Nobody taught comedy couple Sharul Channa and Rishi Budhrani how to do stand-ups. They just figured it out—together. Yet, there is something deliciously witty about the way Sharul Channa and Rishi Budhrani interact with each other. It’s like watching a sitcom play out with tidbits of raw emotions and energy that seem to bounce off quite naturally between two of Singapore’s most established comedians.
Sharul and Rishi have been married for close to a decade, but the two veteran comedians went way back. It was in 2006 that the two first met each other in a Bollywood dance troupe, where they trained frequently to be Bollywood dancers and performers for small gigs. And like how a fairy tale unravels, Rishi only started developing feelings for Sharul after seeing her perform at her graduation play in LASALLE College of the Arts.
“I fell in love with her, but I never told her that until very much later,” Rishi confesses.
“What? You fell in love and you didn’t tell me? Why didn’t you tell me? Why tell me a year later?” Sharul snaps, shooting him an inquisitive look.
“You know, in hindsight, it was very different. I didn’t know it then.”
Today, Sharul and Rishi are the only stand-up comedy couple based in Singapore. The duo has since made waves across the globe, with gigs at Melbourne Comedy Festival, Darwin International Festival, and Comedy Central Asia under their belt. This year, they will be performing a one-night-only gig, entitled “The Rishi and Sharul Show 2”, on Valentine’s Day at The Capitol Theatre, following a five-year hiatus from its prequel. Not surprisingly, the comics will broach about love, marriage and plenty of marital truth bombs.
True love is 49% hate.
“People today just want to fuck and forget until they come to a point when they want an emotional connection,” 33-year-old comedienne says on the topic of love and Tinder. “And when they try to find someone with an emotional connection, they want sexual compatibility too. But you can’t find everything—love, sexual compatibility, common interests—in one person.”
“Or as the saying from our 2015 Valentine’s Day Show goes, ‘True love is 49% hate.’ ” Rishi, 35, adds.
To thrive (and survive) in the competitive world of stand-ups, comics need to be audacious and adventurous to try new materials, especially sensitive ones, on-stage. As insinuating as they can be, materials may at times be derogatory and sardonic (in a fun way) to certain individuals in politics, showbiz and at home. And for the most part, nearly all comedians, including Sharul and Rishi, dabble on their personal lives at gigs. Which begs the question: How does the power comic couple, who live and see each other under the same roof, make it work without being overly intrusive?
It’s like living with your gay best friend, but you could sleep with him because you’re sexually compatible.
For Rishi, it all boils down to respecting boundaries and learning to live “apart” while together under the same roof. “You know, if it’s just working in a regular office, your disagreements with your colleagues stay in the office, and you don’t bring them home. For us, we are always in each other’s space, so we learnt to make concerted efforts to isolate ourselves and have our own ‘me-time’,” Rishi explains.
“It’s like living with your gay best friend, but you could sleep with him because you’re sexually compatible. Does that make sense?” Sharul smiles her lopsided grin. “No, what I am trying to say is Rishi has the emotions of a woman, but the masculinity and sexual appeal of a man—”
“—no, what she’s saying is that we are best friends who are fuck buddies,” Rishi interjects, brows raised.
And yet, the reality of their marriage life is both a digressive and hopeful one. “If you are in a long-term relationship, you’ve got to be ready to fall in and out of love. That’s the truth,” Rishi elaborates. “Our relationship is like a river with several interlocking spurs, where the flow of the river water branches off into many different tributaries, and eventually they get to connect again.”
While the twosome have learnt over the years to not interfere with each other’s works, Sharul and Rishi are zealous and practical supporters of their partner’s performances: whenever Rishi has a solo-show, Sharul would run the front of house; likewise, Rishi would assist with stage props and make announcements at Sharul’s performances.
Rishi wouldn’t reveal his gripes on his wife, but Sharul, on the other hand, is a true-blue potty mouth. “He’s fucking slow. He walks slowly, he talks slowly, he disseminates information slowly, he fucks very slowly, he takes longer to come … He is just not at the same pace as me and it frustrates the fuck out of me. Every single day.”
She pauses, waiting out my laughter. “Having said that, whatever he does, he does it perfectly,” she continued. Rishi replies, “Well, that’s a revelation.”
Recently, the comics have been discussing and revisiting an age-old trend amongst Singaporean couples: a seemingly risky (but expected) obsession of buying a house before marriage. “You are planning your love life five years ahead,” Rishi tells me. “You have to be damn sure. Singapore is one of those places where finances are heavily intertwined with relationships, and I think that sometimes, puts unnecessary stress on your love life.”
Nodding, Sharul adds, “When you’re a couple in a place like Singapore, you’re constantly fighting the trends of modernisation and the pressure of sticking to your roots.”
As vivacious, spontaneous and nimble they are on stage, the couple finds amusement whenever their audience labels them as the “perfect model couple”. “It’s like they’ll lose faith in the concept of love if we ever break up. If we are your model couple, your concept of love must be damn flimsy,” Rishi says, laughing.
“Also people have the misconception that I control Rishi. I don’t. I’m very garang on stage, but it doesn’t mean I’m very garang at home,” Sharul recalls.
“People be like, I am very submissive, and Sharul would put a strap-on and fuck me in the ass. No, nobody has said it, but I am just saying it metaphorically.”
Gesturing towards Rishi’s bottom while taking a sip of gin, Sharul replies, curtly. “I haven’t done that yet, but I’d love to do that.”
Date: 14 February 2020 (Valentine’s Day)
Time: 8:30 pm
Price: From S$38
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