Singaporean-American Comic’s Airplane Crash Joke Enrages Malaysia, Sells Tickets in America

Singaporean-American Comic’s Airplane Crash Joke Enrages Malaysia, Sells Tickets in America

The historical acrimony between Singapore and Malaysia goes back many decades before Jocelyn Chia started doing stand-up, but she has gracefully started a healing process between the former partners by uniting them in outrage.

The Singaporean-American lawyer-turned-comic has been using the rift between her home country and the country that used to include it to comedic effect ever since she started doing stand-up. The city-state of Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in 1965 after just two years in the post-colonial island collective amidst rising racial and economic tensions, but today, Singapore is a prosperous first world country and Malaysia is, well, not that. 

In her act, Chia compares Singapore’s post-expulsion prosperity to a post-breakup glow up, treating Malaysia like a deadbeat ex-boyfriend who comes crawling back long after he squandered her affections. Imitating him/Malaysia in a set at The Comedy Cellar last month, Chia said that he hadn’t visited her because, “You know my airplanes can’t fly.” When a clip of the bit went viral on TikTok, the internet trolls and doxxers of Malaysia started hunting for Chia and everyone around her like she was a missing 777.


“What? Malaysia Airlines going missing not funny, huh? (I guess) some jokes don’t land,” Chia chided the audience after the bit drew groans as well as laughs in the clip that went viral on The Comedy Cellar’s TikTok page. Quickly, the comment section of the video filled up with vitriol from Malaysian users, and The Comedy Cellar was review-bombed on Google and Yelp with thousands of one-star ratings. In the next few days, Chia, her friends, her family and every comedy club in which she had performed were subjected to mass doxxing and death threats as an enraged mob of Malaysians engaged in the kind of internet vigilantism that is all-too-common in the modern era.

Singapore’s minister for foreign affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan, criticized Chia for her “horrendous comments,” apologizing to her Malaysian neighbors in a tweet, saying, “She certainly does not speak for Singaporeans.”

Chia, whose Malaysia bits make up a pillar of her comedy routine, has been less apologetic — as in, not at all. When The Comedy Cellar took down the TikTok, Chia uploaded it to her own channel without their watermark. When TikTok took down that video after it was hit with mass user reports, Chia lamented to The New York Times, “I didn’t want the haters to think they had won and got me to back down. … Audiences at the Comedy Cellar see the best comedians and they love it, so how can I be embarrassed by it?”

Chia maintains that the backlash hasn’t affected her comedy career, and she doesn’t consider herself “canceled” just because the country that never wanted her didn’t want to be teased by her either. “I’m in no way canceled in America, in any sense of the word,” said Chia, who claimed that the controversy has only made her more popular in the States. “Now people want to come see me,” she bragged.

There really is no such thing as bad publicity, apparently — unless you’re the marketing department for Malaysia Airlines.

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