‘Whatever’ goes on MTV prank spree

Show bows Aug. 30 in India, Malaysia, Singapore

HONG KONG — Move over “Jackass,” Asians are set to get their own prank show — “MTV Whatever Things!”

” ‘Jackass’ is too rough, culturally, for Asia,” says Jacob Mense, one of the producers of the new show and a self-proclaimed prankster. “Asia is big and diverse, so we have to make it appeal across the region.”

However, “MTV Whatever Things!” could well have the same gross-out effect, although censorship laws and religious authorities might also prevent some of the content from making it to air.

The producers were waiting to see whether viewers, victims and broadcasting authorities in nine markets laughed, squirmed or took deep offense to the street-level jokes and gags when MTV Asia launched the show Aug. 30 in India, Malaysia and Singapore. It bows Sept. 15 in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, and at the end of September in China, Taiwan and Korea.

Mense, an Israeli-Dutch citizen who grew up in Asia, and Mark Young, a Chinese-American from San Francisco, recently formed Chiseen (Cantonese for “crazy” or “whatever”), an offshoot of television and film company Deansee Entertainment, to produce the show.

Local celebrities Daniel Wu (“Love Undercover 2: Love Mission”), Terence Yin (“Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” and Josie Ho (“The Twins Effect”), as well as some international names that the producers are keeping under wraps, will appear on the show. Wu is creative producer.

Mense and Young, both still part of management at Deansee, mulled the concept for two years before they translated their idea into a Web site, www.chiseen.com.

Earlier this year, they produced a series of mock journalism pieces poking fun at the paranoia of Hong Kong people during the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak and posted it on the site. It morphed into a television show when the pair cut a deal with MTV Networks Asia to license and distribute the program.

MTV Asia will air two 10-minute episodes weekly, running each of them four times daily. Viewers will see skateboarders shoot off into Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor; a man dressed as a gorilla wreak havoc among spectators near monkey cages at a zoo; and Wu and Mense eat silkworms.

When their fake gorilla recently visited the fruit stall of an 80-year-old woman she fainted, thinking it was a ghost.

“She’s fine now,” says Mense. “I buy bananas from her every day, and we get along great. We don’t mean to hurt people or put them in a bad position. And what people might not find funny at first, they will later in hindsight.”

What, then, are the limits? “The limit gets set while we’re shooting,” says Mense. “We want to create shock value but in a different way.”