No laughing matter: Malaysia bans Crackhouse Comedy Club owner from applying for new business licences following venue’s permanent closure

Malaysia continues its crackdown on freedom of speech and expression. Following Crackhouse Comedy Club’s permanent closure last month, the club’s owner, Rizal van Geyzel, has now been banned from registering any new business licences in the capital.

The licensing committee for Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) decided to revoke the comedy club’s licence effective July 30, according to deputy federal territories minister Jalaluddin Alias. 

“By blacklisting the club owners from registering a business licence in Kuala Lumpur forever, the owners will not be able to register any business activity here even under a different name and company,” he was quoted as saying at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.

He continued by saying that several venues in the area that were suspected of engaging in similar activities were being watched and that establishments with DBKL-issued entertainment licences were required to abide by its guidelines.

“Those who violate the licensing conditions will not be spared from strict action. Monitoring and inspection activities will be carried out periodically by DBKL because we do not want anyone to escape our enforcement,” he said.

Last month, Crackhouse Comedy Club became embroiled in controversy after a video went viral showing a woman doing an open mic comedy routine at the club on June 4 in which she removed her headscarf and baju kurung while professing to be a Muslim that had memorised 15 chapters (juzuk) of the Quran.

The club then reported the woman, 26-year-old Siti Nuramira Abdullah, to the authorities at the Taman Tun Dr Ismail Police Station, claiming that she and her partner had been barred from the venue immediately after her performance.

She was subsequently charged by police with allegedly insulting Islam, along with her boyfriend, who uploaded the video. They were held in custody for awhile but are currently out on bail.

Siti’s actions ultimately resulted in DBKL temporarily suspending the venue’s operating licence, a decision that drew criticism from some of the biggest names in Malaysian comedy and other venues.

Jalaluddin had previously stated that the comedy club would receive a show-cause letter from DBKL since it was operating with only a restaurant licence, which was insufficient for entertainment purposes.

Crackhouse Comedy Club was established in 2014.