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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Larger-than-life comic breaks the mould

Larger-than-life comic breaks the mould

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The actress known by the stage name of Peng Paung turns her looks to her advantage and forges a successful film and television comedy career

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Comedian Peng Paung (left) acts in a scene from the movie Mother’s Death. The comic actress has amassed a career spanning some 50 films and television appearances.

THIRTY-three-year-old Moeun Nimol, who goes by the stage name Peng Paung, has used her unconventional looks to her advantage, becoming one of the most famous female comedians in Cambodia.

"If you are looking for me and ask my real name, no one knows because I have a nickname and all the audiences know me as Peng Paung. If I used my real name, maybe I wouldn't have become famous," she said.

Peng Paung noted that there are about 20 professional female comedians in Cambodia, and she expressed admiration for all of them because most of them have helped her to be a better comedian.

"I've gotten a lot of wisdom and experience from the older generation of comedians," she added, noting that her favourite comedian was Mabnoya, a star from an older generation and "very fat like me", she said.

"I follow in her steps because I am as fat as her, and she was a famous comedy actress during the 1970s," she added.

"To be a female comedian is not so difficult because I have performed for many years, so I feel familiar with it," Peng Paung said. "But at first it was really difficult."

Men can't do it alone

"I am proud of myself because I can perform with and for male comedians. Male comedians cannot perform if they don't have a female comedian," she said.

I really want feedback from audiences.… I don't know what they say behind my back.

"Charlie Chaplin is my favourite international comedian because he is famous. He never spoke when he acted, but the audience laughed at his performances because of his mannerisms."

Peng Paung said she became interested in comedy about six years ago because her father was also a comedian.

"I learned how to perform from the older generation of comedians and producers who taught me how speak, perform and act," she said.

"I couldn't be an actress because my body is too fat. I could just perform as a bit-part actress."

Peng Paung said after she performed in her first film, a number of movie production companies invited her to perform in their karaoke and movie productions.

"I have acted in more than 50 comedy movies, and I also often perform comedy on television," she said.

"I played on live television in 2003 and 2004, and I felt very nervous being live because I was afraid I would get my lines wrong and there are a lot of people watching me. I thought at least seven million people were watching me on television," she said.

Performing live on television

"Acting in a film is really different than television and a lot easier than performing live on the spot. I can do it over again whenever I perform something wrong, and I have a script to read first before I go on. But with live television, there's no chance to do it again. I have to be careful when I perform live because I have to use my own words."

"I don't feel as scared as I used to and find it easier to perform live on television," she said.

"I really want to have feedback from the audiences because I want to know what I am doing wrong or what I have to change. I am not angry with them because they can make my performing better," Peng Paung said.

"I've never heard the audience say anything bad or have a negative reaction to my performances because I am very careful and I never use obscene language," she smiled.

"But I don't know what they say behind my back.

"I am very happy and enjoy performing very much when there is a big audience and producers and my friends admire my work," she said. "My family usually corrects me when I'm wrong and encourages me if I'm lacking in some points."

When she performs, Peng Paung said she often has to express difficult emotions, such as crying for a scene, to evoke a reaction from the audience.

"I like to do things that are difficult for me, especially live television, because I can get a reaction or criticism from the audiences and it can make my performances stronger," she said.

Don't give up your dreams

Before Peng Paung became a comedian, she was a vendor and a radio commentator on 98FM. She married in 2005.

"When I have free time I like to read magazines and newspapers, visit some tourist places and family members, and I have to research new ideas or styles to perform for the audiences," she said.

"My advice to people wanting to get into comedy is that they have to be patient and not give up on their dream. To be a comedian is more difficult than to be a movie star so they have to be very determined if they want to be comedians," she said. 

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