Friday , March 1 2024
Kumar talks about racism and being called "Apu Neh Neh" in Singapore, and how sex is off limits in his standup routine.

Interview with Kumar of Kings & Queens of Comedy

Singapore’s most famous drag queen Kumar is set to take the stage in Kings & Queens of Comedy, which is going to run at the Esplanade on the 2nd and 3rd of November. Here he talks about racism in Singapore, the Amy Cheong case and how he thinks sex is taboo.



You’re perhaps the most recognizable entertainer in Singapore. Has that been a blessing or curse so far for you?

So far, it’s been good being recognized for my profession. The irritating part is, when you go out shopping for example, people will stop & ask me for a joke. Do I look like a vending machine?

Do you have any hair-raising episodes from being recognized by the public?

There was a time when this old Indian couple stopped me in my tracks & called me Gurmit Singh. Ha Ha!

You always are one who says it as it is, with a no holds barred approach in your material. However, are there subjects that are totally taboo to you?

Basically, I’ve tried to cover all aspects of everyday Life, people, religion, some politics ( local & international), races, emotions. But I really don’t actually talk in detail about SEX. I feel that it’s a very personal matter between 2 persons.

Have you encountered people who’ve been insulted or hurt by your material in your stand up comedy, through these years?

Yes, as a matter of fact, many times. You see, most Singaporeans like to laugh at others , but not to be laughed at. Why then go to a Comedy Show?

You once told a tale on an Indian talk show about how a Caucasian foreigner wasn’t queuing, and when you stepped in to ask this person to queue properly, he shouted at you to “Go back home!”. What is your impression about the foreign talent situation here in Singapore?

We are a very fast-paced Little Red Dot, we do need to inject more foreign talents in many aspects of jobs here. But we are Singaporeans & will not tolerate adapting to their social cultures & what not. They should acclimatize themselves in our Country, and be “Uniquely Singapore”!

They say great comedy comes from great pain. You’ve spoken some about growing up in a violent household with an alcoholic father. Would you agree that your humour stems from that painful past?

No, my family, especially my dad never blessed me with this profession & said that I’ll starve. He’s very old school who thinks that I should be a Teacher, Lawyer, Accountant. But look at where I am today.

You’ve been around for ages, how do you handle aging?

If you look good, you feel good. I’ve always taken care of myself from top to toe. High Maintenance (ha ha!). My hair is done at the salon, my essential face care by Estee Lauder, make-up by MAC, clothes from all over like Armani, Club 21, Zara, DKNY etc. Till today, what you see is all I am. No botox, no fillers, nothing plastic…. Hmmmm… maybe I’ll try that when I reach 50 ?

You’re of course best known as being in drag. What’s the best thing about being a “girl” in your opinion?

I am still a man, after all that dressing up & makeup. Being in Drag brings out a different persona to my profession. I can make fun of a man or woman & still garner favours from both parties.

It’s always acceptable to mock or make jokes at the expense of the majority race. However, most performers stay away from mocking minorities. You don’t do that as your jokes also target the Malays and Indians. Do you think that’s fair or acceptable to joke about minorities, especially when they already face such taunts/insults from the majority race on a regular basis?

At the end of the day, we are all Singaporeans. I make fun of every race & it is acceptable. Taunts & Insults have gone way beyond us now for the Malays & Indians because look how far they’ve come in their professions & social status.

Have you been following the Amy Cheong saga? What is your opinion about what she did?

Personally, had she something to slam on a race, she shouldn’t have done it on Facebook being who she is in NTUC. These social networks become viral & you have the whole of Singapore staring you in the face.

What about her employer’s decision to fire her?

I cannot comment on her employers’ decision, but I understand , if due to pressure from the Press & the Union members, they had to make an example of racial cohesion in the community.

As an Indian, I am sure you’ve faced many racist moments in Singapore, from fellow Singaporeans. Has the situation gotten better or worse in your opinion?

Till today, they still call Indians “Appu Neh Neh”. Please explain. Parents still tell their kids, ‘If you don’t behave, I’ll ask the Appu Neh Neh to catch you’ to scare the little kids.

What do you have in store for the future?

It is a joy to make people laugh after having a hard day at work or home. That is always my ultimate passion. If I can make one person happy today with a joke, why not. The best part is, I’m getting paid for it ! I will continue to entertain the audience as long as they want me to.

About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.

Check Also

faghag pam oei wild rice

Theatre Review (Singapore): ‘Faghag’ by Pam Oei

In the fifth year of Singapore's gay theme party "Nation," just as Pam Oei decides to let her hair down and shake her body with total abandon, the music abruptly stops – because in real life the government stopped the event in 2005. That scene said so much, despite Oei saying not much at all.