Jack Neo



Neo Chee Keong (b. 1960, Singapore–), popularly known as Jack Neo, is an actor, emcee and filmmaker.1 He was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2005 for his achievements in filmmaking. One of Neo’s early films, Money No Enough (1998), is one of Singapore’s highest grossing local films, receiving S$5.8 million in box-office takings.2

Early life

Neo is the oldest of four children in his family. His father was a fishmonger and his mother worked at a coffee shop selling bread and beverages.3 From a young age, Neo discovered that he enjoyed entertaining his classmates with his comedy sketches, and began performing regularly on stage in school.4 After completing his education at Tanjong Katong Secondary School, Neo joined the army because his grades did not qualify him for tertiary education. He continued pursuing his interest in stage performance by taking on hosting and acting jobs in television programmes and ‘live’ shows during his free time.5

Neo also had a talent for drawing cartoons, which he sent to Pioneer magazine (published by the Ministry of Defence). When the ministry contacted him for an interview, his interviewers found Neo, with his acting and hosting experience, to be a suitable candidate for a new job opening – as drama director of the Singapore Armed Forces’ Music and Drama Company.6

During his stint of six to seven years at the Music and Dance Company, Neo gained hands-on experience and practice in scriptwriting and acting, as the unit had to perform almost every night. Based on his interactions with and observations of the spectators, Neo gradually learned about the types of humour that appealed to the local audience.7

Television career

A few years after leaving the army, Neo hosted and acted on Comedy Night, the longest running Chinese-language comedy series in Singapore. The television series screened every Monday night and had a successful run from 1990 to 2000.8

Comedy Night featured Neo’s most memorable comic characters, including Liang Po Po, an eccentric grandmother full of mischief and strange antics.9 The film, Liang Po Po: The Movie (1999), rode the crest of this character’s popularity.10 Another of Neo’s comic characters, Liang Xi Mei, also appealed to the masses because her mannerisms exemplified the stereotypical behaviour of the middle-aged housewife living in the Housing and Development Board (HDB) heartland. After Comedy Night, Neo worked on numerous other Singaporean television programmes, including his first English-language production, Happily Ever After, which debuted on 1 March 2009.11 In addition, Neo produced the 13-episode Malaysian variety show, Project Laugh, in April 2009.12

Filmmaking career

Neo’s mass appeal spilled over to his films as he employed a similar formula of low-brow comedy and humour in a distinctly Singaporean context.13

Neo’s filmmaking career, however, has not been without controversy. Although generally profitable in terms of box office sales, Neo’s films often receive negative reviews from critics who regard them as didactic, low-brow comedies.14 His films have also been criticised as lacking in sophistication in terms of cinematic technique, as he frequently employs slapstick and situational-comedy styles that are more suited to the narrative structures of short comedy skits on television than full-length feature films.15

When Neo was awarded the Cultural Medallion for his filmmaking achievements in 2005, it sparked a media debate about whether he deserved such an award.16 Neo’s detractors felt that his films lacked artistic merit, while his supporters admired his acute observations of Singapore society, arguing that his achievements should not be overlooked simply because of the mass appeal of his films.17

Awards
2002:
International Management Action Award (IMAA), for managerial achievements in the filming of I Not Stupid (2002).18

2003: The CIFEJ prize for Homerun, at the 14th Cairo International Film Festival19 / Best New Performer award for Homerun (awarded to actress Megan Zheng), at the Taiwan 40th Golden Horse Award20 / The Grand Prix Golden Swan prize for Homerun, at the 20th Moscow International Film Festival for Children & Youth.21
2004: Golden Butterfly prize for Best Direction (Homerun), at the Asian Competition of the Isfahan International Children’s Film Festival in Iran22 / Public Service Medal at the Singapore National Day Awards 2004, for achievements in filmmaking.23
2005: People’s Choice Award for Homerun, at the Montreal International Children’s Film Festival24 / The Singapore Cultural Medallion, for achievements in filmmaking.25

Filmography
26
1990:
Conmen as actor. 

