B.BATBILEG: “If you can make people laugh at anytime, consider yourself comedian”

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  • 2024-04-03
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B.BATBILEG: “If you can make people laugh at anytime, consider yourself comedian”

Let’s hear from B.Batbileg, the most famous and well-known comedian of this time, and the founder of the “UB Comedy” club. The “UB Comedy” club, which introduced the art of stand-up comedy to Mongolia, is celebrating the 10th anniversary this year. The comedian is criticized for being too open, but there were many topics that were not discussed in any other public clubs or organizations. In some parts of the interview, our guest politely showed off his humor skills and made the atmosphere better. Enjoy the interview! 


The recently released event named “Dairaltsaan” by “UB comedy” club for its 10th anniversary was impressive. What was it like to be judged in front of your parents?


The club’s operation years are counted from the day of its first show on January 30, 2014. This year marks the 10th anniversary. For this, I made myself the main target of the attack as well as the attention, and showed it on the stage. On the occasion of the anniversary, instead of praising, I thought it was better to make a show by evaluating what we have done, created, and realizing our mistakes. Some even said as a joke, “This is Bataa’s audition”. My family and friends understand me very well. No matter how much I was attacked there with jokes, it’s a part of comedy, so there was nothing harmful or hurtful about it. I chose this path myself. However, sometimes certain attacks are difficult and uncomfortable to hear in front of my parents.


The idea of ​​creating “Dairaltsaan” show has been discussed in your club since 2019. But it has been intensively organized since two years ago. Wasn’t it a great success?


Yes. It was originally initiated by myself and a member of our club, B.Zoljargal. “Joke wrestling” meaning that wrestlers wrestle with tricks, but comedians wrestle with eloquence and witticisms. That’s how the name originated and the idea of the show was developed. In 2019, the first content called “Joke wrestling” was broadcasted on channels. We have an oral culture that is part of our heritage and traditions. It was just a matter of adapting or turning it into the modern oral art, changing its form and introducing it to young people. We didn’t do something completely new. Dairaltsaan is a form of comedy that requires eloquence, intelligence, sensitivity and skill. As long as it’s funny, comedians expose the truth, and say harsh words. There are people who can handle it, and there are people who can’t. Therefore, the participants in the attack are very brave people. No matter how much you have been attacked by others, there is always your turn where you can say something about those people wisely. Just like a boxing ring. I am happy to share this type of culture among people. There will be many shows in the future.


Nowadays, it is obvious that the number of people who watch previous comedy show productions has decreased. It is said that it is related to the discrimination and insensitivity of human rights. During the rise of comedy productions in the late 1990s and early 2000s, people may have needed a laugh more because of the lives people were going through. But how do you explain why stand-up comedy is more popular now?


Actually, we are the next generation of comedy. Things go with the flow of time. Who knows, maybe after a few years people will not like our jokes anymore. But the most important thing is that we discuss the problems of society in funny ways. The audience is a reflection of society. In previous years, anyone would laugh at comedy shows. Laughter evolves over time. But it still exists because there is a place for comedy in society. According to Netflix’s research, comedy has been the most sold and sought-after genre of content over the past 20 years. Its views have never waned. It’s the most powerful form of social media channels of all time.


In the 1990s, actors such as Honored Actor B.Batzaya, D.Sosorbaram, and D.Tserendarizav used to make parodies. But they are more on the monologue side. Stand-up comedy, on the other hand, seems to be distinguished by its freedom and the subject it jokes about.


There is a saying that something new always refers to something old that has been forgotten. People can always make each other laugh and make fun of each other. But maybe we were different because we started performing in pubs and for adults. This thing made it open for ordinary guys to go out and share their thoughts. Very open. But on the other hand, there are very high criteria. Only the audience will judge the comedian. A comedian should be able to make the audience laugh just by going on stage. The main criterion is to be funny.


You often refer to Mongolians as a humorous people with a lot of jokes and sarcasm. Just to give an example from real life, there are people who are good at making people laugh, both in the neighborhood and in the circle of friends. 


We, comedians, were just like that and making jokes in class. But now we do it only on stage. However, just because you can make your friends laugh doesn’t mean you can make the audience laugh. It requires skill to make strangers laugh like a close friend. At first when I was speaking on stage, all I heard was “Stop it, I’m not laughing enough” and “Get off the stage”. Of course, because I love comedy, I kept saying, “Let’s try again” and I have improved since then. I’ve seen many comedians come and go. It seems that to be a comedian, you have to be persistent, have a certain amount of gifted talent, not be afraid of making fun of others, and be brave. Life is meaningless if you always take things seriously. I think laughing is happiness and something that adds color to human life.


You mentioned that it’s important to make a room full of people laugh. To make the audience laugh, they must have the same understanding or level of thinking because the comedian is only saying what he thinks is funny.


I don’t know how everyone’s brain and mind work, and there is no way that all of the audience laugh at the same joke. A sense of humor is the observation and perception of silly and absurd things. But if you try to express your feelings and connect the audience to a common understanding, it is not so difficult. The main thing is understanding. It is the process of saying “Do you see what I’m seeing” and “This looks funny” and making the person listening say, “Uhm, I see”. Audiences consider some jokes as not funny. It means that the comedian is not making the other person understand what he thinks is funny. We do not know how people would react because everyone is different, we can only control how we express ourselves.


Comedy is in a good sense that it is the true criticism manifested through pleasure, isn’t it?


