Meet Juliana Heng, an autistic stand-up comedian.
As someone who always had trouble sitting still, she left her previous job as a chartered accountant four years ago.
The 29-year-old who hails from Petaling Jaya, Selangor had found the power to make people laugh too intriguing.
"As an autistic, I am not able to laugh at the same time as everyone in comedy shows, funny movies, or social gatherings where insider jokes are common," Heng told SAYS in an interview.
"This is because I process jokes at my own time," she explained, which meant she mostly only gets the joke long after an event at home.
Even so, she could not help but love the feeling of connection that laughter brings when she tells her own joke or funny story, even to a room full of strangers.
"After working in the accounting line for four and a half years, I decided to leave accountancy to pursue my dream as a stand-up comedian," said Heng.
The road was initially difficult and full of self-doubt, that it took her almost two years to gain some momentum in the industry
But she finally made her big break as a stand-up comedian in 2017. Her topic of specialty? Living with autism.
"I speak about my autism, in hope that fellow autistics and parents with autistic children can have a light-hearted yet thoughtful way of relooking at autism as a gift instead of an inconvenience or a burden," said Heng.
Her stand-up piece entitled 'Autism Acceptance Through Comedy' has earned her a few awards this year including Second Runner-Up in Short + Sweet Stand-Up Comedy Malaysia 2019 as well as First Runner-Up in the preliminary round of Bangkok International Comedy Competition (BICC) 2019, which saw her through to the finals.
More than just a career, stand-up comedy has helped her overcome many adversities in life
"After doing stand-up comedy solidly for two years, I have come to realise that this is the best way for me to deal with challenges as an autistic," Heng told SAYS.
She shared that she had to navigate through growing up with a dysfunctional family, constantly feeling invisible, as well as suicidal thoughts during a dark period of her life.
With her experiences, she has made it her mission to highlight taboo issues and topics not widely discussed enough through the use of her platform.
"It is very empowering for myself and everyone who has been through adversities in life! I hope that people laugh, have a good time, and have a take-home message too," she aspires for her audience.
Now, she plans to represent Malaysia and audition for Britain's Got Talent 2020
"A friend encouraged me to try out," Heng said, living on a mantra that says 'Don't let the past or present situation limit how far you can go!'
However, she is short of funds to buy a flight ticket from Kuala Lumpur to London. Not to mention, how expensive it would be to last a few weeks in winter in the UK.
She started a crowdfunding page to get financial help for her trip expenses, which include:
- Her flight ticket to London,
- Winter clothing,
- Accommodation, and
- Transportation within and out of London.
The audition is happening on 15 December 2019 in Nottingham, England, and the date is coming up fast.
"I am excited but am very afraid at the same time," Heng admitted.
If you've come this far in the story, help her check 'Make Simon Cowell laugh' off her bucket list while making Malaysia proud!
You can donate here to support Heng on her journey.
"If you want to chip in for my journey to London so I can get to the Britain's Got Talent 2020 audition, I will thank you my whole life!" she exclaims on her SimplyGiving page.
"There is no minimum amount because every dollar matters," she also assured.
Alternatively, you can make a donation to:
Juliana Heng Huijing
1647 1708 1371 (Maybank)