Kumarason Chinnadurai (b. 10 August, 1968, Singapore – ), popularly known as Kumar, is a stand-up comedian, actor, host and drag queen. He made his name at the now defunct Boom Boom Room and was, for a time, synonymous with the cabaret nightclub as its resident performer. Having spent nearly two decades and counting in the entertainment industry, Kumar has amassed a string of television, stage, and film credits. Today, he is a regular performer at 3-Monkeys Café in Holland Village and Hard Rock Café, and has launched a biography book in which he publicly came out as gay, making him the only openly-gay public figure in Singapore.
Kumar was born on 10 August, 1968, to a South Indian father from Madras and a Singaporean mother. Kumar’s father, Chinna Dorai, had arrived in Singapore in the mid-1960s and worked as a caretaker for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). When Kumar was four, his parents divorced; he was raised by his mother’s younger sister, Rani Vyarakannoo, a policewoman, who eventually became his step-mother.
Kumar grew up in a terrace house on Paterson Road with his parents, four siblings – three older sisters and a younger brother, and six dogs. He went to Cairnhill and Selegie Primary schools and later attended Monk’s Hill Secondary School. As a child, he aspired to be a Bharathanatyam (classical dance form from Tamil Nadu) dancer and joined the Indian Dance Society in his secondary school. After his O levels, Kumar worked for six months as a cashier at a 7-Eleven outlet before enlisting for his National Service where he served as a combat signaller in the army and held the record for one of the fastest times in his cohort for the completion of the 2.4km run.
When he was ten, Kumar was molested by a family friend – an incident which he never shies away from in his interviews with the press, and would later become fodder for his first solo stage show. Kumar released his biography, Kumar: From Rags To Drag, to much fanfare on 13 September, 2011, in celebration of his 20 years in show business. The book’s launch was also a public coming-out for Kumar, which makes him the only openly-gay public figure in Singapore, and his revelation “of significance”.
In 1987, after serving his conscription, Kumar, then aged 22, had his first exposure to the entertainment industry as a singing waiter at Cheers! The Fun Pub at the Novotel Orchid. Two years later, he began a stint as an entertainer at Haw Par Villa . In 1991, Kumar landed a gig at the now defunct Laughs Comedy Club in Tanglin Shopping Centre playing the role of an Indian drag queen. It was then when he realized comedy was his calling.
Kumar’s big break came in 1992 when he was offered the starring role at the newly established Boom Boom Room in New Bugis Street which opened on National Day the same year. At Boom Boom Room, Kumar’s routines included song and dance, in addition to stand-up comedy. He wrote most of his own material and had initially started with clean jokes which proved unpopular, drawing chilly responses from his audience; that led him to go with more risqué ones for which he is now known. His cross-dressing which came about as a comic device and a gimmick eventually became his trademark as he came to be Singapore’s most well-known drag queen with his caustic wit and biting observations about life in Singapore, particularly about politics, race, and sex. Because of the provocative nature of his shows, Kumar’s performances were subjected to scrutiny and monitoring by the police. Once a year, he had to perform his entire show for an audience of police officers before he was allowed to put it up for the public.
After moving to Far East Square in 2000, Boom Boom Room closed for good in 2005, and Kumar started performing at a theatre-bar called Gold Dust (of which he was part-owner) in Orchard Towers. In 2007, he sold his share of the club and has since been splitting his time between Hard Rock Café and 3-Monkeys Café where he performs regularly for four nights a week.
Kumar made his television debut in 1993 as one of the three hosts of The Ra Ra Show, a comedy chat show which started airing in April 1993. The show proved to be short-lived and ended its run after ten months when viewers complained about the liberal use of Singlish and perceived sexual innuendoes in the show. It would be eight years before he returned to television, starring opposite Hong Kong actress Carol Cheng in the English sitcom, Oh Carol!, in 2001.
Since then, Kumar has appeared in various English television programs such as My Sassy Neighbour and Front; he also hosted three seasons of Rusiyo Rusi, a travelogue cooking show, and played the titular character in the crime comedy series P.I.K. (Private Investigator Krish) on Vasantham Central. One of the most salient differences between Kumar’s appearances on television and his shows in clubs is that he does not perform in drag on television.
Kumar’s first foray into theatre was in 1997 when he was offered a role in Dick Lee’s musical, Hot Pants. This was quickly followed by Kumar: A Life Alive, a comedy musical based on his own journey to stardom. His other stage credits include Meena and Me (1999), ABUSE SUXXX!!! (2001), and Not Guilty (2004).
Kumar has also taken his stand-up comedy to the stage, putting up a number of one-man shows both abroad and at home, such as his performance at Wallpaper* magazine’s first anniversary party in London, and, at home, a semi-annual series of shows produced by Dream Academy, from Kumar The Queen (2007) to Kumar’s Amazing Race (2011).
1968 : Born on August 10.
1974 : Started dance classes.
1987 : Singing waiter at Cheers! The Fun Pub.
1989 : Haw Par Villa Theme Park entertainer.
1991 : Gig at Laughs Comedy Club as an Indian drag queen.
1992 : Performed at Boom Boom Room.
1993 : First TV appearance as a host on The Ra Ra Show.
1997 : First theatre role in Dick Lee's musical Hot Pants; first solo show Kumar: A Life Alive.
1998 : Overseas performance at Wallpaper* Magazine's first anniversary party in London; film appearance in Forever Fever.
1999 : Theatre roles in My Lonely Tarts and Meena & Me.
2001 : Theatre role in ABUSE SUXXX!!!; television role in sitcom Oh Carol!; film role in One Leg Kicking.
2002 : First stand-up comedy show in India.
2004 : Solo show Not Guilty.
2005 : Television appearance on a single episode of travelogue Wish You Were Here, sitcom My Sassy Neighbour, and drama Police & Thief II; host of Vasantham Central’s cooking travelogue Rusiyo Rusi (three seasons); film role in Avatar; performed at Gold Dust, a theatre-bar.
2006 : Television appearance on a single episode of My Sassy Neighbour, Police & Thief 3, and Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd; host of arts magazine programme on Arts Central Front (2006-2008).
2007 : Solo show Kumar the Queen; began his regular performances at Hard Rock Café and 3-Monkeys Café.
2009 : Solo show Kumar: Stripped bare and standing up.
2010 : Solo show Kumar: Stripped bare and standing up (rerun), and comedy theatre Kings and Queens of Comedy Asia; television role in Vasantham Central’s P.I.K.
2011 : Solo show Kumar’s Amazing Race, and comedy theatre Kings and Queens of Comedy Asia 2; launch of biography.
Channel 5 – Mediacorp TV. (2006) Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd 8 Last Episode!. Retrieved October 18, 2011, from http://archive5.mediacorptv.sg/shows/sitcom/view/1342/1/.html
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The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Chinnadurai, Kumarason, 1968-