Q&A

Dil­ruk Jayas­inha, ac­tor & co­me­dian, 32

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - FRONT - Pho­tog­ra­phy Jesse Mar­low By Ver­ity Ed­wards

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.”

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