Married comedians Rishi Budhrani, 33, and Sharul Channa, 30, have been together for 13 years now (they met when they joined the same Bollywood dance troupe) and has kept the romance alive with love, hate and insult (“He was my first boyfriend. It was a mistake,” Sharul deadpans).
Two years ago, they decided to mix work with pleasure and became the first husband-and-wife comedy duo in Singapore, and starred in The Rishi and Sharul Show. They recently performed at the opening festival of Gateway Theatre, a new nine-storey theatre space that showcases homegrown talent in the arts.
#1: Just ’cos you’re married doesn’t mean you have to like each other 100 per cent of the time.
SHARUL CHANNA: He’s said to me, “If we weren’t in love, we wouldn’t like each other much as individuals.”
RISHI BUDHRANI: I always say to people that true love is made up of 49 per cent hate, and that was our show’s tagline. I would kill or die for my wife, but sometimes, I wouldn’t even get off the sofa to get her tea.
S: It’s true. If I want water, I have to act like I’m dying and go, “I…want…water...” That’s when my acting skills come into play.
R: The difference is, I never ever ask her to get water for me. I get it myself. For our ROM ceremony, we hired this guy I’d met before who writes books about relationships and does these funny talks [to be our solemniser].
S: He met us before the ceremony to do an evaluation of our relationship and it came to a point where he’s like, “I think you both should think about this again. You might have some problems.” (Laughs) Every year that we don’t end up killing each other, we consider it a successful year.
R: So when we celebrate our anniversary, we’re actually saying, ‘Congrats on staying alive!’
#2: It’s okay to bring work home; even better to bring your personal issues to work.
R: Quite often in our arguments, we’ll end up fighting about who’s going to use the quarrel [as material for a show].
S: Usually, the one whose punchline is funnier will win. We fight about weird things, like attention span. Like, “Why did you put down the phone randomly? Is it ’cos you’re not paying attention?”
R: It’s like, how does she know? Sometimes, we fight about who has the last word.
S: [Prior to individual shows] he doesn’t test his material on me, but I test mine on him. I share my material with him ’cos I’m trained in theatre so I find my punchlines in spontaneity. I don’t write it 100 per cent before I go on stage. That’s why I perform it for him or for my close friends who may get calls from me during office hours. They’ll either burst out laughing, or they’ll ask, “This part is about me, right?”
R: I like testing it out in the actual setting so I do it at open mic sessions. ’Cos if she doesn’t give me the reaction I want, it’ll play with my mind.
#3: Dodging issues in your relationship? Go to a comedy show.
R: We use elements of our relationship in the show ’cos it’s real and the audience likes it. Stand-up comedy is a lot like bungee jumping naked. You’re in a state of free fall and...
S: (Interjects) He gives the same quote at every interview! If it’s not bungee jumping naked, it’s sitting at the edge of a cliff.
R: I have bungee jumped, though I wasn’t naked. But when you’re doing stand-up, you put your self-esteem in the hands of the audience.
S: Yeah, we’re completely vulnerable on stage. But the beautiful thing about that is that it comes from a place of truth and people will laugh if it rings true. With social media these days, people do things to show how fantastic their lives are. We put up pictures if we go on a trip, hang out with friends, or even when we get proposed to. Last time, a proposal was a very romantic and personal thing. Now, you get to see it from five different angles on social media. We’re hiding behind a wall and comedy reminds you to calm down, and that there’s nothing wrong in letting your guard down.
#4: Use humour to solve practical marriage woes.
S: If you forget a birthday, you die. Anniversary still okay.
R: I recommend a practical approach — put a calendar entry…
S: (Interjects) He has a calendar entry for my periods. So if I’m acting up, he’ll check it, and go: “No, you’re not having your period. Then why are you angry?”
R: She shouldn’t have found it!
S: If he keeps leaving the toilet seat up, tell her, “I may leave the seat up but I’ll never let you down.” And if you’re arguing over where to eat, say random nice things about her mum. Like, “Your mum is really sweet. Now I know why you’re like that too.”
Gateway Theatre is at 3615 Jalan Bukit Merah. For more info, go to https://theatre.gateway.sg.