ACTOR, host, comedy performer — there are many roles that Gurmit Singh has played in the past two decades. While he has acted in several television shows, his characterisation of Phua Chu Kang, an eccentric Singlish-speaking contractor with trademark yellow boots, curly hair and large facial mole, is his most well-known and well-loved work.
The former MediaCorp artiste left the media company last year, after devoting 20 years to making audiences laugh. Since then, he’s been more selective with the projects he takes on — in Malaysia we most recently saw him hosting the Laugh Die You comedy fest. These days, the 50-year-old father of three is happily concentrating on his roles of husband and father, and being more selective about the projects he works on. The Rakyat Post caught up with him for this special interview:
Q: How do you keep your fans connected the most familiar character they’ve come to love, i.e. Phua Chu Kang (PCK)?
A: I think PCK is able to keep that connection because he personifies the cheekiness in all of us without crossing the line of malice. So he always comes across harmless; all bark but no bite whatsoever.
Q: Everyone loves the character accent you throw on. Do people, including family and friends, expect you to speak that way all the time or do they get an overdose of it?
A: My family and close friends don’t expect that from me at all actually. They know the real me so they don’t need me to entertain them.
Q: What are the ups and downs of being known for a larger than life character like PCK?
A: Well as soon as I get out of my home or car, I am expected to be the larger than life personality. The joke-a-minute and easy-going kind of guy, which is okay because that is a good place to be but it can also be physically demanding to be like that all the time. So when I’m tired and don’t have the energy, I simply stay home or in the car to recuperate.
Q: It’s not easy being a comic that everyone can relate to…what’s your secret? Where do you draw your inspirations/ideas from?
A: I don’t know about any secrets. I just want make as many people happy as I can. I love watching the great comedians like Jerry Lewis, Jim Carey, Robin Williams and Ben Stiller.
Q: What are you up to these days other than stand-up comedy?
A: I don’t do stand-up comedy actually. At the recent Laugh Die You 1 and also 2, I was the host and played games with the audience as PCK. It’s when PCK interacts with the audience through games that he shines and creates all the laughter. Aside from that, I host corporate events, am writing a book, and running two businesses passively. I’m also in talks to direct my first movie. I just launched a gospel album (where I sing all the songs), I serve in Church by playing the bass guitar and I serve in the Family For Life Council. But most importantly, I spend lots of time with my family.
Q: Could you share a little about your involvement with Laugh Die You mob? How do you enjoy working with other comics and what is your biggest learning curve?
A: I do enjoy working with other comics, especially the ones who are dedicated to the craft, those who really desire to make a good show of it, and those who have no airs — the Laugh Die You cast was one such group of comics. So it was fun to work with them. The hard part was trying to match their funny when PCK comes on so that I don’t let them down and waste all the comics’ hard work by not performing to par for the audience. The best part I loved about the show was to see the audience laughing their heads off and just having a good time.
Q: You left Media Corp after 20 years to devote more time to your family. How is that working out for you now?
A: It is working out very well. I am blessed to be able to take a step down from my career and put my way overdue focus on the family. I wish this privilege to all the fathers out there.
Q: Do you prefer being on stage for a show or in front of a camera and why?
A: I like both. You cannot compare them because they are of different worlds, really. Each has its unique challenges and also its unique rewards.
Q: How do you keep yourself sane and down to earth when you’re outside the public eye?
A: One word — family. When I am with them, I am back to “normal”. I am a husband and I am a father. I am grounded and I love being able to do that or else, like you said, I would have gone insane a long time ago.
Q: Will PCK ever return to small screen or perhaps hit the big screen?
A: The question needs to be directed to a fortune teller, prophet or seer. I don’t have a crystal ball, I dropped it last week and it cracked to a million pieces.