Jocelyn Chia (born 1980) is a Singaporean stand-up comedian based in New York City. Previously a lawyer, she began her career in stand-up comedy in 2013, making her stand-up television debut on AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live.
|Education||Degree in Law|
|Alma mater||CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School, National Junior College, Georgetown University|
Jocelyn performs regularly at New York City’s most prominent clubs such as the Comedy Cellar, and has been featured in Vice, Her World, South China Morning Post and cnbc.com. She has also been touted as one of Singapore’s best comedians by platforms such as Buro, Best in Singapore and Simibest.
Jocelyn’s comedy typically revolves around topics such as her upbringing and her experiences as an Asian woman living in the United States. Inspired by what is known as the “New York-style”, her style places emphasis on strong writing and is generally fast-paced.
During her formative years, Jocelyn’s dream job was to become a teacher. She also expressed interest in journalism, having pursued internships at media companies such as The Straits Times and 8Days.
Law (2006 to 2009)
Upon graduation, Jocelyn went on to practice law in one of the top 10 firms in the city. From 2006 to 2009, she worked as a corporate attorney, specialising in capital markets, mergers & acquisitions and private equity.
Comedy (2009 to present)
From 2009, Jocelyn pivoted from law and began her comedy career.
Media awards & appearances
At the 2018 edition of the Asian American Television & Film Festival, Jocelyn won the Rising Star Award - Comedy. She made her Comedy Central debut, and performed in the Magner International Comedy Festival in that same year.
Jocelyn has also performed in Singapore in events such as the Singapore Festival of Fun in 2019.
MH370 joke controversy
On the 7th June 2023, Mothership published an article featuring a clip of Jocelyn performing at the Comedy Cellar in New York City, which was uploaded onto her TikTok and Instagram accounts but has since been removed.
Starting her set with her sharing Singapore’s separation from Malaysia, Jocelyn later used the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines’ MH370 as a punchline.
“Now Malaysia, you’re trying to come around like, ‘Hey, Singapore, you’re looking good lah.’ And we’re like ‘I know, but why haven’t you visit[ed] me in 40 years?’ And you’re like ‘Aiyah, I tried, but you know my airplanes cannot fly!’”.
Upon receiving a mixed reaction, Jocelyn went on to ask the audience “What? Malaysia Airlines going missing not funny, huh?”. She then quipped that Malaysia “[doesn’t] have internet” when an audience member told her that she would get a “bad Yelp review from Malaysians”.
Reaction to controversial MH370 joke
At the beginning of the controversy, Jocelyn defended herself, responding to a negative comment on Instagram that “tragedy plus time = comedy. It’s been long enough man.” That said, all her social media accounts were found to be deleted on the 8th June 2023.
Many netizens have come forth to express their reactions on Instagram and TikTok, of which many of them are negative. Several people reached out to Jocelyn, asking her to empathise with the victims’ family and friends.
Former Malaysian broadcaster Kudsia Kahar mused that she “draws the line at turning MH370 into a joke”, and that “a good standup never turns tragedy and deaths into a joke”.
Several government officials have expressed their apology with regards to the controversy; Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia Vanu Gopala Menon apologised “to all Malaysians for her hurtful remarks”, quipping that he was “appalled by Chia’s gratuitously offensive comments”.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has also stepped forward to say that he is “appalled by her horrendous statements. She certainly does not speak for Singaporeans” and that “we treasure our ties with family and friends in Malaysia, and are sorry for all the offence and hurt caused to all Malaysians.”
Among other fellow comedians, Malaysian comedian Jason Leong commented on Jocelyn’s Instagram post that “I [he] love[s] this bit”. That said, netizens denounced his supportive reaction, causing him to limit comments on his account.
Veteran Malaysian comedian Harith Iskander uploaded a video on Instagram to convey his opinions; not only did he share that “comedy is a powerful tool for social commentary that must be used responsibly”, he highlighted that comedians should “exercise some level of sensitivity and empathy when dealing with certain material, especially topics that are deeply personal or tragic”.
