Comedian Says Reaction to MH370 Joke Is 'Ridiculous'

Jocelyn Chia says 'edgy' humor was meant for American comedy club audience
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2023 1:31 AM CDT
Updated Jun 14, 2023 5:31 PM CDT
Malaysia Wants Interpol to Find Comedian After MH370 Joke
A man walks past a board reading "Pray for MH370" for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 15, 2014.   (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin, File)
UPDATE Jun 14, 2023 5:31 PM CDT

Joceyln Chia says it is "ridiculous" for Malaysian police to get Interpol involved in their investigation of a joke she made about missing flight MH370. The American comedian tells the BBC that she joked about the flight in a New York City comedy club and a clip posted on social media was "out of context." "Americans can appreciate humor that is harsher, edgier, and more in-your-face, as compared to in Asia where the stand-up comedy scene is still in its early days," she says. "You won't find a lot of edgy comedy in Asia." She says she wishes she "could have seen the face of the Interpol officer who received this request." Interpol, contradicting claims made by Malaysian police, says it has not received a request for assistance.

Jun 14, 2023 1:31 AM CDT

US comedian Jocelyn Chia has come under fire in Malaysia after a joke she made about MH370, the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing in 2014 and which has never been found, and now the country wants Interpol to get involved in its investigation of the comic. Chia, who is American-Singaporean and held dual citizenship until adulthood, is a "prominent performer" in New York, where she made the joke during a stand-up set, the BBC reports. Referring to the rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia, Chia said that while Singapore is now a "first-world country," Malaysia is still "developing" and its airplanes "cannot fly."

She continued, "Malaysian Airlines going missing not funny huh? Some jokes don't land." Video of the joke was posted on TikTok (where it was later removed for violating the social network's hate speech guidelines) and quickly garnered outrage in Malaysia. Singapore ended up apologizing (though Chia herself hasn't, the New York Post reports) and Malaysia launched a probe into possible violations of its laws on incitement and offensive online content. It's not clear whether Malaysia is within its jurisdiction to request Chia's location and "full identity" from Interpol, nor whether Interpol will cooperate, nor whether Malaysia is even planning to formally charge Chia.

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As Chia explained to CNN, she has performed the bit more than 100 times over the past year and a half with no issues, but the shortened clip uploaded to TikTok leaves out some context. "I do stand by my joke but with some caveat," she says. "I stand by it in its entirety, when viewed in a comedy club. Upon reflection I do see that having this as a clip that gets viewed out of a comedy club context was risky." The owner of the Comedy Cellar, where Chia was performing at the time, made a similar observation to the New York Times: "You can get away with saying stuff that’s kind of outrageous" at a comedy club, he says. "You can’t put that same moment into a small screen that you’re watching over morning coffee.” (Read more Malaysia stories.)

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