Hirzi and Benjamin Kheng of The BenZi Project on hosting Comedy Central’s fourth season of Stand Up, Asia!

Hirzi and Benjamin Kheng of The BenZi Project on hosting Comedy Central’s fourth season of Stand Up, Asia!

Show me the funny

Text: Tracy Phillips

Image: Daniel Ho

When multi-hyphenates Benjamin Kheng and Hirzi Zulkiflie get together, laughter ensues. Both have enjoyed individual success in Singapore's entertainment scene, Ben as an actor and singer and Hirzi as a breakout YouTube star and entertainer.

However, it's their camaraderie, comedic timing, and writing chops that really come to the fore in their joint venture, The BenZi Project. Over the last nine months, the self-funded comedy sketch series has had the pair tackle current affairs, social issues, and cultural stereotypes to hilarious effect.

This month, the duo will be coming to our small screens as the hosts of Comedy Central's fourth season of Stand Up, Asia! joining twelve comic talents from all over Asia over eight episodes. We caught up with them ahead of the show's premiere on 12 November to find out more about the show and their plans for 2020.

Congrats on hosting Comedy Central's Stand Up Asia. How did you get the gig?
Hirzi: My shamelessless.
Benjamin: Shamelessness. Definitely not our talents. You've been friends with Comedy Central for a while.
Hirzi: Someone pitched Stand-Up Asia to me, and instead of being a comic, I pitched back The BenZi Project. We met them and that's eventually how it came to be.

What can we expect from you as hosts of the show?
Hirzi: Diversity!
Benjamin: Democracy and inclusivity!
Hirzi: And progress for our nation!
Benjamin: Jokes, sketches, characters, a bit of cross-dressing, and food!
Hirzi: And a lot of Asian-themed humour.

Who are your favourite comedians on Stand Up Asia and why?
Hirzi: It's definitely going to be Hannan Azlan from Malaysia. She does comedy with music and there's something great about her character that you just forgive anything that's offensive about her, because she's just so cute and adorable. I've always been a fan of Yumi, even when she just started out. I was already following her online.
Benjamin: Same!

Would either of you be open to doing a stand-up show in the future?
Benjamin: Hirzi is already an established stand-up comedian.
Hirzi: I'm not an established stand-up comedian. There's so much more for me to learn. Stand-up is such a difficult form of comedy. It takes a lot of years of experience before you finally get a hold of how to do it, but it's also the challenge that makes it exciting for me. Ben does stand-up all the time. I don't know if you heard his TED talk.
Benjamin: I was going to burn myself, but that was a way better burn. Oh my gosh.

The BenZi Project has been putting out content for about nine months now. What's the journey been like?
Hirzi: The highlight is, honestly, figuring out that our writing styles can work together. I think that has made The BenZi Project magical.
Benjamin: Like how you've made me learn a new accent in two days.
Hirzi: Yes, and him teaching me a whole bunch of vocabulary that I don't know.
Benjamin: I always make him do at least a minute of words that are hard to pronounce. That is the staple of The BenZi Project.
Hirzi: He could say eat, but he will make me say things like masticating.
Benjamin: Masticating!
Hirzi: Just say eat la!
Benjamin: That's a lowlight for sure.

Do you have a greater mission for The BenZi Project?
Benjamin: We just want to take the piss out of people.
Hirzi: Yes, sometimes you don't have to overthink why you do what you do. Sometimes you can just do what you do because you like it and because you are passionate about it.
Benjamin: A greater mission for me is to not do pop music so much.
Hirzi: He says that as he is about to drop his new music!
Benjamin: That's right! My new single comes out in late November. Check it out!
Hirzi: The genre is comedy music!
Benjamin: That's right! Unintentional comedy!

What's next for The BenZi Project in 2020?
Hirzi: A lot of money, hopefully.
Benjamin: Yes please, we are broke!
Hirzi: The BenZi Project has been an investment on our part. When I say our part, it's mostly Ben. Right now, we're trying to find a way we can continue creating content that we want to do while also making back whatever investments we put in so that we don't make a loss doing things we like and love.
Benjamin: Yes please. Help us!
Hirzi: What about you, what do you want for BenZi 2020 to be?
Benjamin: I want to have a BenZi movie!
Hirzi: Or a BenZi stage show!
Benjamin: Or the BenZi wrestling event!
Hirzi: Comment below!

Comedy Central Stand-Up, Asia! Season 4 will premiere on Tuesday, 8.30pm beginning 12 November 2019 (Singtel Ch 324 (HD) & Starhub TV Ch 516). In Singapore, viewers can also catch the show on the Comedy Central Play app. Keep up with The Benzi Project on Instagram and YouTube.