From ‘Raja Lawak’ to ‘Uncle Grandpa’, Nabil is a stand-up person.
When we asked Nabil what made him audition for Raja Lawak, he deadpanned: “I thought I was a very funny guy. But, no seriously, it started as a joke”.
During an interview in Kuala Lumpur, Nabil recalled how his friend tried to pull a fast one on him. “Back in 2008, I got transferred to KL from Seremban (Negeri Sembilan) for work. I remember staying at my friend’s place and he suggested that we check out a Raja Lawak audition at a mall nearby.”
Produced by Astro, Raja Lawak is a reality show competition that focuses on searching for the next top comedic talent. Previously, the show has discovered notable comedians like Zizan Razak, and Johan. Nabil was clueless about Raja Lawak simply because he didn’t have Astro at his previous home.
“My friend said I should audition. I hesitated. I never thought that something like comedy could amount to actual success in life. Plus, I had one bad stage experience as a child when I couldn’t finish reciting the alphabet.”
Nonetheless, he agreed to check out the audition, only to have his friend slap a contestant number on his chest when they arrived at the venue as the latter had already registered Nabil. “He definitely had a good laugh. He said it would be funny to record me messing up on stage,” Nabil said with a chuckle.
Remembering the audition day, he said, “I didn’t want to mess up. Even though I was unprepared, I decided to give it my best. So I did an impersonation of Malaysian Idol judge Paul Moss.”
It was good enough for Nabil to get a callback for a second audition. A few months later, he made it to the show. Nabil, who was leading a carefree life, admitted that he was overwhelmed by the stress of Raja Lawak.
“It’s one thing to be funny with your friends, but to make an audience laugh and have professionals comment on your material? It was really difficult.”
But Nabil persevered, studied Jerry Seinfeld videos on YouTube, and eventually won first place. “I could only come up with the material two hours before the live show. That’s why, when I performed on the Raja Lawak stage, I didn’t have any props. It was mostly stand-up. Now that comedy has become my career, I can’t take risks like that anymore.”
“Looking back at my career? Financially, it feels good. However, I still need to do a lot to feel assured about my place in the entertainment scene,” Nabil said, and added that he was constantly looking for ways to improve his comedic material.
“As a comedian, I have to learn that there are various ways to make people laugh. I have done stand-up, parodies and a number of skits. I also need to be able to cater to a wider range of audience. I can’t treat every audience like they are my closest friends who are guaranteed to laugh at whatever I do. Even if the material was terrible.”
Nabil’s advice to aspiring comedians is to really do their research and study the audience. “Just because you have a material that worked with your closest friends, it might not translate as funny to a paying audience. At the same time, I also hope our audience will support the comedy scene wholeheartedly. Don’t just cheer for the popular ones.”
Nabil was excited to talk about his latest gig on Cartoon Network as the voice of Uncle Grandpa in the Bahasa Malaysia version. “I urged my manager to secure the job for me! I see the experience as a great way to expand my resume.”
The whimsical new series revolves around the misadventures of Uncle Grandpa and his friends as they travel around the world to help troubled kids. “I feel very much like Uncle Grandpa. He’s the fun catalyst for mayhem. During the voice recording sessions, I had so much fun laughing because I can relate to the misadventures.”
Uncle Grandpa’s friends include Pizza Steve, Mr Gus the dinosaur, and the Giant Realistic Flying Tiger. “Pizza Steve is the cool guy who doesn’t really have a clue about anything! And then Mr Gus, he’s the strong silent type. He’s the most logical guy, but nobody seems to listen to him. And Uncle Grandpa? He’s just crazy!”
Nabil said despite Uncle Grandpa’s oddities, what mattered was his efforts to make troubled kids feel better. “His methods may be a bit strange, but I think it’s really important to focus on the fact that he is trying his best to cheer people up. Just like me. When someone I know is feeling down, I try to help by making that person laugh.”
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