Published on 5 March 2017

This International Women’s Day 2017, stand-up comedian Sharul Channa shares how she strives to #BeBoldForChange with her work and life.

By Melanie Lee

Photo: KC Eng Photography

Six years ago, 30-year-old Sharul Channa packed her bags to go to Mumbai in search of acting work, only to be told by a theatre director there after three months that she should make a name for herself first in her own country.

“I was still young then and kept thinking that in Singapore, there would be no opportunities for English-speaking Indian actors who didn’t speak Tamil,” she says. “I really didn’t know where to place myself.”

Upon her return, Channa was at Home Club one night supporting her husband, fellow comic Rishi Budhrani, at an open mic session when he suggested to her that she should also try stand-up comedy. After all, while she was a theatre student at LA SALLE, she had always been cast in comedy roles.

Within the first minute of her first stand-up act, the two tables of expat men in front of her were laughing.

“I thought to myself: hey, I’m really enjoying this. I get to be my own writer, actor, director and producer. I get instant feedback from the audience on whether my work is good or not. I can be anybody I want to be,” she recalls.

At that time, there were no local female stand-up comedians, but Channa decided that she would create her own scene. Since then, she has been on a roll, doing shows in Malaysia, the Philippines, China and yes, even India. Most notably, she was the first Singaporean comedian to be selected for The Melbourne International Comedy Festival last year, and was even selected to perform around Western Australia for a month touring with The Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow.

However, with the comedic success also comes certain misconceptions of her being a “scary woman”. Channa recounts instances of men coming up to tell her that she intimidates them.

“I am brash and loud on stage and while I make people laugh, some may think I’m not a nice person off-stage. I guess it comes from a society where you’re expected to be a coy and shy as an Asian woman,” she says. “On stage, I’m 150% of who I am in real life, and it’s actually a good thing because it keeps me extremely honest when I blare out truths about myself out loud.”

Channa feels that the biggest gender battle a Singaporean woman has to face is the freedom to speak without being judged for her views. “If a woman keeps quiet and speaks up once in a while, she is considered smart. However, if she talks a lot, then she is chatty and self-absorbed. We’re not allowed to express a lot of the time,” she observes.

Her advice to women who are considering stand-up comedy?

“Trust your instincts with what’s funny. If you’re not being true to yourself, you won’t be able to perform,” she advises.  (Also, come to talk to her, she says. You can reach her here.)

This International Women’s Week, Sharul Channa will be the first Singaporean woman to do her own solo stand-up show. Pottymouth by Sharul Channa will be on at The Substation from 8-11 March 2017. Click here for more information and tickets.

Photo: KC Eng Photography
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