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September 09, 2022
Hong Kong-born comedian Jordan Leung grew up with a reputation for being a funny man during his high school days in San Francisco. “Growing up in New Territories, you feel less entitled, spoiled or obnoxious than other kids, it humbles you,” the jokester says.
In a redemption arc for the teenager, emigrating to the United States for high school forced Jordan to adopt a class clown persona, to make a name for himself. School reporters would state the Hong Konger’s penchant for distracting other students and annoying teachers, but “their hands were tired as I was smart,” he comments.
A decade and a half later, the high school humourist has morphed into a Hong Kong household name on the comedy scene and a growing figure online with the comedian’s signature dry humour, American Born Chinese (ABC) inside jokes, and takes on Cantonese culture.
The former Sha Tin College man, where Jordan saw his Cantonese and international identity mix mature, thought the American high school experience was atypical of series “One Tree Hill” and “The O.C.” “I expected jocks, nerds, and halfway party vibes. In reality, it was very nerdy, everyone cared about academics, more akin to '21 Jump Street' where it was cool to be smart.”
As a self-proclaimed kid bordering on popularity in his international school in Hong Kong, Jordan saw himself as a nerd on the West Coast. “I didn’t have many friends in my first year.” But after the then-16-year-old made a bet with friends that if LeBron James would beat the Boston Celtics in a season finale, he would shave his eyebrows. “People in school found out and overnight I became a legend, I was the popular kid!”
He nurtured his redemption arc, being the source for jokes in his graduating year and an “attention wh*re on Facebook posting memes.” After four years studying statistics at University of California, Davis (UC Davis) in North California, Jordan travelled to New York for his masters at Columbia University.
“I moved to a new place, and I told myself, I should try something new. I went to a few comedy shows with my friends there and met mutuals who would play on Comedy Central. [These stand ups] would go up on stage and joke for a living. Part of me was like this guy is funny, but I feel like I'm funnier than him. So, that was it. That was the fuel under my fire, my oh s**t moment.”
Jordan began to hit clubs in Manhattan’s East Village and Midtown to study the art of comedy and perform at open mics. “I think in the beginning, everyone has those hopes [of making it]. New York has this grind mentality with its comedy scene, like, you need to do four open mics a night, otherwise, you're not a real comedian. I think somewhere along the way, I got lost in the shuffle.”
When Jordan returned to Hong Kong in early 2020 when the pandemic gripped America, he planned on the flight back to break into Hong Kong’s comedy scene, and was set on “making something of himself here.” He tells The Beat Asia how he envisioned coming back as a “quick visit,” but ultimately planned to stay in the city longer. “I didn’t even pack my suitcase, but I knew I was gonna (sic) do something here.”
The comedian began uploading snippets of his stand-up bits performed at Central and Wan Chai clubs and later on, uploaded memes tackling ancient Cantonese traditions and nonsensical Hong Kong happenings in 2020 after his 60-second videos of jokes would garner more than a thousand of views, and his original memes, about hundreds of views.
"All my friends said that most people would rather have 200,000 TikTok or Instagram followers than a TV credit. To me, it was better to have a couple 1,000 social media followers than go on TV once. That inspired me to pump out edited videos of me performing at shows, slowly getting traction.”
He said that whilst his memes parodying Miss Hong Kong competitions, wacky traditional Cantonese food, Hong Kong pop, ABC culture, and Hong Kong’s COVID-19 fight has garnered mass attention and followers to his account, Jordan admits he prefers sharing his stand-up clips. “I don’t want to be gatekeeperish about what comedy is or not.”
In 2021, Jordan joined the ranks of Hong Kong’s Cantonese and English comedy leagues, performing across the city. He picked up shows at The Hub, Café Queen, The Aftermath, Clubhouse Comedy, The Lawn Club, and Take Out Comedy Club, where he matured his style of comedy in both languages.
In Cantonese, Jordan tends to sardonically point out the bizarreness of Hong Kong habits and behaviours, while his English routines focus on his ABC style of comedy, reaching out to the Hong Kongers educated in the States or with American roots.
“When I began watching comedy in the US, there were very few Asian American comedians I would see that would only talk about experiences that don’t apply to [Cantonese people] that much. The in-between culture that I hadn’t seen people talk about interested me to joke about that. It happened naturally.”
“I remember the first time I watched my first show [uploaded on Instagram], I was kind of like, this guy’s the comedian I wish existed for myself.”
Jordan works at 9Gag as a “builder,” a position he began in June 2021, which links invariably with his growing comedy career. With a focus on driving worldwide content strategy on social media and creating memes for the site, Jordan can see his comedy “spread to millions” and nurture his comedy for Hong Kong audiences.
Nicknamed 69ranch on Instagram, a nod to the popular Asian supermarket chain 99 Ranch in the U.S. and not “a weird sexual salad dressing” as he maintains, Jordan exhibits pride with identifying as a Cantonese comedian. “I put myself in the box when I say I am an Asian comedian or comedian from Hong Kong. I want to make that my focus, but it will always be a by-product of whatever I achieve or what people find out about me.”
Jordan is set for his next big performance on the Hong Kong comedy show, performing his first sole theatre show, titled “we and us laugh together,” on Sep. 18 at the Hong Kong Jockey Club Amphitheatre in Wan Chai.
The 90-minute-long English show “with 少少廣東話 ;)” will cover Jordan’s reflections on his stand-up journey covering two cities and jokes never-before-seen on Instagram.
“It’ll be fun, I’m excited,” he says. “It is my first kind of big production, and I will try my best.” Jordan hopes the show will propel him into attempting to enter comedy production in the future and testing his comedy on a larger scale both in Hong Kong and Asia-wide.
For now, Jordan wants you to “go to more Cantonese comedy shows” and spread the love for Hong Kong’s growing comedy scene.
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