Who would have thought that spending a few nights a week at a bar could turn into a 20-year career? That’s exactly what happened with Allan Perera and Indi Nadarajah, a duo collectively known as Comedy Court.
If you were there in KL in the late 1990s, you would have witnessed Allan and Indi’s early years, and how they gave local comedy a distinctively Malaysian edge. The formula was an obvious one. The duo took the swearing, drunken stupor and testosterone-fuelled bravado that they witnessed in downtown bars and turned it into side-splitting skits starring their most famous characters: Loga and Singam.
“The skits began with us playing these Anglo-Saxon influenced characters. But at the end of the day we are still Tamilans,” recalls Indi, 59.
Comedy Court is back on stage this month for its 20th anniversary show series at HGH Convention Centre in KL, starting April 24. Filling up major venues isn’t a problem these days. But it wasn’t all easy in the beginning.
In the early days, Indi recalls Allan being really nervous about going on stage as an actor. Allan, 57, was then a pub-rock musician and was more comfortable behind the keyboards than playing a character on stage.
However, Allan’s stint as a musical director of the Instant Cafe Theatre group in the early 1990s led to change. There, he met theatre actor Indi and also comedian Harith Iskander, who “conned” Allan into acting.
“Harith told me that he only needed me to be piano player on a TV show that he was directing called Bendul (a local spin on Mr Bean in the 1990s). When I turned up for the shoot Harith dumped a line on me,” recalls Allan.
Eventually, Allan got comfortable with acting and he went on to form Comedy Court with Indi in 1997. Their first show was at The Actors Studio in Dataran Merdeka that year. And there’s been no looking back.
Apart from Loga and Singam, the duo have nailed other stereotypes in society with the other characters they created – the gossipy housewives Mertle and Thawi, the loud-mouthed, Ah Beng-type characters TK and TC and many others. “The characters they came up with have become legendary and remain eternal because they are so based on truth and truth is often very funny,” says Harith.
The duo’s popular plays include Quid Pro Quo (first staged in 1996 as an Instant Cafe Theatre production), Res Ispa (1997), Menapause (2001) and most recently Rally On! (2017).
Also, Allan and Indi won the Boh Cameronian Arts Award for ensemble acting for their performance in The Importance Of Being Earnest in 2002 for their roles as Gwendolen Fairfax and Lady Bracknell respectively.
Today, the duo are more popular than ever, thanks to YouTube. “We began uploading our skits in 2008 and now we have really big audience and play bigger venues,” says Allan.
During this interview in Indi’s home, both comedians were in a relaxed, soft-spoken mood unlike all their stage alter-egos. In fact, they were actually very serious. The beverage choice of the day was water with a twist of lemon.
“We’re always the quiet ones at the dinner table. This is us. We are Allan and Indi. Loga and Singam are our characters. Some people get mixed up sometimes. It’s hard to mix around socially … everybody wants a free show,” quips Indi.
Twenty years of shows … how much is that in terms of whiskey bottles?
Indi: Multiply that by five and you’ll get the answer.
Allan: I stopped drinking. Those days, I could drink the whole day and still work. Now? Drink one night, I’m finished … five days I cannot work.
Did you guys think you’d be around this long?
Allan: No lah, are you crazy? We played it by ear.
Indi: We broke up about five times. We took breaks, Allan did his Giggle stand-up shows and TV (Duh Late Show was a segment on ntv7’s show Sketches) and I acted (as a servant) in the British TV series called Indian Summers (2015) and also acted (as an ex-convict) in a movie called Setem (2009). It’s very healthy to take breaks and do your own thing. It helps the creative process.
What has kept you guys together for so long? Money?
Indi: That’s very good motivation. Mortgage payments (smiling). It’s actually the nice characters we have created over the years.
There is a long list. But what is your most famous skit?
Allan: Loga and Singam at The Oblong Bar. It was supposed to be a 20-minute skit, but it ran for 45-minutes because there was so much laughter.
Indi: We are playing ordinary fellows and people connect with that.
How did it feel to wear dresses every night for weeks on end for Menapause back in 2001?
Allan: The character wears it not me.
Indi: Those characters remind a lot of people of their aunts or mothers. But they don’t laugh when they see it in their homes. They laugh at the show because we exaggerate it.
Allan: However, there was one time when I dressed as a young Malay girl and this guy told me that I was hot.
Any plans to restage classics like Quid Pro Quo and Menapause?
Allan: Do you have a sugar daddy to sponsor these shows? We are looking at staging a new Executive Spa play.
What can we expect from the upcoming show series?
Allan: People are excited. It’s all new. There are some skits we have created in the past but haven’t staged before.
Indi: Just hope we turn up!