1991: War Dogs as actor.
1997: 12 Storeys as actor.
1998: Sha shou yi chu shou (Replacement Killers) as actor, director and writer / Qian bu gou yong (Money No Enough!) as actor and writer.
1999: Seventh Moon as actor and writer / Liang Po Po: Chong chu jiang hu (Liang Po Po: The Movie) as actor and writer / Na ge bu gou (That One No Enough) as actor, director and writer / Ku jing guai tan (Mirror) as actor / Are You Lonesome Tonight? as actor.
2001: One Leg Kicking as actor.
2002: Xiaohai bu ben (I Not Stupid) as actor, director and writer.
2003: Pao ba hai zi (Homerun) as actor, director and writer.
2004: Tu ran fa cai (The Best Bet) as actor (uncredited), director and writer.
2005: San ge hao ren (One More Chance) as actor, director and writer / I Do, I Do as actor, director, executive producer and writer.
2006: Xiaohai bu ben 2 (I Not Stupid Too) as actor, director and writer.
2007: Wo zai zheng fu bu men de ri zi (Just Follow Law) as actor, director, producer and writer.
2008: Qian bu gou yong 2 (Money Not Enough 2) as actor, director, producer and writer / Lao shi jia lao da (Ah Long Pte Ltd) as director, producer and writer.
2009: Qie ting feng yun (Overheard) as co-executive producer / Xing fu wan sui (Love Matters) as director, producer, and writer / Xia dao xiao (Where Got Ghost?) as actor, director, chief/executive producer and writer.
2010: Aku tak bodoh as executive producer.
2011: Homecoming as actor.
2012: We Not Naughty as director and writer / Ah Boys to Men as director.
2013: Ah Boys to Men II as director / Everybody’s Business as writer.
2014: The Lion Men as director and writer / The Lion Men: Ultimate Showdown as director.
2015: Ah Boy to Men 3: Frogmen as director and writer / 7 Letters as director, producer and writer / My Papa Rich as actor / 1965 as actor / Bring Back the Dead as executive producer.
2016: Wo men de gu shi (Long Long Time Ago) as director and writer / Long Long Time Ago 2 as director and writer.

Family

Neo is married to Irene Kng Bee Hong.27 They have one daughter and three sons.28



Author

Hong Xinying



References
1. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45; Ngiau, D. (2002, March 29). I know Singapore…. Today, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Yong, S. F. (1999, March 16). That’s my dad? The New Paper, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Teo, P. L. (1999, January 22). Gangsters also must upgrade. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Lin, R. (2009, April 26). Neo-classical comedy. The Star Online. Retrieved 2016, August 17 from The Star Online website: http://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/entertainment/tv/news/2009/04/26/neoclassical-comedy/
13. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45; Ong, S. F. (2006, January 25). What’s Neo, Jack? The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Ong, S. F. (2006, January 25). What’s Neo, Jack? The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45; Ong, S. F. (2006, January 25). What’s Neo, Jack? The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tan, L. (2002, November 14). Jack Neo, manager exemplar. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. J Team Productions. (n.d.). Page info. Retrieved 2016, August 17 from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JTeamSingapore/info?tab=page_info
20. Foong, W. W. (2003, December 14). Megan scores Homerun. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Foo, S. (2004, February 17). Raintree’s milestones. Today, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Homerun scores again. (2004, November 6). Today, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Homerun’s 18-month winning streak. (2005, March 9). Today, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. IMDb. (n.d.). Jack Neo. Retrieved 2016, August 17 from IMDb website: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0626090/
27. Goh, B. C. (1988, November 3). Not quite Bertolucci, but our film-makers shine. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Chen, A. (2009, February 9). Master of one. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Award winners
Masters of ceremonies--Singapore--Biography
Arts>>Film>>Acting
Neo, Jack, 1960-
Actors--Singapore--Biography
Arts>>Film>>Film direction and production
Motion picture producers and directors--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Award winners--Singapore--Biography