I first encountered The Annoying Brothers when I was walking past Wisma Atria along Orchard Road a year ago. I don’t usually stop for street buskers or performers, but I was amused by the performance that the comedic duo put up that evening.
Before I knew it, I found myself laughing at their performance. And then in 2017, the duo made waves on social media locally in a video in which they wowed the judges of Asia’s Got Talent.
Using only whistles, high pitched shrieking, and what I suspect to be some kind of telepathic communication, Edwin Ong and Jonathan Goh cheekily perform circus acts like juggling knives or tossing diablos (the thingy that looks like a huge yo-yo) without speaking to each other.
Their seamless performance and chemistry on the streets makes one wonder: how long have they been performing together?
The pair first met each other in a juggling meet-up. Although the both of them have been performing individually since 2012, they only started to perform on the streets as The Annoying Brothers after a casual conversation on the train.
During my interview with them, I had them both describe each other in three words.
Here’s what Edwin thinks of his other half: “He is annoying, because that’s how The Annoying Brothers was formed. He’s also ugly, since people always compare the both of us.” And then a sweeter point: “Talented, because he picks up skills fast.” Awww.
Jonathan described Edwin as “savage – he’s the one who always shuts me down at unexpected times,” as well as someone who was “kiasi” because Edwin is “scared [of] fire, scared when we do anything dangerous.” Like Edwin, Jonathan also ended off with something pleasant: “Edwin is a family man who always takes his family into consideration.”
The pair agrees that they both ‘click’ well, and conceptualised their duo act based off their personalities as well as their friends’ opinions of them – annoying.
“Not annoying la, irritating la,” Jonathan cuts in. “Irritating in a fun way,” chimed Edwin.
Back when they were brainstorming about what their act should be named, they came up with the name “The Annoying Brothers” quite spontaneously.
And if you’ve watched their performance, you’d agree in a heartbeat too. The Annoying Brothers act is a balanced mix of annoying and cringe-y, with a huge helping of hilarious.
When they first started out, the duo hit the streets with no plans in mind. “We just went to the streets and created the whole act on the streets itself. Everything was improvised.”
“Our first show was super super bad (lol), the crowd dispersed within the first five minutes.” It was after their first street show that they realised street performing was different from stage performing as they had to capture the attention of the crowd.
Haphazard as it sounds, improvising their performance on the streets was what pushed the pair to think fast on their feet as well as to build their chemistry as a duo act over time.
Competing in Asia’s Got Talent however, was a whole new ball game.
Edwin and Jonathan met up almost everyday to train for the audition, as they knew it would be unlike any street or stage performance; they only had one minute to impress the judges, so everything must be “very clean.”
Due to the time constraint, they also had to be in character the moment they came out on stage, as well as after – all for the sake of making a lasting impression.
“It takes a lot of perseverance,” the duo concurred. “When you’re pursuing something that is out of the norm, you face a lot of adverse reactions from the people around you, because Singaporeans have a ‘fixed route’ of sorts planned out for us.”
In addition to having the tenacity to carry on despite setbacks, planning is also essential, “You have to plan and know what you want, and plan how to achieve your goals,” Jonathan emphasised.
The Annoying Brothers have since moved their busking spot to the Clarke Quay Central area, and you can follow them on social media to find out when they’ll be hitting the streets again.