lifestyle

One-on-one with the “Ah-Lian” thespian making people laugh on TikTok

Last Updated: April 24, 2021

Written by Zat Astha

I’ve watched Maddy Breteche-Lo’s TikTok videos enough times to know that its entertainment value rests heavily on the disparity between how she looks and what we expect her to sound. She presents her skits and POV videos in a distinctly Singaporean style and accent with a level of authenticity that I reckon could only be honed through years of observing and interacting with ordinary citizens in their natural habitat—the heartlands.

The character she brings back more regularly than others is the ubiquitous Chinese-speaking ‘Ah-Lian’, portrayed in situations and jobs that are so quintessentially stereotypical of the character and, in some ways, quite firmly rooted in reality. She’s funny, she’s irreverent, and, when the occasion calls for it, is quick to stand up for social justice causes she believes in. In this interview, Maddy shares her thoughts on political correctness, self-censorship, and why she thinks her comedic routine relatable to the ordinary Singaporean.

Zat: Humour me a tad. Describe what you do for a living in exactly five words and elaborate on your thought process behind this choice.

Maddy: Talking. Loudly. On. Social. Media.

Pretty literally—I’m an actress, VO artist, host and digital creator, but people mainly know me for my clowning around on Tik Tok. I talk a LOT at my job, and my life pretty much revolves around social media and creating content for it.

I say I clown around because I try not to take social media too seriously – it can consume you if you’re not careful. Being on the interweb all the time can get scary when real life catches up with you, and sometimes it can change you as a person. I don’t want that to happen to me.

Z: What was your childhood like growing up, and how has this affected the decisions you’ve made now in both your personal and professional life?

Maddy: My childhood was a pretty busy time. I mainly remember a lot of ballet, tennis and various other sports chucked at me over the years. Even though I discovered social media at a pretty young age and have always kept up with the times and trends, I never thought about working in digital creation. I was very much acting and theatre-driven, so I ended up getting a diploma in performance and then a bachelor’s in musical theatre at LASALLE. This current track I’m on is pretty different from my initial career path, but *shrugs* I just ride the waves I’m given, y’know.

Maddy in a green dress posing under a bridge

Credit — Maddy Breteche-Lo

Z: A lot of the comedy and skits you do riffs on the identities of everyday Singaporeans that we meet. Why do you think this resonates so well with your audience?

Maddy: You pretty much said it yourself, the POVs and skits I do riff on everyday Singaporean identities, and that’s exactly why it resonates. People can relate, and I think because we’re fed so much Western, mainly American media, it’s a refreshing change sometimes to get a local context with local humour and local jargon.

Z: Political correctness is compelling more comedians to be more aware when approaching race, sexuality, and gender. How have you navigated your way around such boundaries, and is self-censorship hurting the business of comedy?

Maddy: Uh, I’m woke, okay. LOL. No, but seriously I’m definitely aware of where my personal line is with comedy; I just don’t cross it. To me, “jokes” that bully marginalised groups just aren’t funny, but it’s utterly dependent on who tells the joke—I think the power balance between the comedian vs the topic at hand is crucial. I joke about what I know personally and who I am – it’s not to say I don’t get crap for it still, but it’s never something I’ve felt that I’ve had to apologise.

With regards to self-censorship hurting the business of comedy, that’s a very subjective issue because humour IS subjective. I don’t believe it should be policed. You may disagree with the subject of humour in question, and you can for sure argue against it, but I don’t think you can silence someone just because you don’t like it. If it bothers me, and I absolutely hate to see it, then I’ll just keep scrolling. Or block.

Maddy profile picture against a colourful background

Credit — Maddy Breteche-Lo

Z: What is the anatomy of an effective comedic skit?

Maddy: No clue. You try and try until you find what works. And even then, it might only work for you and not everyone else, so I’ll say it really is just trial and error.

Z: Who or what inspires you the most, and what can we learn from your source of inspiration that would help us live a more fulfilled life?

Maddy: For me, watching a bloody good musical or any piece of live theatre just sparks unmeasurable joy.

What are your current top three favourite cultural phenomena that you’re obsessed with and why?

  • Drag Race culture; because it’s such an incredible show that’s commercialised the art form of Drag even further and has the power to change lives
  • Cancel culture; because some people need to leave and never come back
  • Mala and the nation’s love for it, soup or dry, I’ll eat it all (as long as it isn’t too spicy, of course)

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