Fah Thai: Myanmar's Funnymen

January/February 2015 Issue

Lu Maw, one of the Moustache Brothers in Mandalay, entertains a crowd of foreigners during a show. (Credit: Dene-Hern Chen)

MANDALAY, Myanmar – Consider a Burmese joke from the 1950s: a very ill man goes to see the doctor. The doctor says the man has the flu and prescribes an injection. However, the syringe is filled only with water and the horrified patient questions his diagnosis. “No problem,” the doctor assures him. “I have a licence to kill, just like the military government.”

Such gallows humour is typical of the trio known as the Moustache Brothers, an activist-comedy troupe based in Mandalay. Myanmar was ruled for five decades by an authoritarian military regime. With freedom of speech severely restricted, Lu Maw, his cousin Lu Zaw and Moustache frontman Par Par Lay became well-known for their pointed political satire. Armed with jokes and song-and-dance routines, the Moustache Brothers took their variety show on upper Myanmar’s festival and celebration circuit in the 1950s.

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