By Juliet Jacobs
Tell the world about Fong Muntoh, AKA Monti.
I am from the land of many virgins: Ipoh. I was born there and spent a great deal of my life growing up in Hospital Bahagia Tanjung Rambutan — because my mum was a nurse there, and she used to get the inmates to look after me.
I wanted to be a singer but was told I didn’t have the face for it. I started performing during my summer holidays in England, in the late 1980s, and my first pay-cheque was two pints of beer.
And I love to make people laugh.
How did you meet Logi? Was it a serendipitous meeting? What transpired to make you both join forces?
We met in 1998, and, yes, it was serendipity that started the first meeting. We met a second time over coffee, one thing led to another — and now, nine years, 13 shows and many corporate functions later, we’re still at it.
At that time there were no Indian and Chinese comic duos, so we thought: why not? Indians talk a lot and Chinese aren’t far behind, so we must have many stories to tell lah.
Do you have day jobs?
Yes, both of us have a serious side. Logi is a management consultant for corporate companies and financial institutions, and I am a director in a healthcare management company that manages clinics and nursing homes.
What’s irony to you?
Many years ago, an ex-boss told me not to go into comedy, because I was a senior manager at the time, and my image was important, to get respect from both employees and business partners.
But I’ve found that employees and business partners respect me more, now, because they see me as a human being — one with a passion for comedy, and not just another straight-laced, constipated-faced corporate personality.
That’s irony to me. In fact, many of my current corporate clients come for our shows.
How do you come up with material for your shows?
In the country we live in, and with the way the people who are managing this country think, talk and do things, it is impossible not to have comedy material. From the sending of National Service trainees to Johor and not the army, to morality spies, to the levels of confidence our enforcement units elicit — wow, the list is endless.
We also draw our inspiration from our personal experiences: mother stories, father stories, relatives and friends stories, and so on. No grandmother and grandfather stories, though; they were long gone before I came along.
Which Malaysian minister inspires you most? Why?
Samy Vellu, without a doubt. He simply likes to talk. A lot.
Tell us more about Indian Stories, Chinese Tales. How did the title come about in the first place?
You will notice that, over the years, all our shows have some sort of controversial or intriguing titles, like Ipoh Mali Semua Taluh, Taruh Taruh Taruh and Ipoh Mali Kencing Tada Bunyi. A good title helps us in our writing, and racy and racially-laced ones intrigue audiences — and sometimes even the authorities. The Special Branch interviewed us three times last year.
Any brushes with DBKL, over ‘sensitive’ or controversial topics you’ve covered in your shows?
Who hasn’t? Our most memorable experience was during Ipoh Mali Kencing Tada Bunyi, when the Bandaraya officer kept saying: “Ini tak boleh, kencing mana tada bunyi?” He wanted us to change the show’s title, three hours before the show.
Ipoh Mali Semua Taluh also had problems, because the spelling did not meet a Dewan Bahasa standard: ‘mali’ and ‘taluh’ are words spelt wrong, and our title was wrong grammatically. So for both these shows, the approval certificates record their titles as Ipoh.
Generally, though, DBKL has been gracious.
Any funny stories about audience members, from your past shows?
Sorry, I will not comment on the people that pay our bills.
What will you be up to, after this?
I will be doing a one man stand-up show in The Actors Studio @ Greenhall, in Penang, in June. Also, I might be involved in another two musicals, this year, with KLPac.
Tell us a little known fact about yourself and Logi.
Logi has always wanted to be singer — but he can only sing in the F key.
As for myself, I always wanted to be an action hero in a movie. And I believe that I’m handsome — though my wife always reminds me otherwise.
First Published: 08.03.2007 on Kakiseni