The Jim Jefferies Show takes stab at reporting on civil liberties in S’pore, provides sympathetic take

It is a commentary on Singapore and the United States.

Belmont Lay | May 27, 2019 @ 01:56 am


There’s a saying these days that comedians do journalism better than journalists do comedy.

And the latest comedian-political commentator to take a stab at doing some decent journalism is Jim Jefferies.

Who is he?

Jefferies is an Australian-American stand-up comedian who does political commentary.

The Jim Jefferies Show did a little segment about Singapore and civil liberties, which was recently put up online on May 24, 2019.

It has some 84,000 views within two days.

Who did he speak to?

Jefferies and his crew came by and spoke to some Singaporeans.

They included Conrad Raj, 72, a former newspaper editor, gay comedian Sam See, and a bunch of college and university aged youngsters, who kind of represent Singapore’s nascent creative class.

Comedian Sam See.
College-going types who were introduced using their first names only.
Newspaper editor, Conrad Raj.

What was the feel of the segment?

The entire exercise showed that it is possible to do a piece to the camera by an outsider that is sympathetic to Singapore’s position and its way of governance.

To figure out what are the civil liberties that Singaporeans are supposedly giving up and what Singaporeans feel about the trade-offs, Jefferies did not speak to anyone from the government.

But it was not like he had to because the young people he interviewed (more on them later) were almost reciting the exact lines people in the establishment would say.

And it is not a bad thing.

The video felt like there was a genuine attempt at figuring out what works in Singapore.

Running at slightly over nine minutes long, the segment was decent in that it was not obnoxious or shrill.

Because the default position could have easily been to make Singapore look plain draconian and it would have fallen into the same kind of narrative.

A message for America

The acceptable trade-offs of supposedly being less free was articulated by the young folks interviewed.

At one point towards the end, they said they prized security over the right to bear arms — which is a pet topic of Jefferies.

This was the moment in the video, which was clearly targeted at the US audience.

One of the young Singaporean folks said when asked about Americans and their freedoms:

“I’ll say that they are a lot less free than they think they are.”

Another added on:

“You’re not free to go to school without getting the fear of getting shot at.”

And another put the icing on the cake:

“Walking on the street and knowing that the likelihood of me getting shot or blown up is a lot less than the west. It’s a great comfort to me.”

What’s good about the segment?

The entire segment is made funny by the strategic use of comedic pregnant pauses, and plays on the so-called cognitive dissonance experienced by someone who has some of his preconceived notions challenged, and how it ends up being more of a commentary on the US as much as it is about Singapore.

See’s insight on what he has to deal with as a gay comedian was an eye-opener, but his take on media are exaggerations that appear to serve his personal branding.

How much of it is true, well, we’ll have to take his word for it.

This is eventually comedy, not Spotlight.

What are the criticisms?

Some criticisms include how the interviewees are people who are skewed towards the more liberal types: Newspaper editor, gay comedian, and college educated young people, including one from the LGBTQ+ community.

Jefferies and his crew also appear to have only spent enough time in the city centre.

The interviews appear to have been conducted at the National Gallery Singapore, which is the culmination of cool and a place reserved for those who have made a mark or a dent in the Urbanocene.

What about the blue-collared workers, or the non-English-speaking heartlanders?

They have opinions too, and they can be quite conservative.

Jim Jefferies stand-up gig

Jefferies’ most memorable stand-up gig is the one on why it is bonkers for Americans to still own guns.

It was recorded after Sandy Hook occurred and it was uploaded online in 2015, but the stand-up show itself was a few years before that.

It took the piss out of Americans and their gun-owning ways.

If you have 15 minutes to spare, you can watch parts one and two below:

About Belmont Lay

Belmont can pronounce "tchotchke".

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