The first Indian-origin Singaporean stand-up artiste Sharul Channa loves coming back to India, especially Delhi as she loves the Paneer Parantha here. Her show, Pottymouth is about an NRI, her stories of travel in India, her stories of being married and her thoughts about Indian marriages and funerals. Her one-hour shows, Sharul Weds Sharul (2017) and Disco Sheela and Other Indian Superwomen (2018) were a part of Singapore’s Indian cultural festival, Kalaa Utsavam. She also toured to sold-out crowds in Kuala Lumpur and the Darwin Festival in 2018.
How did you foray into the world of comedy?
Getting into comedy was accidental! I was standing outside an open-mic and the owner of that open-mic told me to jump up and do three minutes of material as no women were doing comedy in the scene at that time.
Since I was already theatre trained (three-year diploma in theatre arts & acting from Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore), I thought to myself — ‘How bad could this get?’ The first laugh got me hooked. Now, I am deeply in love with the craft of making people laugh.
What prompted you into stand-up acts?
My now-husband-then boyfriend, Rishi Budhrani, is a fellow stand-up comedian. He is the one who told me that I should give it a try.
My first act was eight-and-half years back in an open mic at Boat Quay, Singapore wherein I spoke about being a minority in Singapore. It went well! I was surprised that I could be funny.
Your favourite stand-up artiste?
One of my favourite stand-up comedians whom I feel inspired by is Ellen DeGeneres.
How have you seen the audience change over the last eight years?
Initially, only the upper class used to watch stand-up comedy as it was in “vogue”. Now, more and more of the middle-class are choosing stand-up comedy and live performances as a source of entertainment. This is great growth. Stand-up comedians like Amit Tandon and Zakir Khan, who started out in Delhi, are so relatable and can be watched by people of all classes.
How do you visualise the future of stand-up comedy, especially in India?
I think stand-up is currently in its boom stage and it will only grow to be a viable career for whoever puts in the effort to work on this craft. There are already such great talents that are coming out of the country and putting themselves on the world map of comedy like Vir Das and Aditi Mittal. There are many more that will prove themselves to be funny and authentic on the world stage.
There aren’t many women in this field. What do you think is the reason?
As we are growing up, women aren’t encouraged to be funny. We are encouraged to educate ourselves and also groom ourselves to be the ideal wives to our husbands.
Also, for the longest time, a career in the entertainment was seen to be a very controversial one and Indians don’t like to be talked about, especially when it concerns their daughters.
Additionally, Indian movies always portrayed funny women to be fat, clumsy and making a fool out of themselves — no woman wants to be shown like this.
What draws you to India, Delhi in particular that you come here repeatedly?
I keep coming back to Delhi to perform as I love your food. I will perform as many shows as you want me to if you keep feeding me all the best food in your city. Paneer Paratha is my true love.