Those expats who have been around Korea for a while will find Brian Aylward no stranger. It’s been nearly two years since he left the reins of Stand Up Seoul to a pack of young, up-and-coming comedians, but he’s ready to come back to where he got his start.
Aylward is currently on his first international comedy tour around Asia and is closing out the last leg of the tour in Korea. He started in Singapore on June 13 and worked his way through Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia before his first show in Bundang on June 26, with Seoul comedian Albert Escobedo opening.
He said he was very excited about his return and proud of those who picked up where he left off in the comedy scene.
“I’m also truly proud of the scene that we have built in Korea. I think Korea has the best expat comedy crowds in Asia,” he said in an email interview with The Korea Herald.
“With more and more Koreans coming out to the shows, it can only continue to prosper.”
Ever since the comedian left Korea in December 2010, he’s been planning his return.
“I started doing stand-up in Asia and I wanted to stay connected and continue with that,” he said.
His current tour is in coordination with The Comedy Club Asia, which Aylward has done shows with before, Stand Up Seoul and the Ha Ha Hole in Busan. And this tour is only the beginning ― he plans to tour Asia every year from now on.
One thing Aylward said the crowd can expect is every one of his seven shows in Korea to be different.
“I like interacting with the crowd. It’s a lot of the same jokes but I am always adding things and riffing with the crowd,” he said.
He is planning to have a “bunch of fun shows” while on the tour, write some new material and stay connected with the scene that’s emerging in Asia.
So far, Aylward said his most interesting stop has been Jakarta, Indonesia, with armed guards standing out front of the hotel.
“They don’t announce the location of the gig until days before the date, due to security issues. Bombing in Indonesia means everyone dies. They still sell out shows! Incredible,” he said.
But there is no doubt that Korea is the part of the trip he is most looking forward to.
“I can’t wait to be back in Kimchiland. I’m really looking forward to seeing old faces and lots of new ones. Also, kimchi jjigae and racism,” said Aylward.
Of those faces, many will be in connection with Stand Up Seoul. Aylward started Stand Up Seoul in March 2009 after noticing a lack of stand-up comedy in the expat community here, during his second stint in the country from 2007 to 2010.
He came to Korea to teach English in 2003 after graduating with a degree in psychology ― which Aylward calls “useless,” saying that it only made him realize how messed up he was. Korea EFL groups were recruiting at his university and he jumped at the chance to be called “Brian Teacher.”
“I felt it was better than staying in Canada and being Brian Bouncer, Brian Security Guard or Brian Sandwich Artist,” he said.
He left for a year in 2005, came back, and started up a monthly comedy open mic, which is now held every first Thursday at Rocky Mountain Tavern in Itaewon. He said it was amazing how much Stand Up Seoul has progressed in his absence.
“A handful of comedians have taken the reins and people keep coming out and supporting stand-up in South Korea,” he said.
Since his return to Canada with his wife he said he’s been keeping up with comedy, as well as spending time with friends and family. He’s appeared at the Newfoundland Screech Comedy Festival CBC Gala in 2011, as well as won the first comic of George Street competition at Trinity Pub.
But what inspires Aylward in his comedic endeavors?
“People inspire me. We are truly a bunch of big dummies in an intelligent world. Funny is everywhere.”
He said he planned to keep writing and honing his skills on stage. He would like to release a comedy album within the next two years and tour England, Australia and the U.S.
“Just keep at it and see where it takes me. Who knows? I’m just happy and thankful that I found my funny. I’m cool with paying the bills from comedy and being able to drink the expensive juice without guilt,” he said.
The shows in Korea started on June 26 at Traveler’s Bar in Bundang. The next show is at Traveler’s Bar in Daegu on June 28 with Rob Fioretta, starting at 10 p.m.
After that, Aylward will move down to Busan with shows at Sharky’s Haeundae on June 29 and HQ, Kyungsung on June 30. Both shows start at 10 p.m. and are 10,000 won at the door.
The Seoul shows kick off at Yaletown in Sinchon on July 1 at 8 p.m. Tickets are 10,000 won as well, and must be purchased in advance. After that is a show at Waegook Cook in Gumi on July 6, and Rocky Mountain Tavern in Itaewon on July 7.
Aylward is also planning an appearance at Tony’s in Itaewon on June 27.
By Emma Kalka (firstname.lastname@example.org)