Kumar



Kumarason Chinnadurai (b. 10 August 1968, Singapore–), popularly known as Kumar, is a stand-up comedian, actor, host and drag queen.1 He made his name at the now defunct cabaret nightclub Boom Boom Room, and was for a time synonymous with the club as its headlining act.2 Having spent more than two decades in the entertainment industry, Kumar has amassed a string of television, stage and film credits.3 He has also launched a biography, in which he disclosed that he is gay, thus making him the sole openly gay public figure in Singapore.4

Early life
Kumar was born on 10 August 1968 to a South Indian father from Madras (now known as Chennai) and a Singaporean mother.5 His 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.6 Kumar lived with his parents in a terrace house on Paterson Road, and he had four siblings – three elder sisters and a younger brother. His parents divorced when he was four, following which he was raised by his mother’s younger sister, Rani Vyarakannoo, a policewoman, who eventually became his step-mother.7


Kumar studied at Cairnhill and Selegie Primary schools, and later attended Monk’s Hill Secondary School.8 Following his General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level examination, Kumar worked for six months as a cashier at a 7-Eleven outlet. He was then enlisted for National Service and served as a combat signaller in the army. He held the record as one of the fastest runners in his cohort for the 2.4 km run.9

In celebration of his 20 years in show business, Kumar released his biography, Kumar: From Rags to Drag, on 13 September, 2011.10 The book’s launch was also a coming-out for Kumar, making him the only public figure in Singapore who is openly gay.11

Stand-up comedy
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 Inn. Two years later, he began a stint as an entertainer at Haw Par Villa.12 Then in 1991, Kumar landed a gig at the former Laughs Comedy Club in Tanglin Shopping Centre, playing the role of an Indian drag queen.13 It was then when he realised comedy was his calling.14


Kumar’s big break came in 1992 when he was offered the starring role at the newly established Boom Boom Room on New Bugis Street, which opened on National Day in that year.15 At Boom Boom Room, Kumar’s routines included song and dance, in addition to stand-up comedy. He wrote most of his own scripts, which were clean jokes initially. These, however, proved unpopular and drew chilly responses from his audience, and led him to go with more risqué ones, for which he is now famous.16

Cross-dressing, which started off as a gimmick, eventually became Kumar’s trademark. He became Singapore’s most well-known drag queen with his caustic wit and biting observations about life in Singapore, particularly about politics, race and sex. Due to the provocative nature of his shows,17 Kumar’s performances were subjected to scrutiny and monitoring by the police.

Boom Boom Room was relocated to Far East Square in 2000, and then closed for good in 2004.18 Kumar subsequently started performing at a theatre-bar in Orchard Towers called Gold Dust, of which he was part-owner. In 2007, he sold his share of the club and has since been performing three nights a week at 3-Monkeys Café.19

Television
Kumar made his television debut in 1993 as one of the three hosts of The Ra Ra Show, a comedy chat show which began airing in April 1993.20 The show was short-lived, and ended its run after 10 months when viewers complained about the liberal use of Singlish and perceived sexual innuendoes in the show.21 It would be eight years before he returned to television, starring opposite Hong Kong actress Carol Cheng in the English sitcom, Oh Carol!, in 2001.22


Since then, Kumar has appeared in various English television programmes such as My Sassy Neighbour23 and Front.24 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.25
 
Stage
Kumar’s first foray into theatre was in 1997 when he was offered a role in Dick Lee’s musical, Hot Pants.26 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).27


Kumar has also taken his stand-up comedy to the stage, putting up a number of one-man shows both abroad and at home. These include his performance at the Wallpaper* magazine’s first anniversary party in London;28 and, at home, a semi-annual series of shows produced by the Dream Academy,29 from Kumar the Queen (2007)30 to Kumar’s Amazing Race (2011).31



Author
Serene Cai



References
1. Wong, K. H. (1993, April 11). The garrulous, the gila and the glamorous. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Leong, S.-L. (2006, April 3). Monday interview. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Martin, M. (2007, September 28). All hail the queen. Today, p. 54. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Lim, I (2011). Kumar: From rags to drag. Singapore: 3 Monkeys Café. (Call no.: RSING 792.7028092 LIM)
5. Leong, S.-L. (2006, April 3). Monday interviewThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Lim, I (2011). Kumar: From rags to drag. Singapore: 3 Monkeys Café. (Call no.: RSING 792.7028092 LIM)
7. Leong, S.-L. (2006, April 3). Monday interviewThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lim, I (2011). Kumar: From rags to drag. Singapore: 3 Monkeys Café. (Call no.: RSING 792.7028092 LIM)
8. Leong, S.-L. (2006, April 3). Monday interviewThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Leong, S.-L. (2006, April 3). Monday interviewThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Lim, I (2011). Kumar: From rags to drag. Singapore: 3 Monkeys Café. (Call no.: RSING 792.7028092 LIM)
11. Lim, I (2011). Kumar: From rags to drag. Singapore: 3 Monkeys Café. (Call no.: RSING 792.7028092 LIM)
12. Long, S. (1997, March 19). Outrageous fun in drag but Kumar still a manThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Leong, S.-L. (2006, April 3). Monday interviewThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Long, S. (1997, March 19). Outrageous fun in drag but Kumar still a manThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Kwok, Y. (2005, January 4). It’s curtains for Boom Boom RoomThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Pandian, H. (1992, November 4). The star of Boom Boom. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Pandian, H. (1992, November 4). The star of Boom Boom. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Kwok, Y. (2005, January 4). It’s curtains for Boom Boom RoomThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Narayanan, S. (2007, September 22). Kumar, the queen, just got biggerThe New Paper, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Leong, S.-L. (2006, April 3). Monday interviewThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Foo, J. (1994, February 23). Ra Ra Show winds up after complaintsThe Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Ee, J. (2004, April 30). From the drag Kumar to the real KumarThe Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Tan, J. (2005, May 17). Double Trouble. Today, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Martin, M. (2008, January 21). I didn’t know how far I could go: Kumar meets FM Yeo. Today, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Quek, E. (2010, February 21). Nasi padang once a dayThe Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Er, S. (1997, July 17). Dick Lee sang at 8 inter-school talentimesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Ee, J. (2004, April 30). From the drag Kumar to the real KumarThe Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Leong, S.-L. (2006, April 3). Monday interviewThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Tan, T. (2009, March 21). Kumar bares all for laughsThe Straits Times, p. 97. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Narayanan, S. (2007, September 22). Kumar, the queen, just got biggerThe New Paper, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Ng, M. (2011, February 14). Kumar’s big raceThe Straits Times, p. 5; Tan, T. (2009, March 21). Kumar bares all for laughsThe Straits Times, p. 97. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



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.


 

Subject
Male comedians--Singapore--Biography
Arts>>Theatre>>Acting
Personalities
Personalities>>Biographies
Chinnadurai, Kumarason, 1968-
Theatre
Comedians--Singapore--Biography
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Theatre