HAHAHA Corp: A Connection of Good Comedy and Creation

Written & Edited By
Fazrah Heryanda

Photo Source

Beside soccer or badminton rally, what can unite all races, various ages, and different backgrounds? A good comedy. In the era of 90s, there was Warkop DKI, a group of three comedians with distinct characters, witty remarks, and comedy antics. We also witnessed the phenomenon where people would leave everything behind to watch Srimulat, a long-standing comedy group founded in 1951. Now, we can see the shifting era of comedy where people can easily blend in toward the casual and conversational performance in stand-up comedy, which candidly talks or even dissing sensitive issues, from religion, race, sex, to the politic. With its immense popularity, stand-up comedy becomes a hot commodity. But what may seem like instant success is the height of hard work and perseverance. Back then, in 2012, it was rare to see a large fanbase of stand-up comedy, but, Dipa Andika and Ernest Prakasa tried to test their luck by establishing HAHAHA Corp, a Jakarta-based entertainment agency. For the past years, a stand-up comedy tour has been selling really well, the content produced by comics-refer to the artist who does stand-up comedy almost topped up trending lists whenever they release something. Under the roof of HAHAHA Corp, there is a big name as Ernest Prakasa, Ge Pamungkas, Soleh Solihun, Muhadkly Acho, etc. which now considered a highly-paid artist. The success of HAHAHA Corp drives an aspiring artist to be unafraid of short-lived career uncertainty. Quoting from Dipa Andika ‘In HAHAHA Corp, we push our artist to pursue its creative calling rather than leaning towards agency only.’

With the rising fame of stand-up comedy, it also has a positive impact on the business development of HAHAHA Corp as an agency. But how did you start?

I worked at one of the biggest telecommunication companies in Indonesia, and I was responsible for handling digital content. That was the time I knew and gradually meeting Ernest Prakasa. In 2011, Ernest decided to resign because he wanted to join the Stand-Up Comedy Indonesia competition. In the end, he finished in 3rd place and was very eager to pursue his career as a comic. One year later, he asked me to be his manager, which I turned down his offer because I enjoyed my work there. He would never give up to convince myself, so we both agreed to let me keep my full-time position while working as his manager. Our initial effort was a significant loss because, despite our lack of experiences as well as there weren’t many people into stand-up comedy, Ernest started his tour to 10 cities across Indonesia. The opener at the time was Ge Pamungkas, who was also preparing to join Stand Up Comedy Indonesia Season 2, which we ended up scouted him to our team. After those series of the hasty initiative, we tried to test our luck by establishing a comics entertainment agency, HAHAHA Corp. Then, in 2014, I resigned from my full-time in order to focus on HAHAHA Corp.

You told us that it wasn't easy at first because not everyone familiar with stand-up comedy. What is your way of surviving the challenge?

Before HAHAHA Corp, I once managed a band, so I knew the exact feeling of how tough it was in preparing a performance. Besides practice, we had to check sound, ensure the coordination over and over again, even there was a time when we need to bring our tools. Therefore, I think that stand-up comedy can be a great opportunity, so I set my mind to learn more about stand-up comedy, including how the stand-up comedy works in their origin country. When I decided to get my own feet wet in the industry, I put 100% energy on what I’ve initiated. But, living from the entertainment industry was quite difficult because a well-known brand or an artist tends to obtain a job once in a while. So, as a newcomer, we would focus on raising awareness—let ourselves be exposed to the public rather than collecting money as fast as possible. We centered our mindset that the lost money can be considered as an investment like what we did earlier on Ernest Prakara 1st tour. Even though we appeared on TV, we were okay with a lower fees. We also allowed ourselves to do barter.

I remember the first time we performed at one of the mall atriums, we have only been paid only for transportation fees. But, we didn’t think as an insult, and we believed this as the promotion for the community. When we were performing, people would sigh out because they were waiting for the guest’s star performance, not us. And we had to endure this kind of situation for about 1-2 years. Not only that, if there was an offer to appear in one scene of the movie, we also didn’t hesitate to take it. Thankfully, our situation is currently getting better so we can be more selective about the offer that has come, including limiting our appearance on TV unless for the stand-up comedy-related program.

