Mok the World with Rising Comic Evelyn Mok
25 year old internationally performing comedian Evelyn Mok is set to hit the Edinburgh Fringe as finalist in the prestigious Chortle Student Comedy Awards, a platform previously graced by Inbetweener Simon Bird. Basing her act on real life events she creates a persona and scenarios that bring the house down in awkwardness and hilarity. Youth Arts Online finds out how Evelyn is ‘Moking’ her way to the top (pardon the pun).
Who/what inspired you to get in to comedy?
It’s a very traditional route really. My father had a large influence on my will to be funny. He’s always telling stories that make people laugh. I would observe him as a kid and admire this trait and then attempt to copy it for my friends.
Adam Sandler had a huge influence on me, because he was the first person I saw who communicated his personal humour via his films and this is probably due to his background in stand up. Via Sandler I discovered Saturday Night Live which really got me excited about comedy. Demetri Martin was a great discovery too, I was inspired by his joke writing, as he’s very technical and traditional, but with unique twists. Soon after that, I started writing jokes and a year later I started performing.
Did you attend any comedy clubs or are you self-taught?
I did not attend any comedy clubs before I started performing. This was probably due to the fact that I wasn’t aware that there was a stand up circuit in Sweden. I would say that like anyone who begins performing stand up, I learnt as I performed. I did attend a weekend course in joke writing, but it worked more as a guideline in joke writing than specifically teaching you how to be funny.
How old were you and where was your first gig? How were you received and how have you developed yourself and your material since?
I did my first gig when I was 21 and it was the first heat of ‘Bungy Comedy’, a beginners-competition that runs every year in Stockholm, Sweden. I had been preparing all summer long and I remember that I was terrified before going on stage. I was shaking and hyperventilating and as they called my name all I could do was to focus on not tripping while walking up the staircase to the stage. I grabbed the microphone and started on the set up for my first joke. I kept my eyes on my feet until I reached the punch line and heard laughter. I looked up and the crowd of 90 people were all enjoying themselves at something that I’d said. I continued on with my second joke and as I reached the punch line there it was again, the laughter. My nerves relieved a bit and I continued on with my set which went pretty well, for being a first time gig. When my 3 minutes were up I left the stage and I didn’t remember anything. I had a black out, all I remember was the laughter.
You are surely the only Swedish woman of Asian heritage on the comedy scene? Do you use an onstage persona or is your material based purely on your own life experiences?
My friend Linus Lee has a similar cultural make-up, being half-Korean and half-Swedish from Australia. But I’m the only lady, as far as I know. Now I speak very sparsely about being Asian and if I do, I try to focus it more about what it means to be Asian in a western society highlighting some kind of stereotype that I have to deal with. I do have a persona, which is just a facet of my personality that I’ve pushed to an extreme. I think that’s how most stand ups are; you highlight the facet of your personality that generates most humour. In my case it’s my giddy awkwardness that naturally appears when I get nervous.
How do you practise your sets? Do you test it on anyone in particular?
I tend to just perform and test it out on stage. At times I will run through it in my head just to get a feeling for how the words feel and flow. If it’s a quick gag, I will tweet and facebook it to see if it generates any response from followers and then I’ll test it on stage.
What countries have you performed in and where was the best audience?
In addition to the UK, I’ve performed in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Hong Kong and USA (New York).
I really do like the English audience as the general audience are comedy savvy, as there is such a great comedy scene here. Since moving to London I’ve written new jokes and re-written old ones to make get them to work for an English crowd. Also nowadays I write directly in English as opposed to writing in Swedish and then translating the jokes.
The Estonian audience were great to perform for as well as stand up is still in the initial stages in Estonia and the audience is learning what it is and how it works. They are very supportive and up for it, which made every show a great experience.
I do miss the Swedish audience as I’m Swedish myself I share the cultural understanding with the audience and the cultural aspect is a large part of stand up.
Congratulations on being crowned the winner of the Chortle Student Comedy Award: London Met Heat. What has happened since your win and what have you got lined up in the future months?
Thank you! Well I received a new smart phone, which means that I’ve started tweeting and instagraming a lot more frequently! I have a really cool video online, that chortle put up that has got some good views AND I have a profile on Chortle which has been a secret dream of mine. My parents have complimented me on my Chortle video which is a pretty big deal as they still are very unsure of what I am actually doing with my life. I cannot blame them, as I am still unable to provide them with proof of job security. So being part of the finals in the Student Comedy Awards reassures them a little bit. So that is nice.
I’ve recently been chosen be part of Just the Tonic’s Big Value Showcase at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, where I’ll also be competing in the finals of the Chortle Student Comedy Awards. I am really looking forward to that.
What are the perks and challenges of being a comedian?
EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME! Pretty much. I love everything about it as simultaneously everything about it terrifies me.
What advice would you give to aspiring young comedians? What skills do they need to succeed?
What I’ve learnt is that you have to be realistic about who you are and what you can do and then work from and with that. You need a professional attitude because you’re selling yourself as a product. You also need to separate yourself from the person you are on stage, don’t take things personally, because you need to understand that what you perform on stage is separate from who you are off stage. Or just disregard this whole section and do your own thing.
We wish Evelyn all the best in the final of Chortle Student Comedy Awards and look forward to seeing her set. Evelyn can be seen in Just the Tonic’s Big Value Showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe, until then check out her website and follow her on twitter and facebook.