Sunday, February 08, 2009

Wang Sa, Yeh Fong: Comedic Duo Beat The Lot




Like the Malays who had Momo Latiff and Abang Apek in the 60s, the Chinese community had their share of comedians too, Wang Sah and Yeh Fong were a famous pair in the 60s and 70s. They had appeared in numerous stage shows with our bands and were TV and movie stars.

Dubbed the Laurel and Hardy of Singapore and well known in Malaysia, Taiwan and Hongkong they enjoyed a successful career with their banter, singing, wit, and slapstick, speaking in Chinese dialects, Mandarin, Bazaar Malay and sometimes Singlish. They had since passed away.

I have included these two gentlemen in this music blog because they were a famous pair and an integral part of Singapore 60s and 70s popular culture. They had first appeared at some of the pop music concerts around Singapore and, a little like Falstaff in Shakespeare's comedies, provided comic relief, while *backstage as bands and singers prepared for their next performance.

The duos' popularity grew when they started appearing on both local Chinese and English television channels and were heard over the radio and Rediffusion. As their mass appeal ballooned, they recorded songs in local Chinese dialects, which sold well.

Dubbed the Laurel and Hardy of Singapore and just as well known in Malaysia, Taiwan and Hongkong they enjoyed a successful career with their humorous sketches, speaking a chaotic mix of Chinese dialects, especially their own which was Teochew, with Singlish (pidgin English), pasar (bazaar) Malay and even Tamil.


The late Wang Sa (1924 - 1998) and Ye Fong (1932 - 1995) whose real names were Heng Kim Ching and Seow Tian Chye kept most Singaporeans glued onto their television sets when they appeared on the small screen with their wit and comic banter.

Chinese variety shows like Sharp Night (声宝之夜), sponsored by Sharp Television, were produced by Television Singapura and in their heyday,Wang Sa and Ye Fong were always around for rib-tickling laughter with their cross-talk routine, mimicry and farcical imitation of Singapore lifestyle they knew well enough to make fun of. As in most comedy, Wang Sa and Yeh Fong perfected their timing, candor and displayed flawless chemistry together.

They were the island's version of comic duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy from the US and were the grand old men of Singapore comedy. Affectionately known as Ah Pui and Ah San (The Fat One and Skinny One) they met in the 1960s on Xin Sheng Ge Tai ( 新生歌台) or live theatre and had never looked back. They had since become household names.

Many youngsters today may not understand their Hokkien catchphrase: Ah Tee ah, agak-agak chiu hor ah! (Brother, take it easy!) and Oi Ah Boi? (You sure you can?) They worked together from the 1960s till 1972 and then split to try their luck at movie-making in Hong Kong.

They appeared in several Cantonese movies there. These two became Singapore's only Asian movie stars. The huge box-office success of their 1974 Hongkong debut, The Crazy Bumpkins (阿牛入城記) spawned three sequels and Ye Fong was the most outstanding comedian in the 20th Asian Film Festival. 

They had also appeared in other movies like The Mad Monk and Mr. Funnybone. Like their stage antics, their movies were awesome to watch and, you guessed it, filled the cinema halls with mirth.

The news of their demise in the late 90s was not taken too lightly by Singaporeans as fans had lost two of the most loved icons from the 60s. Up till today, no pair could match their wit and versatility in the local world of comedy.

I have a good collection of their Extended Play (EPs) vinyl as indicated on the YouTube video below.

*The National Theatre had a revolving stage.

Wang Sa and Yeh Fong on 'Rolling Good Times' with Lauretta Alabon. YouTube Video.

COMMENT SECTION:

Hi Terence, 
thanks for your constant support for the Blog/FB postings. Your comments are always welcome, especially with your background. I was just wondering if you could write an article about the show where you played when Wang Sa, Yeh Fung, and Rita Chao appeared in KL. If you have photos, they'll be a bonus. Thanks again.

Terence Lee:
Andy,
The shows we played were in cinemas featuring mostly Chinese singers where Wang Sa, Yeh Fung, Sakura, and Rita came down from Singapore. I do not have any photos of them. I have two black and white individual photos of Sakura and Rita with their signature on it. Unfortunately, the management did not give us back those taken on stage. 

Most of the shows were staged in Star cinema situated in Pudu. All the tickets were sold out within an hour and the management had to add seats to make more money. It was a real experience playing with Sakura and Rita. I used to tease Sakura backstage and she would chase me around but Rita was a quiet person.

THANK YOU ALL BELOW FROM FACEBOOK FOR APPRECIATING THIS POST


TERENCE LEE
PC KEE
LAILA JONG
RENDY LOH
ALVIN LONG
TOM TEY
VINCENT NG
PHILIP WONG
AYAN LEO

KT TEO
YIT YEUN LEONG
JACKSON TAN
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NG CHAI MING
SHEILA GAN
LILIAN LIM


Images: AndyLim Collection.
Information about Wang Sah/Yeh Fung: from Websites and articles.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The unforgettable duo. They were a pair of comic genius.i've been trying to get their VCDs.

Anonymous said...

When they were backstage they also entertained the artistes. They are a great loss to our Singapore entertainment industry.

VCDs were available at many outlets but might have been bought by their fans.

FACEBOOK CHATS said...

They performed all over Malaysia too. Funny Teochew duo who made us laugh.

Andy Young
Thank you guys for the support. Appreciate.

KS Neoh Tee
Uay, lu sah tiam long? 😂😂

Philip Wong
Ah poi and Ah san

Andy Young
Thanks, guys for liking this post. Yes nothing like our own comedy duo. :-)

Edwin Yeo Soon Leong
The greatest legend of all time. Hopefully, there should be a good biopic movie about them.

Andy Young
Yes Edwin truly agree. They should at least put all the videos together and compile them into a bio/documentary. Thanks for supporting the post and the 2 dozens who LIKE it.

Ng Chai Ming
We guys staying in JB were fortunate to be able to receive Spore channel in the 1960s and every Friday night there was this program called Hua Yet Liang siow and this wang sa and ye fong would appear in this show without fail. Wang sa would speak Teochew and ye Fong Cantonese. A kind of mandarin variety show

Andy Young
Yes thanks, Chai Ming for your comment. We still remember them. Just shows how good they are and how strong your memory is.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Great comedic duo whose acts are irreplaceable till now

Terence Lee
Andy my group performed with them when we were backing group for Sakura and Rita Chiao in the early seventies in KL.

John Cher
LOVE these guys!!

Andy Young
Thank you, folks, for LIKING this post. Yes, they are irreplaceable and thanks Terence for sharing your experience. And Rose, Charlie, John too. A big thank you to Victor for sharing the story. We should all meet for kopi one day. :-) And Jimmy Boey too (a longtime friend).

Koh Sui Pang
Are they still around ..????

Andy Young
Both have gone to NeverNever Land Sui Pang. They are probably chatting with Robin Williams and Bob Hope now. But they left their laughter behind. Thanks for support SP.

Koh sui pang
Oooooooh sorry but their comedian acts are well embedded in all SG hearts.