Seth Rogen Disses Singapore on Conan

I must be one of the uptight ones which surprised me as I always considered myself quite easy-going, liberal minded and able to take a joke. When I saw this video for the first time, I felt quite annoyed. I did not find it funny. When I watched it a second time I guess there is some truth within, but I still felt upset. Perhaps it’s it’s just natural that we don’t like our country being dissed or mocked by someone who’s never lived here? Maybe it seems that there is some patriotism in me after all.

I guess the part that bit the most was when Seth said that this was a place no one would ever go to. Ouch! Maybe I was annoyed that there was truth in some of what he said. No one’s going to arrest you if you chew gum and I’ve voted, although only once. Would be cool if I could vote every 2 years.

I love Conan, and since he’s never been to Singapore it felt awful that this was going to be his first impression of the country. Maybe that was it.

I guess I need to take a chill pill. How did you feel when you saw the video? Here are some reactions from Yahoo Singapore.


About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore & recently cancer too.
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14 Responses to Seth Rogen Disses Singapore on Conan

  1. Kiersten says:

    It may not be the most accurate description of Singapore, but i have to say, it’s a pretty accurate characterization of the image that most Americans have of Singapore (if they’ve even heard of it…we don’t have a reputation for being great geographers!). When I told people I was moving here, I got one of 2 responses:
    1 – Where in China is that?
    2 – Is that where they cane you if you chew gum?

    • bookjunkie says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kiersten 🙂

      I guess it was a case of reality bites as well for me.

      Yeah sometimes when we read our headlines I think that everyone knows where Singapore is and what doesn’t come to the forefront is how tiny we are. It’s hard to think about how insignificant we are in the big scheme of things. Like I decided to do a search about our elections on Google wondering how it’s perceived by other nations…and not one return – it was all singapore media.

      I’ve heard about the people thinking Singapore is a state in China. I guess it’s not too surprising. Annoying, but not surprising.

      I think expats like yourself are doing us a great favour by changing that perspective. I love looking at Singapore through your eyes. Makes me appreciate the things I take for granted and also opens up my perspective to our deficiencies.

  2. kirsten says:

    I found it hilarious. But then I went and contradicted myself by getting a bit offended by the Yale Daily News editorial that came out about the NUS-Yale liberal arts school.

    I think Seth Rogen is a comedian and should be viewed as such, i.e. with a huge pinch of salt. It is natural for him to grossly exaggerate for comedic effect, and I don’t think he intended to offend or diss Singaporeans. I’ve also seen many stand-up comedians take the piss out of many places (like Dylan Moran asking “what is the point of Perth”, or making fun of Australia in general, etc. etc.) and I guess it’s just new to us because people hardly ever mention Singapore at all!

    And like Kiersten said, it really is unfortunately the Westerner idea of Singapore. I’ve got that many many times.

  3. Crystal says:

    Unfortunately I have to chime in on the same side as Kiersten. Most Americans know of Singapore as (A) That place where that dude got caned for graffiti in 90-something, (B) a reference to prostitution from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, (C) Where you can’t chew gum, or (D) not at all.

    When I told people I was moving here, the most common questions I got were “Where the hell is THAT?”, “What language do they speak there?” and “Why? Isn’t that like a third world country?”

    At roughly 1/2 the size of LA or 1/4 the size of Rhode Island (one of the smallest states in the US), Singapore isn’t really known at all on the American stage. But to be fair, if we’re not at war with them, next to them, or they’re a major, physically large country, most Americans have never heard of most places. As a breed, sadly, we’re just not that interested in what goes on outside our borders. Most nightly “news” shows barely cover the entire state you live in, much less the rest of the US, and maybe spend 3 minutes on world events (minus a HUGE deal like Egypt, which got some play, but based on my home newspaper, not much).

    Watching it, I think Seth isn’t all that wrong.

