Sharul Channa on being a female 'Pottymouth' in a man's man's comedy world

As part of International Women’s Day, Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore celebrates the fighting spirit of three outstanding female individuals from various industries. They are, stand-up comedian Sharul Channa, film director and actress Michelle Chong and social media expert Pat Law.

Sharul Channa (Photo: KC Eng Photography, Portrait, 2016)
Sharul Channa (Photo: KC Eng Photography, Portrait, 2016)

It’s a man’s man’s world as Singapore stand-up comedienne Sharul Channa knows it.

Five years ago when Singapore’s comedy scene was in its infancy, Sharul easily stood out, mainly because she was a woman in a male-dominated scene.

Fast forward to today, she is recognised for being a game-changer not just for comediennes, but also for the local comedy scene in general.

Throughout the years, Sharul, who started with 10-minute performances at local comedy nights, has now performed one-hour shows in India and Australia. She has even produced her very own comedy tour called “Comedy on Heels”, which she roped in Holland’s Kristen Zweers and Hong Kong’s Joanna Sio for.

On International Women’s Day, which falls on 8 March, Sharul’s adding another milestone to her career. She’s having her very first one-hour special in Singapore called “Pottymouth”, which will take place across three days at the Gateway Theatre at Black Box.

But her journey is more than just laughter, jokes and punchlines. She had to confront gender inequalities and personal insecurities as well.

The 30-year-old tells us more in a recent interview with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore.

“Previously, it was extremely difficult to look beyond the gender differences because there were a lot of men in the scene. There were many occasions where it would be okay if men did dick jokes, but if a woman does vagina jokes it’s called female comedy,” said Sharul, who also had to be mindful to not dress too sexily for fear that her audiences might be watching for other reasons.

“There’s a lot of stigma that I had to break. But I tell myself that I’m just going to do it and learn from my own lessons rather than from somebody else’s,” she said.

Being the wife of another talented local comedian, Rishi Budhrani, has its challenges too.

Sharul Channa (Photo: KC Eng Photography, Potrait, 2016)
Sharul Channa (Photo: KC Eng Photography, Portrait, 2016)

“People would always go, ‘Oh Rishi is doing so well, how do you feel about that?’. I understand that’s just genuine curiosity. But it can stir s*** up in it’s own way. If you’re insecure anything can stir s*** up,” she said, fingers placed on her opened notebook, revealing scribbles on bright green paper. That’s where she pens her ideas down or writes motivational quotes to overcome her insecurities.

“The insecurities are all inside. You have to sit down and ask things like, how are you feeling today? What is it that makes me happy? I have weird positive writings in here, like, ‘Oh, I want to be a fantastic comedian’.”

Sharul’s parents moved to Singapore when she was a month old. The middle child of three daughters, she grew up seeing her parents at their most ambitious and determined to make a life outside of their country. With that said, gaining acceptance in a society has always been a way of life for Sharul, not just within the comedy scene, but in society in general.

“I think if you’re of Indian descent, you are always trying to gain acceptance. If you’re a minority, simple things like buying clothes can be a problem. You can’t find your size because we are just genetically born with bigger hips and tits. The cuttings of the clothes here tend to be smaller.”

“And then there are the bigger things like, I want to be Singaporean but be outspoken as well, because that’s just one of the habits of people with Indian heritage. But if you’re a Singaporean and a woman in the workplace, the general expectation of you is to not to talk so much.”

Clearly Sharul no longer gives a hoot about what society says. If this “Pottymouth” wants to go up on stage and tell dirty jokes, she will jolly well do it.

The term was labelled to her by a writer who had reviewed a separate show she did as part of the Happy Ever Laughter comedy festival. She was quite taken aback by that remark.

“I hardly had any dirty jokes in there. But if you think I’m a potty mouth according to Singapore standards then I will take it.”

Here’s one of the jokes she said at that show, “I love reading The Straits Times, especially the obituary section, because that’s the most factual part of the paper.”

Tickets to Pottymouth are priced at $36 and available for purchase via Peatix.

Related stories:

Social media expert Pat Law opens up about dark past

How Michelle Chong finds strength in herself and in other to be funny

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