You might not have guessed it but Singapore's favourite funnyman Hossan Leong has the answer — we laugh hardest at ourselves.
The 43-year-old "Singapore Boy" -- or "Mr. Double Confirm" as viewers of gameshow We are Singaporeans call him -- knows best.
Three years into his acting career, Leong took his first shot at comedy in local sitcom Under One Roof and has never looked back since.
"People laugh the most when you turn the mirror on them (the audience) and say, 'That's what you guys look like; that's what you guys do'," Leong told Yahoo! Singapore in an interview last week.
Citing funny episodes on the MRT as examples, the fast-talking actor added, "That's when it hits home, that's when they realize and laugh, 'Oh ya, we're like that right!'"
But Singaporeans weren't always outwardly appreciative of his brand of bawdy humour, the well-known comedian recalls of his first go at standup comedy in 1995.
But 17 years on, Leong continues to delight audiences in his yearly and widely-received stage production The Hossan Leong Show, which is returning for its fourth installment this month.
"They used to be very quiet… but now, people really laugh, they really laugh out loud," he continued.
Complete with exaggerated hand gestures and sound effects, the award-winning stage actor-director recounted, "Then there was one woman one day, she laughed until she got asthma, and then she couldn't stop laughing."
'Not political at all'
The entertainer described his brand of humour as "more observational and possibly a bit of slapstick".
"Not political, definitely," Leong was quick to add, although that might come as a surprise to many who've seen his YouTube videos.
"People think I'm very political; actually I don't have a political bone in my body at all," he said. "I observe what's going on; I basically regurgitate what I read in newspapers, I don't comment on it. It's not my place to comment on it, and frankly I don't really care."
Given Singapore's relatively conservative society and censorship system, he acknowledged that one has to "be very, very wary" and avoid no-go zones such as religion and race, unless one talks about one's own group which, according to the veteran, always works.
But has he ever crossed the line and landed himself in trouble?
Perhaps, but Leong said he's gotten smarter now — he's learnt not to put up a fight.
"If they think I crossed the line, I'll just say, 'Okay, change the joke la'. Why fight? Waste of energy, waste of time right? You'll lose what. So why bother fighting?" he asked.
"Censorship will always be there in Singapore."
The problem with censorship, he laments, is that it often leads to self-censorship.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people self-censor. (Those who do) free-to-air have to self-censor because they're so scared they get clamped down by whoever up there, they don't even know who — it's always they say we cannot do. Who's they? Does they have a name? All don't know but it's a they — that's self-censorship already," said Leong.
Hope for the next generation
Moving ahead, Leong said his hope for a change now lies in the next generation of well-travelled, media-savvy people.
"They're the ones, I guess, who will be able to turn things around."
Although he believes that the local comedy scene still has much room for improvement, Leong actually thinks that there are already some young comedians with great material.
In particular, he spoke fondly of Comedy Masala, a "really funny" weekly standup comedy open mic that takes place at Home Club every Tuesday night.
The jokes they tend to make, however, are "quite risky" as they often touch on controversial issues such as race, politics, religion and sex, which can't be aired on local TV.
"They really go for it and I hope these kids really, really make it, big. I thought they should do a show in theatre, sell tickets, but that's the problem — Singaporeans will only go if you're a name, they don't give people a chance," he said.
"People will only go if they know who you are, and the only way for them to know who you are is to appear on TV. But we're run by the monopoly, so how?"
Leong believes that perceptions have to be changed for the local arts scene to continue blooming.
"Even private companies should think of the arts as an investment, not a waste of time and resources," he said, before adding, "With the restructuring of ministries, I just hope that money will continue to come in to the arts.
Going ahead, what else is the famed actor and host looking to get his hands on?
"A blockbuster Hollywood movie that will pay me millions so I can retire," he said, a little dreamily.
When asked which film genre he's interested in, Leong quipped, "Doesn't matter what I play, as long as it pays me millions, it's fine."
"I'm not money-faced or anything but it's just so I can pay off my mortgage, that's it. I live very simply," he added with a laugh.
For more of Hossan Leong and his trademark mixture of humour, satire and songs, be sure to catch The Hossan Leong Show which runs from 30 August to 16 September at the Drama Centre Theatre, National Library Building. Tickets are available for sale at all SISTIC outlets.