S'pore's High Commissioner to M'sia: Comedian's MH370 joke 'gratuitously offensive', doesn't reflect S'pore's views

Singapore's High Commissioner apologised to Malaysians for Jocelyn Chia's "hurtful remarks".

Tan Min-Wei | June 08, 2023, 03:04 AM

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Vanu Gopala Menon, the Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia, has issued an early morning statement on June 8, distancing Singapore from cross-border jokes made by comedian Jocelyn Chia.

Does not reflect Singapore's views

Menon issued the statement in response to backlash targeting the comedian and Singaporeans in general, after a video of part of Chia's stand-up routine was circulated widely in Malaysia.

Calling Chia's comments "gratuitously offensive", Menon said the Singapore government does not condone "words or actions that cause harm or hurt to others".

Menon also highlighted in his statement that Chia is no longer a Singaporean, and that she did not "in any way reflect our views".

He also "sincerely" apologised to all Malaysians for Chia's hurtful remarks.

Menon's statement, which was posted on Facebook on June 8, just past 1am, read:

"I am appalled by the gratuitously offensive comments made by stand-up performer Jocelyn Chia. The Singapore Government does not condone words or actions that cause harm or hurt to others and Chia, who is no longer Singaporean, does not in any way reflect our views. I sincerely apologise to all Malaysians for her hurtful remarks.

As our closest neighbour, Singapore and Malaysia enjoy a strong and multi-faceted relationship, with deep and cross-cutting ties. We also have unique historical and close people-to-people ties. Comments such as those made by Chia are unhelpful and undermine the close trust and friendship that both our countries and peoples enjoy."

Gratuitously Offensive

Backlash against Chia grew quickly on June 7 after truncated videos of her comedy set were spread on social media, with Malaysian news outlets quickly picking up on the story.

Chia was performing at the Comedy Cellar in New York, a legendary comedy club which served as a proving ground for several icons of modern comedy, such as Dave Chappelle and Jon Stewart.


The funniest part was after my set the host asked the Malaysians how they got to nyc and they replied "Singapore Airlines" 😂🇸🇬

♬ original sound - Jocelyn Chia

Her act consisted of swearing at at least one member of the audience who had identified themselves as Malaysian, before mocking Malaysia for being a developing nation, as opposed to Singapore, which was a developed nation.

Roasting others in comedy is nothing new, which cruel jibes par for the course in some routines.

Malaysian and Singaporean comedians have a long history of sniping at each other, mostly playfully, and sarcastically.

But Chia was deemed to have crossed the line when she said Malaysia's "airlines cannot fly", referencing the tragic disappearance of MH370 in 2014.

The short clip at one point showed an overlay of a Malaysian Airlines plane to emphasise the punchline.

Chia then made sure to leave no doubt what she meant when responding to a mixed audience response to her joke.

She said: "What? Malaysian Airlines going missing not funny, huh?"

She then added: "Some jokes don't land."

This was followed by her making an airplane landing motion with her hand, and then saying, "This joke kills in Singapore."


While most of her critics pointed out that the joke was in poor taste, especially since the unsolved case of MH370 was a raw wound for the friends and families of those onboard, some commenters also resorted to name-calling and implied threats.

Many comments on the video, both on TikTok and Instagram, have targeted Singaporeans, mainly bringing up traditional bugbears against those at the tip of the peninsula.

Other more pointed comments took issue with Singaporeans illegally purchasing subsidised petrol meant for Malaysians in Malaysia, while several touched on national subjects, such as Singapore purchasing water from Malaysia.

Menon has been Singapore's High Commissioner to Malaysia since 2014.

The role is equivalent to that of an ambassador, and has borne witness to Singapore-Malaysia ties over close to a decade.

Traditionally Commonwealth states have styled their foreign missions to each other as "High Commissions" rather than embassies.

Top image via @jocelynchiacomedy/ TikTok & Singapore High Commission in KL and Consulate-General in JB/ Facebook