From ‘Picking on cabbies is not funny’, 21 April 2011, ST Forum online
(Nicholas Tan): ON TUESDAY, I watched Just For Laughs (Singapore edition) and there was a section where pranks were played on taxi drivers.
The producer of the show should not play pranks on cabbies as time is precious to them.
Not all taxi drivers are young and fit. Some are older, and they might be injured while carrying the many pieces of luggage as part of the prank.
(Couldn’t find the video of this segment, but found the likely non-Asian original version below)
Naturally, for a Candid Camera-style format, viewers only get to see the smiley, lighter side of such gags while the ones that were taken a wee bit too seriously ending up with people charging at the hidden camera didn’t make it to the final cut of the episode. It remains to be seen if Singaporeans have loosened up over the years, looking at the dismal state of local comedy and satire today. In fact, the very first complaints against suggestions of a local ‘Candid Camera’ emerged as early as the seventies (see below Untitled, 15 Jan 1971). Obviously such warnings were ignored and SBC went ahead to create the failed social experiment that is ‘Gotcha!’ in the nineties (Moe Alkaff remains in hiding till this day). So now we have Just for Gags Asia which is basically Same Gag, Different Victims, with our local production team relying on tried and tested formulae approved by JFG CEO without daring to pull something truly original and risking being labelled as a public nuisance. Probably not a bad idea to copy and shift the blame to our foreign bosses, since Singaporeans have been the unwilling recipients of a few horrendous local pranks of late, including a make-believe fairy tale ending in a bloodbath and a man dressed as a grizzly bear.
Still, it’s not just taxi drivers but everyone’s time which is precious here, and you don’t want to be caught in a gag while you’re on the way to see a dying relative at the hospital, meeting a client, or rushing home to watch Ai. If we want to be so cautious about stepping on the wrong toes, that pretty much leaves running sight gags only on people with the leisure to afford a chuckle at their own expense: Tourists, and only those who look happy-go-lucky too. Which defeats the purpose of having a Singaporean Just For Laughs in the first place. Granted, this isn’t exactly the finest LOL moment out of JFG’s bag of tricks, but for a complainant to see a prank not as public humiliation but a waste of time is a disturbing sign of our straight-laced preoccupation with efficiency. If it’s any consolation, our cabbies had it easy; other variants from the original series include transporting a heavily bandaged, incapacitated stooge in a wheelchair or having a fake python escaping from its cage in the back seat ( Nicholas would warn that such scares could lead to heart attacks, especially for old and unfit cabbies, which means they could probably die in the line of duty or land up in hospital i.e not working) I’m sure JFG Inc have done the necessary research and legal paperwork in the event the huge risk that is poking fun at a Singaporean doesn’t pay off. And speaking of poking…