No Boundaries

Posted on October 2, 2014

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Reena Karim chats with up and coming stand-up comic Sunny Singh on his raunchy sense of humour.

The first time I heard Randhir Singh aka Sunny was at Overground Bar and Café a few months ago. The unassuming, 29 year-old sashayed onto the stage with a striking leopard print turban and a drink in hand. His eight minute act managed to cover everything from race and cultural ignorance, to sex and other explicit jokes, each one getting viler than the other. His observational humour is refreshing, but what’s more impressive is his style of delivery. The confident comedian has the knack of presenting his exaggerated tales in a manner that comes across as genuine—not bad considering he is new to comedy.

Sunny forayed into comedy less than a year ago and by total chance. At a bar in mid-town Sukhumvit, he came across a flyer for ‘Off Centre Comedy’, an open mic show, and joined at the very last minute. After his performance, which received a positive response, the organisers encouraged him to join the BKK Comedy Community. The small-town boy from Bhilai in Chattisgarh moved to Bangkok three years ago with the intention of making a name for himself. Aside from his fulltime job as a teacher, he also DJs’ at weddings and once a week gets utterly indecent at stand-up shows. At Hemingways, minutes before his show, the comic talks of his “dirty” style of humour, a possible career in comedy, and how he may get beaten up in India.

Let’s begin by talking about the dirty genre of comedy you like to do?
The first time a manager asked me about my style, I replied, ‘It’s dirty’, but I guess you could also call it observational. I am very comfortable with telling jokes and offending people whether its men or women. Ever since I started doing stand-ups, I have been offending people, not deliberately, but with the content of my acts. I am not afraid of expressing my opinions and observations. I am open to tailoring my content, but not at the risk of compromising my material. If I customise my content completely to suit the audience’s taste and without hurting anyone’s feelings then there is nothing original about it.

How receptive has your audience been towards your content?
Sometimes the audience is a little bit reserved and sensitive when you talk about race, which is quite weird because they are okay with religion. Most of the time people are open, but sometimes they act like cry babies, for instance, talking about white people is okay, but blacks are a big no; talking about sex is okay, but abortion or rape is not. I believe if it exists you can talk about it too. An Indian audience is very different from the one in the UK or US. With an Indian audience, for instance, religion is taken very seriously and of course, you also have to be particular about using foul language, but on the other hand race, colour, and ethnicity are major issues in the west.

Does your culture come into your work? As in, do you use your Indianism for material?
Religion has a very strong influence in my acts. In fact, my first joke was about the confusion between sick and Sikh, which gets a good response even now. Comparing cultures, especially Indian with Thai or Western, is quite fun. My acts focuses on different behaviours and habits, actions, reactions, and accents to create humor. This way, the audience can relate to my act and I get laughs.

What goes through your mind minutes before you go on?
I have done numerous stage performances such as singing—I won numerous state-level competitions in India—and DJ’ing so I have never had any stage fear. I know a lot of people would pee in their pants or sweat, but I don’t have any stage phobia wherein I see people and freeze. A minute before my performance I get a little nervous and wonder whether people would like me or not. I don’t worry about my material because I know it and have delivered it so many times. The moment they call my name on stage, I am ready to go and I don’t give a damn because the mic is in my hand.

If doing a good show gives you a rush, how does it feel when you bomb?
A good show always makes me feel better, but when I bomb it makes me sharper. There have been so many shows where people applauded and there were a few where I bombed horribly, but it is part of the game. The key is to know your audience well. During my last show, I was doing this vampire joke, it was funny and people were enjoying it and then suddenly I forgot my punch line. I went blank; I took a pause, looked at the people, they were waiting…and then suddenly it came to me. There have been times when I couldn’t remember the lines, when that happens I usually add a filler and move on to the next joke. I try to follow that with a joke that is funnier than the one before.

How do you come up with material?
I am a keen observer; I keep my eyes and ears open. I always take notes, as most of the comedians generally do, of the events or things that I find funny and work on them when I find time. The concept behind my material comes from my experiences and what follows are things that I make up. I have an imaginative mind, so I can make up things that have never happened in my life and deliver it in a way that people would think it really happened to me.

Are you open to feedback?
I am a very open minded person who welcomes any and every feedback. I have improved my acts by watching my videos and rehearsing them again and again. I also get feedback from the audience after the show and also from our team members who watch us carefully and do point out the good and bad points in our acts.

What does your family think of your talent?
They are aware of me doing the shows and they encourage me to become better and grow in this business. I would love to have them watch me live, but it might be tough, because I use a lot of foul language.

How far do you want to take your comedy career?
I am aiming to be a full-time comedian in three to five years. The scene is growing rapidly in Asia and [chances of us] getting good gigs is high. Entertainment has always been my thing and so I don’t think that comedy or DJ’ing is work to me. It’s something I enjoy doing. I am blessed with these traits that people either don’t really have any inclination towards or they don’t persuade to attain happiness. But I want to continue doing comedy because I think I have what it takes to get into the ranks of Russell Peters etc. I push myself to do new things, I come up with new material often, and I also have a good delivery style. The important thing is to test and try new things. Comedy gives me a platform where I can showcase my talent and I want to take it to the next level with sheer hard work.

Would you like to do shows in India?
Where I am from, there is no comedy scene for miles, but it is big in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Pune. I would like to do shows in India if my audience can handle it, but I will have to be restrained because I don’t want to get beaten up there by my own people. There is a cultural difference, for instance, Thai-Indians are pretty good at taking insults, but what if I said it to someone from India, I don’t know how he or she will react.

Published in Masala Lite, July 2014

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