Originally from Jakarta, Melanie Maras is a bi-cultural writer, storyteller, and comic currently living in Los Angeles that is going to represent Indonesia in the Laugh Factory’s Funniest Person in the World Competition 2016 in Helsinki this December. We reached out to Melanie to get to know her a little better before catching her in her live performance this weekend in the Red Nose Foundation’s Festival of Laughs, October 1, 2016, Jakarta.
It must be exciting to represent Indonesia in the “Funniest Person in The World” competition, can you explain a little about the competition.
I am absolutely honored to be representing Indonesia in the Laugh Factory’s Funniest Person in the World Competition. It’s like the Olympics of comedy! Round 1 is currently live — I’m in the Top 5 and the only female in the Top 10! Voting goes until October 2nd! Help me rise up the ranks by watching, liking, and sharing my video: www.funniestindonesian.com
You are half Indonesian half American, if I’m not mistaken? How was growing up like for you?
My father is from Sumatra and my mother is from Oklahoma. I grew up with a lot culture clash! I don’t feel that I fit into any boxes in terms of being Indonesian or being American but I relish defying stereotypes and cultural boundaries. I am very proud of my mixed heritage.
How does the multi-culture it affect your sense of humor?
I was definitely a strange kid with an offbeat sense of humor from the very start. I was wildly awkward and very ill informed about life. I think that seeing the humor in everything helped me process chaos and confusion and gave me a coping mechanism for dealing with the world.
How would you describe your humor?
My humor is decidedly dark, super honest, cheekily irreverent, and 100% authentic.
There are just a handful of female comedians, compared to the male ones. What do you think about this?
There are so many great female comedians! It is unreal to still see so few women on the lineup at some of the best comedy clubs and shows in 2016. Comedy is absolutely a boys club and there is so much misogyny and sexual inappropriateness and even assault that women have to deal with. As a woman in comedy, you’ve got to be better, smarter, and more persistent than the men in the game. I’m learning more about stand-up comedy in Indonesia and have seen how few woman are doing it. I recently discovered a female Indonesian comic named Sakdiyah Ma’ruf who is absolutely fantastic.
When did you decide to do comedy professionally?
Less than a year ago! I have miles to go and so much to learn!
Who are your favorite comedians/your inspiration.
My first comedic inspiration was John Cleese in Fawlty Towers. Since then I’ve been inspired by Margaret Cho, Mike Birbiglia, Louis CK, Ali Wong, Amy Schumer, Tig Notaro, Kumail Nanjiani, Aziz Ansari, Pete Holmes, and so many others.
What’s the funniest (most random?) fact about yourself you can tell people?
It wasn’t very funny at the time, but I was a bed wetter until the age of ten.
What is Jakarta in your point of view?
I have such nostalgia for my childhood in Jakarta. It’s shaped me in so many ways. Jakarta will always be my hometown and is like me in so many ways. It’s conservative and wild. It’s traditional and breaking the mold. And it’s hotter than you can handle (jokes!).
Other than being in the ‘Funniest Person in The World’ competition, what are your current projects?
I’m working on some original television show ideas and making a documentary about stand-up comedy with my fantastic filmmaker friend, Abe Forman-Greenwald (@filmingdocs). Keep up to date on this project and all my upcoming show dates and goings-on at www.melaniemaras.com
Any messages for aspiring comedians out there?
Do your best. Be yourself. Be brave. DO YOU.