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Singapore-raised American Jocelyn Chia trades law career for comedy

Comedian who grew up here says she has found her calling after varied career

As a professional female stand-up comedian in the US who grew up in Singapore, Jocelyn Chia's career path has been no joke.

She held a lucrative job as a corporate lawyer earning a six-figure annual salary from 2006 to 2009, but traded it all for comedy.

Chia has been a professional comedian for six years, since making her stand-up television debut on Gotham Comedy Live, hosted by William Shatner.

The American - who was part of the line-up at last year's Magners International Comedy Festival and Comedy Bang Bang held here - is back in town to perform shows from tonight to Saturday as part of the Singapore Festival Of Fun 2019.

The 39-year-old, who is based in New York and returns to Singapore once or twice a year to visit her family and for work, told The New Paper: "Even when I was 12, I remember making my friends laugh until their tummies hurt.

"At the heart of it, I just felt that law was not my calling."

Chia, who studied in St Nicholas Girls' School and National Junior College before heading off to university in America, has been featured on cnbc.com, she's been a guest comedian on shock jock Howard Stern's show on Sirius XM and a guest host on MTV.

She won the 2016 Ladies Of Laughter competition and was a finalist at the 2017 New York's Funniest.

She received the Rising Star Award - Comedy at the Asian American Television & Film Festival, and made her Comedy Central debut last year.

Among all that she has tried, including a stint in journalism and even field hockey, Chia has stuck with comedy the longest.

Despite having a strong comedic voice and the smarts for it, she still finds that working in the industry is no laughing matter. She joked about how she went from a lucrative lawyer's salary of six figures to "a salary of no figures" when she first started in comedy.

While she lives in the US, her Asian roots meant she had to face social pressure and the inevitable disapproval of her parents over her non-prestigious career choice.

'DECENT LIVING'

But she has firmly established her niche in comedy and said she now makes "quite a decent living" with her routine, which involves finding the humour in her experiences as an Asian woman living in the US.

Chia uses Asian stereotypes for thought-provoking gags and raunchy anecdotes, delivered with a disarming, cheeky style.

Her Singaporean parents live here, and while dad has grown supportive of her creative pursuit, mum still hopes it's only a phase.

Chia said, with a laugh: "She was so bored at one of my shows that she jokingly asked me if it was too late for me to go back to law."

There are some things off-stage that are not funny to Chia, though.

She has not escaped sexism and racism, but happily, after she spoke out and also displayed her talent, she earned the respect of her peers.

Drawing on her experience as a woman in the male-dominated profession of law, she says handles men who overstep by berating them to their face.

Chuckling, she said: "One time, a male comedian sharing the stage with me made an innuendo-laden jibe about how (stand-up) is my day job, but that at night I could be found working at a massage parlour.

"I immediately called him out - in an all-male club too. That man is now my dear friend."

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