Seeing the stand-up comedy's popularity, how do you view the comedy development in Indonesia?

Actually, comedy is not a new commodity. If we look back, there was a Srimulat-an Indonesian legendary comedy group. As for stand-up comedy, some people said that stand-up comedy is a smart comedy. We don’t want to be pretentious and classify ourselves in that area. But, many hours of meticulous preparation have gone into writing the sketch. If you see the stand-up comedy performance, from A-Z, from the first second to the end, it was written. Everything is calculated thoroughly, not a spontaneous like people thought it would be. We write our sketch, we practice open mic, coming with new revision and practice until it perfects. Unfortunately, sometimes, the Indonesian audience assumes that stand-up comedy is the same category as comedy on TV programs. So, they tend to fail to catch the message. Also, judging from our experience, stand-up comedy is supposedly held indoors for its intimacy-a better connection to the audience.

Dipa Andika
Dipa Andika

Unfortunately, sometimes, the Indonesian audience assumes that stand-up comedy is the same category as comedy on TV programs. So, they tend to fail to catch the message.

Now that HAHAHA Corp keeps getting bigger, how do you push your artist to create good content and survive from the sea of competitors?

HAHAHA Corp aims to spread the message that we exist as management with its mission to be a home for comics who earnestly wish to create better and meaningful works. We want to align the message with our artist that becomes a HAHAHA Corp family means to push themselves further in establishing their own name. Our job is to ensure the rail is ready so that the talent can drive their train towards its destination. For instance, we can see how flexible Ernest, working as comics then is now known as one of the prominent figures in the film industry. We continuously push our artists to expand their wings. With a competitive market when stand-up comedy competition being held once in a year, there are so many fish-younger ones in the big pond.

So far, 70% of comics seniors are in our management, so the competition is getting tighter, especially when they only set eyes on stand-up comedy. Those event organizers prefer to invite newcomers because it fits their budget. Our message to our artist never changes: we can’t always expect to obtain an off-air event offer, because there is nothing lasts forever. Therefore, we need to make our work or creation itself so that people would value ourselves better.

How about HAHAHA Corp's expanding business? Is there any target that you set for your artist?

For film production, we position HAHAHA Corp as the supporting partner. Let say, in Ernest’s film, we certainly giving all-out support in terms of promotion, etc. When we initiated the production, we come as Ernest Prakasa and HAHAHA Corp, and mostly the production house knows that the existence of HAHAHA Corp to support the success of its film. Currently, we have three directors, which are Ernest Prakasa, Soleh Solihun, and Bene Dion. This year, we planned to hold two directors’ debuts, Arie Kriting and Muhadly Acho, after these uncertain times. We set the target; at least in a year, there are as many talents as HAHAHA Corp that can produce its own films when we deeply involved in writing, directing, or acting. But, of course, it comes with a consequence, as sometimes we tend to forget our root, stand-up comedy (laughs).

So, what is your standard of scouting the artist? Or do you ever open recruitment to join HAHAHA Corp?

Surprisingly, we haven’t held our open recruitment yet. So, in a year, we only scouts on talent based on our intuition (laughs). So, Ernest and I always have this kind of conversation when we are discussing who will be joining HAHAHA Corp next. In the earlier year, we decided not to scout anyone but, when we were shooting Imperfect, we became interested in Kiky Saputri. I think we aren’t ready to go further by scouting artist on board because it means will significantly impact our responsibility as management.

Lastly, what is your hope for the future of HAHAHA Corp?

It’s not something fancy or excessive, but we can continue to provide a good creation for our community. And I think that’s enough of making us happy. Right now, we are trying our best, so we can produce a film together in the name of HAHAHA Corp as it will become the experiences and memories that worths being cherished for.