Kuala Lumpur—Harith Iskander, Malaysia’s best-known comedian and winner of the 2016 Funniest Person in the World contest, has refuted the claim that former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is a silent partner in the businesses he had intended to put up.
Not only did he reject the notion of having been a partner with Mr Najib, but he also said that this allegation elicited laughter from “everyone around” him.
In December, Mr Harith had filed a lawsuit against Laugh Factory, a chain of comedy clubs in the United States, as well as its founder Jamie Masada.
Laugh Factory is behind the Funniest Person in the World contest that Mr Harith won in 2016. He claims that he was promised a US$100,000 prize (S$136,000) as well as a comedy tour around the US, but he only received a little over US$30,000 from the prize money, and that the tour has yet to materialize.
Laugh Factory filed a countersuit against Mr Harith on February 27, not only claiming that the company had not committed a breach of contract against the comedian, but also suing him for stealing its trade secrets.
Jamie Masada said that contrary to Mr Harith’s claims, it was the Malaysian comic who had reached out to the company and had offered to bring its brand to Asia, saying he could start Laugh Factory clubs in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Jakarta, with former Prime Minister Najib as his silent business partner.
An agreement had been reached for a joint venture between Laugh Factory and Mr Harith for the companies Asian expansion, though it was never formalized.
According to Mr Masada, the company had been slammed by Mr Harith. His lawyer, David Martin, wrote in the lawsuit, “Iskander never intended to honor this agreement; rather, it was deceit designed to gain access to and then misappropriate Defendants’ protected, proprietary intellectual property, including trade secrets, trademarks, business operations, and other intellectual property.”
Mr Masada additionally claimed that the prize money promised Mr Harith was supposed to be given in increments of US$10,000. Each tranche was contingent on a compulsory visit to the US.
On March 7 Mr Harith wrote on his Facebook page, “Wow. This case has quickly escalated to a different level ????
After bringing a case against Laugh Factory to pay me USD70,000 still owed to me for winning their competition … and now according to this article Laugh Factory say (sic) that I claimed Najib Razak was a ‘silent partner’ in my business – a statement that is absolutely false and I will leave it to my legal team/the professionals to handle this.
I don’t know quite how to react but it caused everyone around me to burst out in laughter. ????????
I’m just a stand-up comedian from Malaysia who’s only intention was to make my country proud by winning an international competition and I am merely asking for what was promised to me as the winner – nothing more, nothing less. (And at this point I have actually spent more than I received)
I will just stick to the facts and I can’t control others rumour mongering and spreading false accusations. We will take action against those who do.
I trust that justice will prevail.”
On his part, Mr Masada, who is highly regarded in the comedy scene not just in the United States but worldwide, said, “In 35 years, I’ve never once sued a comedian.
I’m standing up for all the comics that have had their work or intellectual property stolen in the past.
It has been very frustrating and unfair for the many honest and hard-working people of the ‘Laugh Factory,’ several websites online are targeting the Laugh Factory as the aggressor in this story. With this lawsuit, the truth will come out so we can get back to doing what we do best: providing laughs for those who need it most.”