Thailand’s Mr. Bean plays jails for laughs

Mongkol Preechajan interacts with prison inmates as the popular British TV comedy character Mr. Bean in the central Thai province of Nakhon Nayok. (AFP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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Thailand’s Mr. Bean plays jails for laughs

NAKHON NAYOK, Thailand: With the signature red tie, brown blazer, briefcase and teddy bear, a Thai computer technician has become a national sensation through his uncanny Mr. Bean impersonations that are tickling a country that loves slapstick comedy.
Mongkol PreecHajjan, a 43-year-old father from Phuket with more than a passing resemblance to the British character played by Rowan Atkinson, shot to fame after trying out the miming routine on the popular “Thailand’s Got Talent” TV show in 2016.
The video went viral — one YouTube clip has been watched over five million times — turning Mongkol into an overnight celebrity in a country where Mr. Bean is among the most popular foreign comic turns, in part because his speechless routines cut through language barriers.
Now Mongkol tours Thailand performing sketches and posing for selfies as the famously buffoonish character.
Mongkol said his fascination with Mr. Bean started as a teenager, when he became a fan of the British show and the character’s “cheeky and cute personality.”
He has since spent hours twisting his face and arching his eyebrows in front of a mirror to hone Mr. Bean’s trademark expressions.
“It’s quite hard because Mr. Bean doesn’t speak and only communicates through his facial expressions and his body movements — that was really hard to practice,” Mongkol said.
In addition to Bangkok comedy gigs and TV spots, the newfound celebrity is also performing at jails around the country in a bid to brighten up prison life.
A recent performance brought him to Nakhon Nayok province, where hundreds of inmates roared with laughter as he jittered around the stage with his iconic teddy bear.
“There were a lot of laughs,” one inmate said after the show. “It has lightened up the mood here a lot.”


French football fans queue for shirt carrying second star

Updated 17 August 2018
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French football fans queue for shirt carrying second star

  • National team’s new shirts carry a second star to mark Les Bleus’ World Cup win in Russia
  • The Nike-branded strips are huge money-spinners costing €85 euros each

PARIS: Scores of French football fans queued on Friday to snap up the first of the national team’s new shirts carrying a second star to mark Les Bleus’ World Cup win in Russia.
The crowning of France as world champions unleashed a wave of euphoria across the country, helping foster a brief sense of national unity after years of tension and self-examination in the wake of attacks by militants since 2015.
“I’ll keep it all my life. It’s the second star! They made our dreams come true on the pitch,” said fan Brice Chevalier as he queued to enter the French Football Federation’s store in Paris.
France first won the World Cup, earning its first star, in 1998 with Zinedine Zidane its talisman and playmaker in an era when the team was referred to as Black-Blanc-Beur (Black-White-Arab), a reference to its diverse ethnic make up.
In Russia, they beat Croatia 4-2, with President Emmanuel Macron leaping for joy in the stands.
“I’m chuffed, I’ve been waiting a month for this moment,” said another life-long supporter, Jerome Cornec.
The Nike-branded strips are huge money-spinners. France’s official shirt costs €85 euros ($97).