While comedy sketch shows have been staple entertainment in the West for decades – think Saturday Night Live in the US, Monty Python’s Flying Circus in the UK and Fast Forward in Australia – the concept is relatively fresh for Cambodian viewers.
However, it’s taken off fast with Prahok TV, a new YouTube and Facebook series backed by Rock Entertainment that takes the format of short, situation-based comedy clips and gives it a uniquely Cambodian twist.
Less than two weeks after its launch, the show already has hundreds of thousands of likes and millions of views; the team – which includes comedians, singers and actors – plan to make an episode every week to post to YouTube and Facebook on Mondays.
“So far, we’ve only uploaded two episodes running about five to seven minutes,” said production manager Chap Sokhon. “Each episode has five clips with a different funny story in each – we wanted to avoid having any boring scenes.”
Some of the sketches are original but others – in typical Cambodian style – are simply adapted from elsewhere.
“Sometimes, our team comes up with our own ideas, but sometimes we find them on the internet and make a Khmer version,” Sokhon said. The themes will be familiar to a Cambodian audience: poor medical care, muggings, dodgy fortunetellers.
The humour in some cases is slapstick – for example, a doctor getting kicked in the face repeatedly while testing a patient’s reflexes – and at other times plays on social taboos, like the ones around feminine hygiene products.
In one sketch, a fortuneteller predicts that a young woman may suffer an “accident” involving blood and then hands her a yorn – normally a piece of paper inscribed with lucky symbols, but in this case, a sanitary pad.
“Until now, our clips are not different from the foreign countries, because we’ve learned from them how to make people laugh with one-minute videos. The idea is for everyone around the world . . . not based on a particular culture,” Sokhon said.
“But we plan to base some skits in a truly Cambodian context, focusing on special events such as the Water Festival or Khmer New Year, which show Cambodian reality.”
Sokhon said the team had several more ideas for the web series in the works and planned to take on more serious subjects and social issues.
“We will take on different educational concepts tackling the issues that people face in their daily lives,” he said.