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Battle of comperes

TV celebrity Moses Lim tells YONG SHU HOONG he will never forget his first stage appearance as a compere

EVEN today, whenever I step on a stage to host a show, I still think about the most memorable day of my life.

I was then 18 and weighed about 50 kg.

Though still in a pre-university class at Anglican High, I managed to enter the finals of an amateur compere competition held at the Singapore Conference Hall in 1969.

I had earlier auditioned for the competition and was the only student to get through to the finals. The picture on the above shows me with some stage performers.

The hall was packed with about 1,000 people. As I didn't have a steady girlfriend then, it was just my family and friends giving me support from the audience.

A live orchestra conducted by Ahmad Jaffar (a well-known musician then) played instrumental pieces popular in the '60s, like music by The Shadows. They also provided music accompaniment for the singers that night.

Backstage, the male entertainers were clad in smart-looking suits or bell-bottoms, while female singers wore colourful outfits or sequined gowns. I had a dark jacket over a white shirt and tie.

I was excited. A little nervous too. Some of the other finalists had prior drama or radio-broadcasting experience.

I had only practised before the mirror.

At that time, it wasn't prestigious at all to be an entertainer. So I didn't get much support from my businessman father.

Luckily, the other members of my family were more encouraging.

The competition was organised by Radio and Television Singapore (which preceded Singapore Broadcasting Corporation and Television Corporation of Singapore). It was divided into the English and Chinese sections.

There were five finalists for each section. I was one of the finalists in the Chinese section.

For each of five consecutive nights, a different pair of English and Chinese comperes had to host a show at the conference hall.

I was teamed up with a lady compere in her late 20s "elderly" compared to me!

We had rehearsed earlier in the afternoon (I was at the conference hall by 3 pm).

The hour-long show began at 8 pm.

Although I had never faced such a large audience before, I was actually quite calm. No stage fright.

I tried to show off my bilingual skills by translating some of what my English co-host said into Mandarin.

While introducing the Taiwanese singer Bai Sa, who had a popular hit in Singapore called Tonight I'm Not Coming Home, I did a light-hearted interview with her.

I managed to gain some laughter from the audience by asking Bai whether she found Singapore men attractive. I thought I could score more points by persuading comedian Wang Sa to do a skit with me.

When he backed out of the skit later, I was a little disappointed. But I took it all in my stride.

The show had to go on, and it went on without a hitch.

Back home that night, I couldn't sleep as my adrenaline was still pumping.

I was happy with how I performed. Even before the results were announced, I already knew then that I could make it in the entertainment world.


MY role model, local comedian Wang Sa, was at the first show I compered.

Wang Sa and Yeh Fong were the Laurel and Hardy of Singapore. They delighted people in the '60s and '70s with a mix of dialect and Mandarin jokes.

Other big names included Zhang Wei (who hosted Sharp Night) and Larry Lai, and singers like Wang Li, Ling Zhu Jun and The Quests.

Backstage, an idea struck me. What if I teamed up with Wang Sa to do a short skit?

To my surprise, Wang readily agreed. I was overjoyed.

But just before he went on stage, he changed his mind.


SINGER-COMPERE Anita Sarawak was the queen of the stage from the '70s.

She started performing at 17 and made a name for herself with her powerful vocals, smooth dance moves and off-the-cuff jibes at the audience.

Since 1986, Sarawak has been living in Las Vegas, where she sings in Caesar's Palace a five-star hotel and casino.

Although Sarawak is a US permanent resident, she still comes back occasionally. She performed at the closing ceremony of the 1996 World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference.

In her mid-40s now, she doesn't seem to show signs of slowing down.


Darren Zhou, Raffles Junior College (right): If you had not become a successful entertainer, what sort of occupation do you think you would be in right now?

Moses Lim: Most likely, I would be a businessman. You see, I studied commerce at Ngee Ann Technical College (now known as Ngee Ann Polytechnic).

My father had high hopes for me he wanted me to be a doctor. That was why my Chinese name literally means "helping people.

I didn't become a doctor but, as an actor, I did play the part of a doctor on a few occasions.

Kung Chien Wen, Raffles Junior College (left): What advice would you give to an aspiring entertainer?

Moses Lim: My advice would be: Think very carefully.

With only one main television station, the market for entertainers in Singapore is not very big.

Of course, interest plays a very important part, as that's the only thing that will motivate you and keep you going - as in my case.

-- The New Paper, Oct 21, 1998


MOSES Lim, 48, is a freelance entertainer who acts in the TCS sitcom Under One Roof.

He is also the chairman of a real estate company and a bridal shop.

In the pipeline are starring roles in two local movies.

Copyright 1998 Singapore Press Holdings. All Rights Reserved.