One of my secret fear of attending live performances such as the ongoing Kumar Guilty is the request for audience participation. I have this unexplained trepidation whenever the host starts selecting 'victims'. What are they going to ask? What am I going to say? Will I be shamed?
Kumar, Singapore's OG comedian and performer, needs no further introduction. Over more than three decades in the entertainment industry, he has garnered respect not only in his home ground but also in Southeast Asia and even in London, where he recently performed.
Showing from 6 to 23 July at the Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands, Kumar Guilty brings us on a new comedic journey where the audience is encouraged to face our deepest, darkest secrets and desires by interacting with Kumar.
According to Kumar himself, “Kumar Guilty is about exploring and facing your deepest, darkest secrets and desires without feeling guilty about them. Everyone attending the show is going to be part of this confessions journey as we take audience participation to another level. All audience members will be given placards which read 'Guilty' on one side and 'Not Guilty' on the other, which they will be able to hold up as I ask for their opinions on their confessions." It sounds like it’s time for me to face my fears!
Knowing Kumar’s brand of humour, which tends to show no mercy to the random stranger picked by him from the audience pool (gasp!) – to the fun and laughter of the audience but the person being called out would likely squirm – I wondered how the interactive portion in Kumar Guilty would go in a large theatre such as the Sands Theatre at the Marina Bay Sands.
Ultimately, my curiosity about the new format of Kumar’s latest show proved greater than my cowardice of being called out and being the butt of jokes in front of thousands. After all, Kumar's aim is not to embarrass anyone but "to walk away not feeling guilty about who they are – just be yourself.” An important lesson in itself.
Like his previous productions, Kumar Guilty is joined by his team of drag queens. Lip-syncing to hits such as Chicago Musical’s Cell Block Tango (a huge favourite of mine) and Britney Spears’ Oops I Did It Again (also my top fav), Kumar’s team of drags put on an entertaining performance with a group of professional dancers. Their costumes, as expected, were one of the main draws. The choreography and performance by the dancers were commendable too. The well-designed panels on stage did wonders to add glitz and glamour to the show.
His use of observational comedy keeps Kumar's shows fresh and relevant. From age-old pain points such as mothers’ capability of guilt-tripping us and political discretions to, of course, Kumar's trademark – digs on sex, masturbation, threesome and more. Over the years, Kumar has garnered a reputation for no-holds-barred chats about what goes on behind the bedroom doors. I expected a full barrage of anything and everything R(A). That was why I thought his trademark of salacious remarks were somewhat subdued during the opening night. Perhaps he was warming up to the month-long show in the Sands Theatre. Or maybe the audience, largely comprised of invited guests, did not give back the right vibes for him to unleash his full comedic prowess. We were, however, encouraged to embrace self-love and knowing oneself (via masturbation) – perhaps a residue of pandemic woes and increased worldwide awareness on mental health.
Stand up comedy is a work of art, don’t make it a joke.Kumar shares the biggest challenge of being a comedian in this time and age.
You know how actors/hosts/comedians feed off the audience's response? During the Opening Night, the audience was polite, with a few excited remarks and cheers interspersed throughout the two-hour performance. So if you are headed to Kumar Guilty, let down your hair and not worry about anyone judging you because we are all too concerned about ourselves to worry about others. Only then, will you be able to truly takeaway what Kumar intended for the audience.
The live show reached a touching moment when Kumar shed his comedic role to reveal a tender side rarely seen on stage. In a tribute to Oreo, his beloved dog who has recently passed, we get to see a different side of the veteran performer. With age, Kumar seems more willing to reveal his raw side now. Something his fans, and myself, appreciates.
What I enjoyed the most were Kumar's off-the-cuff remarks and unscripted moments. These received shrill laughter all-round and are what Kumar is truly best at. Expect variations during each show because we know Kumar will keep his materials unique and fresh so that we can all relax and laugh away our worries.
At the show's end, it turned out that my overthinking department was on overdrive. There was nothing to fear or worry about being grilled by the comedian. He was always respectful towards his fans, pushing the boundaries and challenging norms just a little. Many times, he would dig fun at himself. In fact, there were moments when I thought he was also nurturing towards his audience.
Our everyday lives are very stressful, we need to be able to laugh away worries, laugh at ourselves, just laugh to feel relaxed and comedy is one important means to do that.Kumar on the role of comedy in our society.
When asked if he ever thought of quitting, the veteran comedian shared his passion for his craft, "I want to continue doing comedy as long as I can. As long as people want to watch me, I will continue. Even when I am in a wheelchair, as long as people want to watch me, I will perform. I will die on stage.”
I want to continue doing comedy as long as I can. As long as people want to watch me, I will continue. Even when I am in a wheelchair, as long as people want to watch me, I will perform. I will die on stage.Kumar's dedication to his craft