I’m not the funnyman people think I am: Gurmit Singh

Local TV host-actor Gurmit Singh shares with us the highs and lows of his 16 years in the showbiz industry. (Yahoo! photo)
Local TV host-actor Gurmit Singh shares with us the highs and lows of his 16 years in the showbiz industry. (Yahoo! photo)

Singapore TV star and comedian Gurmit Singh projects himself as a confident, happy-go-lucky guy on screen, but his real personality is very different.

"I'm not like that all the time," he revealed in an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Singapore. "I'm not funny and energetic all the time."

Instead, the host-actor said, "the real me is quiet, introvert, doesn't socialize much, and [is] not a party animal or the life of a party."

"I'm a good actor," the 47-year-old MediaCorp artiste explained jokingly. "I do it for work and I blow it up a little bit more so I can make it worth the while to earn my money."

Well-known and well-loved for his disarming comic persona, the local funnyman has played many roles — actor, host, singer, director and, of course, comedian — in the 16 years he's been in the showbiz industry.

But what many may not know is that the seemingly sure and secure man struggles with an inferiority complex.

"I have that, and that is why I've stopped hosting Miss Singapore Universe pageants," Gurmit said. "Because when I host that and I see all these beautiful ladies… inside I'm dying. I just want to stab myself."

"It's a mind thing, but I feel that the audience in the studio and the people at home watching on TV are saying, 'Can that ugly thing just move away?' It's really like that," he said. "To suffer from this thing called inferiority complex [while] being in this business, it's really hard."

'I cried almost every other night'
When asked then if he had ever thought of quitting the scene, Gurmit admitted that he had, once.

"I think the only time I wanted to get out of it was when my parents passed away, and it was very hard to work 'this' (as a comedian) being in the limelight all the time," he said. "Doing comedy when your parents have passed away is the worst thing to do."

The memory of an emotional Gurmit going up the stage to receive an Asian Television Award, then a Star Award, in 2003 might still be vivid in many viewers' minds. That year, his father moved on, and two years before that, his mother had.

"My mom passed away first in 2001 and my mistake then was not telling anyone about it. My close friends and colleagues knew but the general public didn't know at all, so everyone expected me to be the 'laugh-a-minute' guy as you see on TV… I suffered for quite a bit," he recalled.

"So when my father passed away, I made it public knowledge… [I needed] everybody to give me some space. It worked to a certain extent. It was better, but really hard… I think you can only begin to imagine what my life is — every time I step out of my house or my car, I'm public property. People are taking pictures or asking for autographs," he pointed out.

But the popular icon was also quick to clarify that even though he has his fair share of bad days, he still takes pleasure in having friendly chats with people he meets on the streets, several of whom he sometimes can't put a name to.

"I enjoy it when after the little exchange that we had, you see that person smiling. And to me, that's a wow — I have that kind of influence on people… and when I've got a chance to make someone smile, why not?" he said.

Gurmit on his Lambo
But the personality wasn't pleased when reports from one particular publication were brought up.

Last year, the sports car fanatic drew some criticism from the public after news surfaced that he drives a Lamborghini but is not "hao lian (hokkien for show-off)".

Responding to that, Gurmit told this reporter that for a car lover like him to own that supercar "was a dream come true."

"Once I got it, I started sharing with a few friends and by the time I shared with my sixth or seventh friend, one person said (I'm) 'so show-off'. I went, 'No, I'm just sharing happy news, I want you to be happy for me that this guy from a poor Punjabi family who slept on the floor for all his life now drives a Lamborghini,'" he recounted.

"That rang all the alarm bells, so I never allowed them to take pictures of me with the Lamborghini to share with any magazine, even car magazines. What's the point? People are going to talk about it," he said.

And people sure did, when the same news emerged soon after a local publication reported what he had requested they omit. That didn't sit well with the veteran actor.

"Over the years, I have tolerated all kinds of things from this paper, back and forth, with nobody taking credit for the skewed reports… I've always been told that they need to sensationalise, that's how they sell papers and any publicity is good publicity. But now I've told them that I'll never speak to that paper again," Gurmit said.

Phua Chu Kang isn't coming back
Gurmit was back to a chirpy mood when he began to speak of "the best contractor in Singapore, JB and some say, Batam", none other than Phua Chu Kang (PCK), a character he is best known for.

"[My proudest role] would have to be Phua Chua Kang, because it's lasted for so many years it's become the longest-running English programme in our TV history and to me, that's quite an honour," he said.

The role has also garnered him much acclaim. As lead actor of the award-winning sitcom PCK Pte Ltd, which won the 'Best Comedy Show for Asian Television Awards' six times, Gurmit himself has been awarded the 'Best Comedy Actor' for five years from 1998 to 2001, and again in 2003.

And the uncouth Chinese blue-collar worker with his trademark curly hair, giant mole and yellow boots is still hot property in Malaysia, drawing the actor there frequently.

"I'm still very active in going to Malaysia once every month to perform for one hour as PCK for company dinner and dances," Gurmit shared. "The Malaysians still love him to death, so I'm still showing my face there as PCK," he laughed.

Regrettably though, PCK's "done and finished" in Singapore.

"He (PCK) might come back for special guest appearances and stuff like that but no, not in a sit-com again," Gurmit confirmed.

Well, PCK might not be returning anytime soon but at least the true and tested Gurmit Singh will still be around.

The versatile star is back hosting okto's longest series 'Knockout', which will have its 100th episode on 12 May 2012. He will also be starring in the tele movie 'The Million Dollar Job' directed by Lee Thean-Jeen.

Also starring Keagan Kang, Pamelyn Chee, Vernetta Lopez, Sani Hussin, Shane Mardjuki, 'The Million Dollar Job' airs on okto this Sunday, 25 March at 10pm.
'Knockout All Stars' airs on okto every Monday, from 2 April at 8pm. The brand new arts infotainment series sees Gurmit Singh and Sheikh Haikel face off against each other in all things artistic.