Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and bursting with laughter, comedy duo Charlene and Mayiduo hope to make their mark in the entertainment industry.
In a recent interview with AsiaOne, Charlene and Mayiduo (whose real name is Kelvin Tan), spoke about the niche they fill through their comedic videos on TikTok.
“When it comes to comedy, during my time, I grew up watching Jack Neo, Mark Lee and Henry Thia,” Kelvin said. “But I realised that there is no next generation. There is no bridge, and no one to take up the mantle.
“It’s very wasted because it’s a piece of local culture. Once they retire, there’ll be no one to carry on this legacy.”
But in this gap is an opportunity, Kelvin explained.
Citing multiple other comedy platforms, he highlighted that most of them only produce content in English while Chinese content, specifically comedy, is few and far between.
“Not only that, Mandarin is something the two of us are really familiar with, we can come up with content effortlessly,” Charlene added.
Kelvin also laughed and quipped: “But if you hear me speak English, you might want to hit me instead!”
The two have come a long way since their first attempts at entering the entertainment industry.
They first tried their hand as wannabe DJs when they joined The Sound Makers 2019 (now known as The Star Voice), a competition for Mediacorp DJ aspirants.
Unfortunately, their attempt fell flat and they didn’t make it past the blind stage, where contestants were situated behind the stage’s curtains and judges listened to their voices.
Ribbing Charlene, Kelvin said: “The judges listened to your voice for three seconds and buzzed you out, but they listened to me for 30 seconds!”
In response, Charlene argued that the judges were looking for male contestants because there were very few male participants to begin with.
In what they described as “fate”, the two of them decided to start their own show on social media known as Double Up a few weeks after being eliminated.
Both of them were presented in a prim and proper manner, introducing themselves as Weiguang and Xueling — which also happens to be a pun on the Chinese name of the show, Huan Ying Guang Ling.
Said Charlene: “That wasn’t a persona that we wore, that was the real us. We went in with feelings of self-importance, but we couldn’t take off at all.”
Their attempts at a breakthrough on social media didn’t work out despite their best efforts, until Kelvin turned to Douyin for inspiration and came up with a Singaporean ah beng twist on a trending video at the time.
Borrowing the same music used in the original video, Kelvin played an ah beng and showed what the life of an ah beng would be like in Singapore.
They had few expectations for this video, Charlene shared.
She recounted: “After he filmed and posted it, he (Kelvin) went to sleep. Usually after posting, we would boost the video (referring to paying the platform for greater reach of the video), but he actually went to sleep!
“After that, the video suddenly went viral… I kept receiving notifications, so I called Kelvin and asked, ‘Hey bro, how much did you spend on boosting?’
“He replied in Hokkien, ‘No leh, I was sleeping.'”
By the time Kelvin woke up, they had accumulated over 100,000 views on TikTok, he said.
How Kelvin Tan became Mayiduo
With the virality of their post, Kelvin felt like he needed to tie a name to the character he created.
“Mayiduo is actually from a joke on the internet,” he said in Mandarin. “The story goes like this: My father’s surname is Ma. When I was born, there was a large cloud beside me (Yi Duo Yun). At this point, if you’ve not heard of Mayiduo, you’ll think of Ma Yun (Alibaba’s Jack Ma).”
Mayiduo is basically just an unexpected twist and pun on Jack Ma’s Mandarin name, Kelvin explained.
“Somehow, that video garnered about 400,000 to 500,000 views — I didn’t choose Mayiduo, Mayiduo chose me.”
Going along with the joke and theme of being an ah beng, Charlene picked up the role of a ‘Singaporelian’ — think Singaporean ‘ah lian’.
“But truthfully, I’m a woman of quality and culture,” Charlene added, while Kelvin jokingly voiced his doubts.
And although she plays an uncouth woman, Charlene is actually a graduate of the National University of Singapore and was on the Dean’s list for two semesters, she revealed.
She got her character’s name from a mistyped response to a query about her nationality, while her persona was formed from her experience with ah bengs and ah lians in secondary school.
And Kelvin isn’t anything like the character he plays, either.
Said Charlene: “He’s not like an ah beng at all! When I first got to know him, he was even wearing long sleeves.”
Added Kelvin: “I think my vibes are more like a businessman.”
Going mainstream with Jack Neo
While they found fame as influencers and online content creators, they found mainstream fame when Charlene got cast in Ah Girls Go Army (AGGA), and Charlene even managed to rope in Kelvin.
Recalling the moment, Charlene said: “Director Neo (Jack Neo) even asked me, ‘I have the role of a loan shark that needs to be filled, do you think I should get Mayiduo to act?'”
In AGGA, Charlene played Recruit Lau Lan Lan, a character similar to the ah lian she usually portrays for Double Up. True to her entrepreneurial spirit, her character in AGGA was trying to smuggle things into camp to sell to other recruits.
Kelvin played a more minor role in comparison and portrayed a gangster, just as Jack had told Charlene.
‘Humble is the way to go’
In collaboration with mm2 Entertainment, Double Up has also recently launched a new youth-focused initiative branded Youth To Youth (Y2Y).
“The programme is meant to encourage young people to create content and join the entertainment industry, and will include three short films, one music video and one full-length film.
“I was very touched when I heard that, because directing a movie has always been one of the goals in my life,” Kelvin said.
The full-length movie is expected to be filmed in 2023 and released in 2024, and will be directed by Kelvin.
In the programme, five teams of hopefuls will produce five videos, and Double Up will serve as a mentor to these participants. The participants will also take on various roles throughout the filming process of the full-length film.
“We have achieved some results from our efforts, but in this industry, if you ever feel like you’ve made it, it will be your downfall. You can’t have this mentality [of] I always think of myself as a small fry,” Kelvin said.
Added Charlene: “I always tell my team that we don’t have to be the most popular, we just need to be the most enduring… humble is the way to go.”
For the full interview with Kelvin and Charlene, watch the latest episode of E-Junkies.
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