigs throughout the country, making stops in Kampot, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap respectively. Riley explains that attracting international talent has not been as difficult as funding it. 
 
“I can only afford to book one headliner once a month at most. The hardest part has been affording fees. Our tickets are the cheapest in the region, if not the world for the talent we provide. We have to keep tickets prices low as we’re fighting against a culture of free gigs all the time, mainly local music bands.”
 
But, the funny man who says comedy keeps him sane insists that above all else, he does it for the love — and perhaps the prospect of making it to late night television one day. 
 
“The people who do comedy now, do it cause they love it, not because there’s a paycheck attached to it…I’ve lost my ego. I’ll smash any open mic that comes along.”
 
And that is exactly what he intends to do tonight.  
 
The Comedy Club Cambodia will be presenting New York-based British comic Will Mars at 8:30pm, Thursday June 23 at Che Culo and 8:30pm, Friday June 24 at Showbox supported by Sam Thomas, Lune Dy and Steven Halcrow as MC. Tickets are $5. 

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