Last week, we caught up with Suren Jayemanne, an up-and-coming comedian from Melbourne. He has been a practising comedian for the last four years, and has participated in major events such as the Melbourne Festival’s Comedy Zone. He now lives in Sydney, where he recently participated in the Sydney Comedy Festival to sold-out shows.
Critics have raved about his work, with The Weekly Review describing him as ‘a purveyor of truly magnificent puns’. SBS have also said that ‘He’s charming and engaging, carefully blending the topical with the ridiculous.’ Unlike other comedians, Suren has a unique perspective on multiculturalism and racism, having grown up in Melbourne but with Sri Lankan and Malaysian parents – he brings to light his experiences in his comedy, using humour to convey powerful insights into the nature of his experience.
Check out our interview with Suren Jayemanne below:
Or, if you’re having trouble hearing the audio, you can read a copy of our interview with Suren Jayemanne. For more information about Suren, and to keep up with his latest news, follow him on Twitter at @JayEManne or subscribe to his Facebook page.
If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to check out our interview with Jen Carnovale (audio and transcript)
All Together Now: Thank you for speaking with me Suren. So, the first question I have is how did you come to be a comedian?
Suren Jayemanne: I guess it kind of started by watching a lot of comedy. I used to watch the big Melbourne comedy festival galas on TV every year and from that, I went to go see shows at the festivals when I learned that there was more than just the gala and then I eventually kind of decided… like, I’d look around the room and see everyone laughing and I was like ‘Oh I want to try and do that’… And then I tried and now it’s been four years and yeah it’s been fun.
All Together Now: And in what ways do you think your work brings a new dimension to Australia’s comedy scene?
Suren Jayemanne: It’s pretty interesting I think because (pause) as I’ve said I’ve been doing it for about four years, I started out just doing jokes that came to me that I found funny, it’s a lot of wordplay, a lot of shorter jokes and now that I’ve got a little bit more experience, like I’ve still got a long way to go I guess, but I’m starting to feel a lot more confident on stage and I’m starting to talk more about sort of personal things, the way I see the world in light of my cultural background and how that kind of fits in with growing up in Australia so I think… The dimension that I have that is a little bit different is… You know, having been born in Australia but with a multicultural background, my parents are from Malaysia and Sri Lanka but I grew up in a time when there weren’t many Sri Lankan kids in the suburb that I grew up in, there weren’t a lot of Indian students starting to come to Australia yet. I was almost raised as just another white kid. There’s a lot of comedians that grew up in a community and they talk about their ethnic background, their role in the community whereas there’s a few people with a similar voice to me but I think its interesting the perspective of kind of growing up almost in between two cultures and wanting to find out more about both cultures… if that makes sense.
All Together Now: No, that’s amazing! How do you think comedy can be used as a tool for social change, changing people’s perspectives?
Suren Jayemanne: I sort of go back and forth on this issue a bit. Sometimes I get really inspired and feel that comedy is a really powerful tool in, at the very least, bringing to the fore issues and making people aware of issues. And then sometimes I go back and think ‘Oh no, at the end of the day it should just be entertainment, just trying to make people laugh.’ I think realistically, it probably sits somewhere in between, like the best comedians are the people that, for them, it’s not too serious, it’s kind of lighthearted but they do make you think. I think race and gender issues, those types of things, comedians have the ability to… they’re not being checked or censored by any… they don’t have to worry about who they’re working for, they’re working for themselves so they don’t have to be accountable – although to some extent there is accountability. For example, you’ve come to interview me at my work, my day job is as an accountant so there’s lots of disclaimers in this conversation so I’m very measured. If you had come to talk to me after a gig I might have been in my comedy mindset and told you a different answer. But I think comedy shouldn’t take itself too seriously and if it can laugh at itself, it can also be quite powerful in at least bringing issues to the fore.
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