Dilruk Jayasinha, actor & comedian, 32
What was your first paid gig as a comedian? When I was a boy in Sri Lanka, if I made my older brother laugh he’d go to Mum’s purse and pay me 10 rupees, 20 if it was really funny. I was 11 when we secretly got hold of Eddie Murphy’s special, Delirious. I was holding my guts laughing. I thought comedy was the coolest thing but there was no stand-up in Sri Lanka.
You moved to Australia 13 years ago, alone, to study commerce. It doesn’t sound very amusing… I wanted to be financially well off, and to have a good job you need a good degree… Maybe I was breastfed watching Wall Street. But moving to a studio apartment in Melbourne was tough.
And then you became an accountant. Are we having fun yet? Within a week I hated it and thought that was a bad sign. When I walked into the office I felt spewish. I told my employer I was struggling and they said, “When you get up the ladder it’s easier”. I realised I didn’t want to be that person. God bless, they fired me about six months later.
Where was your first stand-up gig? At the Comic’s Lounge in North Melbourne, September 21, 2010. I worked my butt off to come up with five minutes of jokes. There were about 20 people in a 500-seater and I got up and did it. It was terrible. But what I didn’t anticipate was how good I felt after. I made the decision it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
You’re a hero for the underdog. Why does self-deprecating humour work so well? It’s disarming. I think it was Harry Shearer who said people become comedians because then they can control why people laugh at them.
Do people expect you to be funny all the time, outside work? There is a bit of truth in that. When you’re introduced to people at a party they say, “Tell us a joke” and it doesn’t work like that. I’ve become more conversational because I don’t feel like I need to be funny all the time now.
How did it feel to be picked for Ten’s panel show Have
You Been Paying Attention? last year and then to be offered a role in the ABC’s Utopia? When I got the call-up for Utopia, I couldn’t believe it. All of a sudden I got to play with these people I’d loved watching.
You’re working with expert writers such as Santo Cilauro, Rob Sitch and Tom Gleisner. How much input do you have into your Utopia character, project manager Ashan De Silva? They give you the opportunity to bring your own flavour to the role. They put a lot of trust in their performers.
You tackled racism and refugee issues in your stand-up show Immigrateful. Do you encounter discrimination? Immigrateful is a true title – I have so much love for this country and I’m thankful for what it has given me, but I’m conflicted knowing it’s not the experience some people are having.
You’ve performed in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Penang. How about Sri Lanka? It’s my dream to perform there but I’m nervous as well. In Australia, whatever I’m talking about on stage, it’s always in the context that I’m a different colour. If I did that in Sri Lanka they’d say, “We’re all brown, get over it.”