In an interview with CNN on 11th June 2023, Jocelyn stated that she has performed this routine “more than a hundred times” for about one and a half years, with no controversy. While she noted that having this routine “viewed out of a comedy club context was risky”, she stands by her joke. She also said that Malaysians in the audience often came to tell her that they loved her routine, and that they “clearly didn’t take offence".
Malaysia asks Interpol for help
The Malaysian police announced that they are asking Interpol to help track down Jocelyn, where an “application” would be filled to get her “full identity” and “latest location”. In an article published by The Independent, Jocelyn mentioned that she was "threatened with an Interpol red notice by the government of Malaysia".
On an interview with BBC on the 14th June 2023, Jocelyn said that involving Interpol is “ridiculous”, and sarcastically asked the interviewer if Interpol’s involvement would only make her more famous. In the interview she had with The Independent, Jocelyn laments that she had been banned from entering Malaysia.
“The most unfortunate thing is that I won’t get to go to a country that I actually love. I actually love going to Malaysia and I have lots of good friends in Malaysia and I love performing for the Malaysian audience,”
She also goes onto say that members of the public were intent on ending her career.
“They tried to take away my livelihood by threatening the comedy clubs where I performed. The Comedy Cellar website got hacked and it was review bombed after they co-posted my video. The attackers were trying to launch cyber-attacks on websites of companies where I have performed in the last four years to take me down,”
References / Citations
- Jocelyn Chia. Retrieved from http://www.jocelynchia.com/ on 15th June 2023.
- Helder-Eng, Xin Hui. “What She’s Truly Thinking: The Singaporean Comedian Based In The Big Apple” Her World. March 14, 2019. Accessed on 15th June 2023.
- TNP. “Singapore-raised American Jocelyn Chia trades law career for comedy” Singapore Press Holdings. March 21, 2019. Accessed on 15th June 2023.
- Tracy, Marc. "Comedian's Malaysia Joke Prompts Threats and a Diplomatic Incident". The New York Times. June 9, 2023. Accessed on 15th June 2023.
- Bunyan, John. “Singapore top officials say sorry to Malaysia after nationwide uproar over stand-up performer’s crack; envoy says Jocelyn Chia no longer Singaporean (VIDEO)” Malay Mail. June 8, 2023. Accessed on 15th June 2023.
- Vazquez, Tares & Chia, Jocelyn. “So, a lawyer walks into a comedy club…”. CNBC. July 16, 2014. Accessed on 15th June 2023.
- Retrieved from https://www.ladiesoflaughter.org/
- Tan, Min-Wei. “Comedian from S’pore faces backlash from M’sians after joking about MH370” Mothership. June 7, 2023. Accessed on 15th June 2023.
- Sukri, Hazeeq. “Jocelyn Chia backlash: Malaysian comedians weigh in on her MH370 joke” CNA Lifestyle. June 8, 2023. Accessed on 15th June 2023.
- Azmi, Hadi. “Singapore comic enrages Malaysia with MH370 joke, ‘f*** you’ outburst at New York club” SCMP. June 7, 2023. Accessed on 15th June 2023.
- Rahim, Nisha. “Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan condemns comedian Jocelyn Chia’s act” Yahoo!News. June 8, 2023. Accessed on 15th June 2023.
- Ng, Hong Siang. “Singapore apologises to Malaysians for comedian Jocelyn Chia’s MH370 joke” CNA. June 8, 2023. Accessed on 15th June 2023.
- The Straits Times. “Malaysian police seeking Interpol help to get ‘full identity’, location of comedian Jocelyn Chia” Singapore Press Holdings. June 15, 2023. Accessed on 15th June 2023.
- Sharma, Shweta. "Unapologetic and unfazed, comedian Jocelyn Chia has only one regret after MH370 joke backlash". The Independent. July 3, 2023. Accessed 5 July 2023.
- Ng, Kelly. “Jocelyn Chia: US comedian calls Malaysia’s reaction to MH370 joke ‘ridiculous’” BBC News. June 14, 2023. Accessed on 15th June 2023.