Comedian Sang Don Park headlines the comedy night


Korea time


Comedian Sang Don Park headlines the comedy night

Sang Don Park / Courtesy of Curtis File Photography
Sang Don Park / Courtesy of Curtis File Photography

By Rory Kelly

A young man takes the stage for the talent show at an international school in Korea. He is expected to show off his beatboxing skills, as he has done in previous talent shows. The school is small ― there are only 40 students in the boys class ― and there is a sense of repetition in the talent show. Frankly, most of the school has already seen the boy’s signature moves. He has other skills he could display; he can play several musical instruments, dance and sing. But this time he did not buy any musical equipment with him. There seems to be more beatboxing. The boy raises the microphone to his lips and begins to pretend to be his teachers. The crowd goes wild.

“When I made impressions of my school teachers that everyone could relate to, that explosive laughter sparked a passion in me,” comedian Sang Don Park, now an adult, told The Korea Times.

Born and raised in Korea, Park started beatboxing and dancing at the age of 12 and learned several musical instruments, before switching to stand-up comedy as a teenager. This Saturday, he will headline his own show at Seoul’s Phillies Pub, “One Night with Sang Don Park,” with a 30-minute set.

Park is deeply involved in Korea’s English-speaking stand-up scene. He helps organize various open-mic nights and comedy showcases in Seoul and beyond and performs regularly. He also maintains a strong online presence, vlogging and uploading videos of his act online.

He had an early inspiration for stand-up at school when his world history teacher showed a clip of Russell Peters doing a bit of comedy. It still lists Peters as an influence, along with other notables such as Patrice O’Neal and Bill Burr.

Park likens the rush of laughter to “smoking a minty menthol cigarette…so sweet and surreal it can be addictive.” He talks about how comedy can make a person more humble and confident at the same time, with the ability to bomb and the ability to boost ego while sitting next to each other.

Like many artists, Park draws inspiration from the world around him. “I usually get inspired by talking to people and… events that happen in my daily life.”

Not everything makes the cut, however. “If I think of [a story] several times during the week…it’s good enough to test on stage. If I forget it, that means it wasn’t memorable enough to be a funny joke.”

He says the real skill is in delivering the material and he thinks “if you’re talented enough, any odd occurrence can be told as a funny anecdote or a stage joke”.

Does he want to be famous? “I would like to perfect my craft and improve myself.” Does he want to reach the heights of influence that some of his inspirations have touched? “If I just have loyal fans who appreciate my comedy and my performance, that will be enough.”

But it’s not just the comedian’s life experience that counts. When making a comedy, you have to consider what is relevant to the audience. Park understood this from his very first show, mocking his school’s teachers for a room full of grateful students. However, Park isn’t too worried about the potential differences between him and those who listen to him, no matter where he goes in the world; “If you have good material, good jokes, and just work to make good material, it will work anywhere.” He firmly declares, “funny is funny.”

Park plans to leave for the UK later this year to pursue his acting career. He is looking forward to performing more internationally after moving and hopes to be able to do longer sets more often.

After a contraction due to the pandemic, comedy parties are popping up across the city and beyond, featuring artists from all walks of life. Comedians Louie Cho, Kristen Pimley and Curtis File will join Park on Saturday night. The show will be produced by Arthur Minsu. A truly international show, featuring two Koreans, an American and a Canadian, with an American behind the scenes, it reflects the multifaceted nature of Seoul’s stand-up scene.

“A Night With Sang Don Park” will kick off at 7 p.m. at Phillies Bar in Haebangchon, near Noksapyeong Station on Seoul Subway Line 6. Tickets cost 10,000 won and can be purchased at the door. Contact Sang Don Park at @thesangshow on Instagram for more information.

Rory Kelly is a Seoul-based writer, actor, improviser and comedian. He also often spotted not-quite-winning pub quizzes in the Itaewon area. Find him on Twitter @rorywritesstuff.


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