More than just a funny man

By Korea Herald

Comedian Kim Young-chul set to host series of classical music concerts armed with humor and humility

  • Published : Mar 18, 2013 - 19:40
  • Updated : Mar 18, 2013 - 19:43
People often forget that Mozart, Beethoven or Strauss were the rock stars of their times. Their newest pieces were performed everywhere and people danced and hummed to every tune as we do with the Beatles or Maroon 5.

Comedian Kim Young-chul is hoping that classical music can regain that status. He is to host a series of touring classical concerts, “Kim Young-chul’s Fun Fun Classic,” this year starting with a concert in Yeosu GS Caltex Yeulmaru in South Jeolla Province on March 29.

He plans to make the most of what he is good at ― making people laugh and feel closer to music. He will act as a secretary using a typewriter on stage during the performance of Leroy Anderson’s “The Typewriter.”

Then he will share his knowledge and impressions of Rossini’s “Wilhelm Tell Overture,” Hoffmann’s “Les Oiseaux dans la Charmille,” Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, and Verdi’s arias with more than 1,000 spectators.

Kim confessed that he isn’t really familiar with classical music at all.

“So it will be a novice leading novices or an even higher-level audience,” he said, explaining that he had gotten into the project out of pure curiosity when it was brought up by a friend. 
Comedian Kim Young-chul poses for The Korea Herald on March 14 in Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

“But this is the selling point: I could point out what exactly anyone unfamiliar with classical music may wonder about ― is Bach pronounced (ba:k) or (baha), as the name is commonly pronounced in Korea? I was always confused about that and many Koreans definitely are. I know that many people are too embarrassed to ask such simple questions to experts. I will do it for them,” he said.

The funnyman said he hopes to start a movement to widen the public’s access to classical music, which has been widely perceived as a “classy” and “special” genre limited to rather highly educated and economically privileged people.

“I have started listening to some pieces very recently after reading a book, ‘Namjaeui Mulgeon (Belongings of a man),’ in which the author Kim Jung-un mentions that he listens to Bach’s ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’ whenever he is stressed out. I searched the music and started listening to it and find it very comforting,” he said. “I am still searching for what I like best. But nowadays I find it comforting and enlightening like other genres of music.”

The Fun Fun concert is the latest of Kim’s idiosyncratic project, “Fun Fun” (which is a pun with the Korean word “bbeon-bbeon” meaning thick-skinned).

Kim, who confessed to not having been fluent in English, threw himself into learning English and his efforts are now paying off. He now teaches English at Seoul Arts College; hosts SBS FM’s English morning show, “Fun Fun Today”; and has written five books on learning English.

“To me learning English and classical music are the same in a way. They seemed distant and not really for me, but after learning from scratch, admitting that I don’t know them, I have become really comfortable with them.”

Kim said he dreams about hosting a classical music concert in English in North Korea, being a bridge of peace between the two Koreas. He said he was inspired by Maestro Zubin Mehta who visited Seoul in January and said, “We should not underestimate the power of music. Music will not solve all the problems, but can make all people smile at each other.”

“I dream about (what) would it would be like to perform some silly jokes about solemn classical music in English on Mt. Geumgangsan. What about Pyongyang or Gaesong? I am definitely not a peacemaker but I could thaw some ice,” he said.

By Bae Ji-sook (