Since we are living in the city, we have a basic understanding and sensitivity about traffic jam and air pollution, which means that the basis for making jokes on that topic has been prepared. We make the audience laugh not by tickling, but by addressing common issues. Aliens will not understand the problems of the world. But humanity has a common thread. Such as failure in love, rejection, and lack of experience. This 10-year period made me realize that it is best to make fun of the logical errors and distortions of the topic that can make people think, “Oh, that's right”. Then, for example, there was a bus vomiting black smoke, but with a poster “Together Against Smoke” written on the side of the bus (laughs). It is a bus that is in conflict with itself. If society were perfect, there would be no humor. Drama is eternal conflict, and is the other side of the coin for comedy. Comedy just expresses tragedy only in a playful way. 


Does it mean that people laugh the most when the topic is about their pain?


Exactly. Laughing is all about pain. No one will laugh if “Everything is beautiful, and okay”. But the way of talking about why it is not working is comedy. Mongolians laugh when debt, lack of punctuality, taking children from school and kindergarten, and couple relationships are mentioned. 


I think it is possible to determine a person’s character and sense of humor by what they laugh at.


It depends on the inner world of the recipients and what they have seen. For example, if I tell my jokes to a five-year-old child, it’s not funny (laughs). At the level of a five-year-old, it’s ridiculous. As mentioned earlier, a monologue is a one-way thing. But stand-up comedy on stage is a live art that observes and directly interacts with the audience. When people don’t laugh and are distracted, we call it “losing the audience”. 


Is the audience very sensitive?


Even if I tell you nice things, if my body language is the opposite of that, people feel it immediately. The audience can judge within a second whether the person on stage can make them laugh or not. 


Is it normal to have profanity in comedy? For example, if I call you “as tall as a giraffe”, is this an insult? But isn’t it a definition to represent a thing as it is?


In comedy, there should be “pure” insults. Suppose there was a person with a big nose. If you say, “God has blessed my old man with everything, even more with his nose,” is this an insult or a joke? The main thing depends on how the person takes it. The show “Dairaltsaan” is a “pure” insult and exaggeration. Therefore, insults are very controversial. Two years ago, we talked about the regulation of insults by law. Not only is it absurd, but it is not clear how to determine whether it is an insult or not. Not verbally, but we are insulted every day. It is insulting that the exchange rate of the tugrug is falling every day. But people are sensitive to small things. We should think carefully about who is really insulting us. We get a lot of comments like, “Die, go away” and “It’s not funny”. There is no way to avoid being insulted by a person in the public. We have to be prepared for this. A person has the right to insult you, but you have the right to defend yourself. Calling a person who steals a thief is not an insult, right? If you don’t want to be insulted, you can do nothing. But remember that no one criticizes a person who does nothing.


Why do comedians get angry when the public calls them clowns? Even when they criticize others more.


They are making themselves look even more ridiculous with that action. As L.Tudev said, “The writer is the people, I am only writing”. The people are comedians, and we are the ones who express them on stage. I would like to tell my artists and comedians not to act with the ego that “I am making you laugh”. If people are afraid, others are going to make them frightened more. But I think it is better to come up with more eloquent words to defend oneself. 


Which of your jokes got the most criticism?


Anyone ever talked about sexual life in public freely. We were the first in this regard. Several people called the police and said, “People are promoting obscenity here”. Also one time, a lady came to the stage and grabbed the microphone and said, “Mongolian youths can not be that much rude”. After answering “Ok, I understand”, I continued talking (laughs). I think probably people criticized the most when it was the beginning. 


People are very sensitive to criticism. I don’t even like being teased. 


Why is that person hurt? They show their sensitivity with actions. It may have evoked bad memories related to that topic and content. Criticizing things means being innovative.


Some comedians say, “I try to be ethical” and “I want to be censored since my friends and family will watch my videos”. Therefore, is it possible to limit oneself and change the way of talking depending on the audience?


You are not an artist if your audience decides what you are saying. Videos of me cursing and talking about sex are still on YouTube. Maybe my children will watch it in the future. But I don’t worry. That’s how their father was and is. There are also comedy clubs that set their own standards and try to conform, such as not infringing on the rights of others on stage and valuing gender equality. Don’t put such limits on art. There is no point in being boxed in by other people’s words. It is like they have not understood the meaning and value of comedy.


I've heard the saying, “If you argue with a comedian, you’ll become the subject of his comedy”. No one faces funny things everyday. But I see comedians as someone who can find detailed and even tiny little humor from everything. 


Comedians that I respect and admire make very simple things funny. Anyone can say something funny. Comedy is a live art because it digs out the things in life that are not noticed or expressed, rather than the obvious things.


Among the current best comedians, it is rare to find someone who was not part of the “UB comedy” club. There have been quite a few new members recently. Are new types of themes and styles coming from them? such as talking about surreal or strange, illogical stories, and combining jokes with art performances.


Being able to make people laugh on any stage and in front of any person is a high standard. If you can make people laugh at weddings and funerals, you can consider yourself a super comedian.


Comedian U.Sodkhuu told “When our club members tour abroad, Bataa has prepared everything, including flight tickets, accommodation, and food. ‘Think only about jokes you have made. Don’t worry about other things’ Bataa says”. Is management your advantage?


Thank you. I want my artists not to worry about other things. As a producer, I take care of the fine technical aspects, starting from the audience’s chair position. Value should be given and received.


We joke by posting a photo of a politician on social media channels. But how many countries in the world are free to make fun of their President? Do you think the rapid decline of comedy has something to do with it?


We would not have seen such improvement if we were in different countries. It is our pride that we have the right to express ourselves freely. The level of freedom of speech and expression can be seen from the political jokes of the country. I thought, the freedom of sharing our opinion is something we should cherish. A person who has the right to speak bears responsibility behind it. I can’t abuse that right when I speak in front of 200 people. Even if I am joking, there should be an intention for improvement behind my talk. Words are powerful and valuable.