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Suhaimi Yusof On COVID-19 Anxieties, Scale-Modelling, And Filming A National Day Special After His Gallbladder Surgery

The comedian is one of the performers in 'Gardens by the Bay and Mediacorp National Day Concert 2020', premiering on Monday.

Suhaimi Yusof On COVID-19 Anxieties, Scale-Modelling, And Filming A National Day Special After His Gallbladder Surgery

Suhaimi Yusof is a trooper.

Not too long after he had undergone a surgery to remove a stone and his gallbladder, the 50-year-old performer was back at work, filming a segment for the upcoming Gardens by the Bay and Mediacorp National Day Concert 2020.

“Duty, honour, country… no time for injury, let’s move!” Suhaimi tells over the phone, before bursting into boisterous laughter.

“Initially, I was quite worried as well. But 24 hours after the surgery, I was already moving up and down,” Suhaimi recalls. “When [the producers] asked me, ‘You can do filming?’, I said, “I can kick an elephant already!’

Here, Suhaimi tells us more about how the shoot, what he’s been up to during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his plans on National Day.

Goofing around: Suhaimi Yusof as Jojo Joget in a scene from the 'Gardens by the Bay and Mediacorp National Day Concert 2020'.


Speedy recovery: “After 24 hours, I was up and about,” says Suhaimi of his three-and-a-half hour gallbladder operation in June. Before you know it, he was reprising his Noose character JoJo Joget opposite Gurmit Singh’s Phua Chu Kang persona in a series of sketches for the Gardens by the Bay and Mediacorp National Day Concert. By all accounts, the shoot went on without a cinch. Well, yes — and no. Turns out one of the side-effects of the surgery is flatulence, which proved to be somewhat distracting. “I told Gurmit if he hears some strange sounds, he should just keep quiet… [I] cannot control my bladder! I said [the farts were my] 21 guns salute — I shot the cannon first before National Day!”

Initial reactions to the Circuit Breaker Part 1: “Like everybody else I was taken by surprised,” says Suhaimi, who runs an events management and production company with his wife. “The first 2-3 weeks was in a state of confusion. We began to make some adjustments on our end. When we couldn’t go to the office, we have to bring [the office gear] to home. I think by the fourth week, we kinda like [the new arrangement]. Hey, this not bad. When you roll over on the bed, you’re in the office. Then you roll back to your bed. It’s important to stay optimistic and remind ourselves that this situation will come to an end. If we were to succumb to anger and pressure, we won’t be able to think straight.”

Initial reactions to the Circuit Breaker Part 2: When the CB happened, Suhaimi says “40 per cent of the engagements” were cancelled. But some of the shows went on as planned — virtually. As much as he misses the human interaction in a physical event, the father of three says there are pluses in hosting digital events. “You cut down on travelling costs and venue rentals. Instead of doing a stand-up comedy in front of a live audience, we did it via a webinar. My first virtual stand-up didn’t make sense: I was basically talking to the screen, and people would react and reply in the chat boards. I found it a bit strange. But after doing several stand-up comedies within an hour, I thought, maybe it’s not bad after all.”

Prepared for all contingencies: Financially, Suhaimi says he isn’t “badly affected” by the pandemic. “The first few years after I left Mediacorp [in 2001] taught me [the importance of] savings,” says Suhaimi. “It’s important for us, as artistes, to know that you must save for a rainy day. I’d anticipated such things would happen. It could be COVID-19. It could be war. It could be anything. It could be my own personal accident. Touch wood, I could be hit by a helicopter. So who knows? Life is unexpected. So when the rain we were expecting came, we had quite a sizeable amount to tide us over. We’re prepared for this. Rather than wait for things to happen and then start solving them. It’s like how Singapore did it; Singapore got reserves.”

Turn that frown upside down: During the Circuit Breaker period, Suhaimi kept folks sequestered at home entertained on In Your Living Room with PCK (with Gurmit Singh) and JoJo and Home Together (with Hossan Leong) — two shows produced under Mediacorp’s #StayHomeWithMe . “I feel like Robin Hood, Superman,” Suhaimi quips. “I feel good and liberating that I could provide laughter at a time when everybody is feeling down. I think a smile has become more valuable at a time when you need it most.” Some heroes don’t wear capes.

Safe-distanced interviews: Suhaimi chatting with Kumar in an episode of 'Home Together', a talk show where guests reflect on how their lives have changed by the COVID-19 crisis.

Digital domain: Like Jack Neo of late, Suhaimi has been spending a lot of time in the digital realm, emceeing live Facebook and Instagram shows from a "studio" housed in his 5-room HDB flat in Serangoon. (“It took us a month to get things reorganised and beautified”). “I think people like us — Jack, Mark Lee, me, Gurmit — we cannot sit still. If we sit still and do nothing, we’ll become frozen and we’d just give up,” says the tech aficionado who’s also conducting online editorial sessions (there’s one happening on Aug 15). At one point, Jack approached him if he were interested in selling fish online a la Wang Lei. “I say, ‘Do I look like a fishmonger to you? I eat fish lah (laughs), I don’t sell fish.” Suhaimi wants to do more just sell fish: “In 2020, we’re shifting [our businesses] into the digital world.” Watch this space.

Separating work life from home life: “You cannot just do work 24 hours a day,” says Suhaimi. “When work and home activities collide, it can be strenuous.” Despite the overlapping agendas, he manages to squeeze in some reading (among the books he recently finished, Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad’s Conspiracy of the Rich: The 8 New Rules, Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, Paul Ryan’s The Art of Comedy: Getting Serious about Being Funny). That, and scale-modelling (he had just put together Optimus Prime). “Scale-modelling takes away from the hustle and bustle because I’m in my own world. When I’m doing it, I would put on some music and it takes you into another dimension. I would do it at night, taking my own sweet time. And when you’re done with it, it’s back [to the real world].”

His National Day plans: “I’ll be spending more time with the family. We intend to explore some parts of the Punggol area — where I was born — on bicycles. We’ll start in the morning and most likely [do it] for about 3-4 hours.”

Catch Suhaimi in Gardens by the Bay and Mediacorp National Day Concert 2020 on Channel 5, Aug 10, 8pm; meWATCH, meWATCH YouTube. He'also in the National Day Special of In Your Living Room on Channel 5, Aug 9, 8.30pm.

For more info on Suhaimi's online editing class, click here.

Suhaimi Yusof Main Photo: Joel Low

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