Temu Lawak, or Teater Muda Langkah Awal Merdeka, was held on 20 August 2016 before a packed house at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne to celebrate the 71st anniversary of Indonesian independence. The Indonesian Students’ Association (Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia Australia or PPIA) Victoria was joined at the event by comedian Pandji Pragiwaksono, who is on his Juru Bicara world stand-up comedy tour.

Poster Temu Lawak. Gambar: PPIA Victoria

Temu Lawak poster. Image: PPIA Victoria

PPIA’s side of the bargain was a short (45 minute) but fully-fledged musical production called Budaya Kite. The plot went something like this: Aisyah is a Betawi student studying in Melbourne. She grapples with questions of national identity after her grandpa, the appropriately named Karno, visits. Karno is of an older generation and is passionate about serving the nation. He becomes agitated by Aisyah’s new disdain for Indonesia; Aisyah is focused on the rosy future she could have in Melbourne.

In the end, national pride wins out. Aisyah returns to Jakarta just as her grandpa has given up on her. This educational message was mixed with some impressive production, acting, singing, cross-dressing, slapstick, and a cameo from a tree.

Nevertheless, it was Pandji Pragiwaksono who stole the show. Like Budaya Kite, his stand-up routine mixed serious messages with humour. Pandji covered TV ratings, censorship, sinetron, prostitution (there was a golden moment of absolute silence when he segued to this topic), innovation, the Indonesian economy and… penis size. There was the odd impression thrown in too. He really covered all bases, imparting some career advice for the mostly young Indonesian audience between the jokes.

Most impressive was the massive organizational effort put in by PPIA Victoria to run an event of this scale that involved a large part of the Indonesian community in Melbourne.