Comedian Jocelyn Chia was condemned by Malaysian and Singaporean officials for a joke referencing missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370).
The joke: Chia, a lawyer-turned-comedian from Singapore, made offensive remarks during her recent stand-up show at the Comedy Cellar in New York City.
In her circulating video, Chia comments on how after Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965, the first-world country has since surpassed its “still-developing” neighbor, calling the course of events the “best breakup revenge.” The comedian goes on to criticize Malaysia, notably taking a jab at the country’s airplanes.
“[Malaysian] airplanes cannot fly,” Chia says in the video. “What? Malaysian Airlines going missing, not funny, huh? Some jokes don’t land.”
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When an audience member says she is “definitely getting a bad Yelp review” from Malaysians, Chia laughs and says, “It's OK, they don't have internet.”
I am a HUGE supporter of standup comedians, especially from this region. IDC that this S’porean said FU Malaysians bcs we make fun of them on stage too.
But I draw the line at turning MH370 into a joke. Not acceptable. A good standup never turns tragedy and deaths into a joke. pic.twitter.com/i8U7LILyeS
— Kudsia Kahar 🇲🇾, Malaysian First (@Kudsia_Kahar) June 6, 2023
MH370 tragedy: Chia’s joke referred to the whereabouts of MH370, which disappeared during its travel to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014. The flight had 239 people on board, including 227 passengers and 12 crew, who have all been presumed dead.
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The comedian’s defense: Chia initially defended her joke on Instagram, writing, “Geez people take jokes way too seriously” in a reply to comedian Jason Leong, who said he “loved this bit” in a comment. Chia has since removed the Instagram post.
Blacklash: The clip has since garnered backlash from viewers who criticized and condemned Chia’s choice of subject matter.
“I am a HUGE supporter of standup comedians… But I draw the line at turning MH370 into a joke. Not acceptable. A good standup never turns tragedy and deaths into a joke,” a Twitter user said.
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“It’s not funny at all? I lost an auntie and two cousins due to the MH370. It will never be funny,” another person wrote.
“I must say that turning a tragedy into a source of entertainment is just in bad taste. But I have good faith in my fellow Singaporean friends, and I'm sure all of us deeply cherish our close relations as countries. Whatever it is, let's not allow one bad seed to tarnish our whole outlook to our neighbor. Take it as a lesson to never take lightly of other people's misfortunes,” Malaysian politician Syed Saddiq tweeted.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir also reportedly reacted to the clip, noting how Chia’s joke “showed a total lack of sensitivity and empathy” toward victims’ families.
Singapore’s apology: The backlash has led to the acknowledgement and apology of Singapore’s officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and High Commissioner to Malaysia Vanu Gopala Menon.
“I am appalled by her horrendous statements. She certainly does not speak for Singaporeans. We treasure our ties with family and friends in Malaysia, and are sorry for the offense and hurt caused to all Malaysians,” Balakrishnan tweeted.
“The Singapore government does not condone words or actions that cause harm or hurt to others and Chia, who is no longer Singaporean, does not in any way reflect our views,” Menon said, noting that Chia’s comments were “gratuitously offensive.”