    My impression is that no, most Singaporeans are never given a chance to vote in an election. When you put that into the American perspective, where voting is an absolute right the second you turn 18, and you vote in local, state and federal election (almost yearly if you vote at all three levels) the idea that you may or may not ever vote does make Singapore look less democratic. When you also take into perspective that Lee has effectively been in power the entire duration of Singapore’s history as a modern state (regardless of his title), as has his party, it doesn’t look democratic. Having lived here, I genuinely think of it as a dictatorship.

    Again, from an American perspective, the level of involvement that the government has in everyday life is horrifying. The whole censorship of movies and reading material. The gum thing…yes, you can get stop-smoking gum via prescription and it’s ridiculously easy to bring into the country in your luggage (not that *I’d* know *anything* about that) doesn’t mean I can go to 7/11 and buy strawberry bubblicious or doublemint gum. Nor could I safely walk down the street blowing bubbles. In the US, you have the right to tell a police officer they can’t come into your home without a warrant. Here I have to let a mosquito inspector in whenever he wants. By comparison, it *does* seem quite oppressive.

    Singapore is also very young. Granted, the US is young compared to Britain or France, for example, but Singapore is in it’s infancy. There are plenty of citizens who remember, vividly, Singapore becoming it’s own thing. But we don’t know how things are going to go…no one even really knows what happens when your 99 year HDB lease expires, for example. I think there’s a certain validity to “so far so good.”

    But I think the thing to keep in mind is that Rogen is a comedian. His job is to take things to a certain extreme and make people laugh. Comedy has to be relateable…and if there’s something most people have heard about Singapore, it’s that you can’t chew gum here. Which is unimaginable in the US…kids and teens are almost never without gum (to the point where there are all kinds of rules about gum in school, and I still confiscated multiple pieces a day)…gum is something everyone can relate to. It’s such an ingrained part of life, you might as well have banned orange juice or water. So as a comedian, if you crack jokes about gum, it’s something the audience can relate to.

    Obviously the truth about Singapore is far more nuanced. There is a delicate balancing act that is going on in Singapore. There *is* tremendous involvement on the part of the government and while aspects of that are baffling (vibrators are good, nipples are bad, porn is bad, but erotic novels are fine?) there is also an enviable efficiency to the way things are accomplished here. I’m amazed by the way things are built and executed in a timely fashion here.

    Thank you for the blog post topic…I think I have a lot to say, and I’m going to go write about this over on Expat Bostonians 🙂

    • bookjunkie says:

      I was hoping that this post would encourage some debate. Thanks so much Crystal 🙂 I can always count on you to be candid about the issues and give us an educated perspective. Will head on to your blog to read more for sure. Would also love to hear what you think about the Elections, the candidates and policies. We are really in our infancy when it comes to being politically minded.

      I do love how we have honest dialogues on our blogs. I think in a way it’s a case of not experiencing anything better. It’s like only when I tried business class travel once due to those wonderful frequent flyer points did I know what an awful experience cattle class was. That’s about the best analogy I can think of.

  4. Pingback: Seth Rogen talks about Singapore on Conan..and SG isn’t happy about it « Expat Bostonians

  5. conrad says:

    Actually, (gasp, maybe I’m not patriotic?), while his jokes have some basis to it, I found the most of his delivery flat. (Though I found myself laughing to the “so far so good” punchline.)

    He left out this one though. (Complimenting his style of humour) “They criminalize gay sex too. And you know, that’s my sideline*.”

    *insert gay slang to twist it further

    I believe/suspect, if you were to judge (from the canned? laughters) the American feedback from his jokes, they won’t exactly find it that funny.

    • bookjunkie says:

      you have a point…it might have been in the delivery as well?

    • Crystal says:

      I think he knows his audience well enough to know that gay humor doesn’t really fly, especially with liberal audiences. A gay joke would’ve pissed off the majority of his US fans (who, thanks the pot stuff are fairly young and extremely liberal).

      Gay humor really doesn’t fly in the US. Anytime someone uses “gay” as a punchline of late has resulted in huge uproar. Especially in light of the recent gay teen suicides, no one is going there right now. Which is for the best.

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