Show me the funny

SINGAPORE - Local English television viewers know Suhaimi Yusof as one of the most prominent Malay actors on Channel 5, who plays Jojo Joget, the "mat rock" reporter on satire programme The Noose, and Sergeant Dollah from the sitcom Police & Thief.

But for the Malay community, the 43-year-old was a popular voice on radio way back in the 1980s and 1990s who went on to conquer Malay television as a multi-award-winning host and comedian.

And as Life! discovers, the plus-sized winner of Best Comedy Performance award at the most recent Asian Television Awards last year is just as big a ham in real life as he is on screen or onstage.

Zesty and prone to making corny jokes, he peppers every other sentence with a hearty laugh and a permanent twinkle in his eye.

During the photoshoot backstage at the Esplanade in between rehearsals for a hosting gig for Malay arts festival Pesta Raya, he clowned around with exaggerated facial expressions and gave the photojournalist a new pose with every shot, each one more ridiculous than the next.

A wardrobe assistant brought a jacket that was several sizes too small for his burly stature. Instead of throwing a hissy fit, he swung the jacket over his shoulder and turned it into a prop instead.

Suhaimi, who counts American funny guys such as Robin Williams, Bill Cosby and David Letterman as influences, is the kind of comedian who would do a stand-up comic set at Chinese New Year dinner events while wearing a Malay baju kurung, just to get the laughs.

The winner of 11 accolades in annual local Malay entertainment awards show Pesta Perdana might be a well-known comedian now, but the father of three was not always the funny guy, he tells Life!.

He was, in his own words, a "shy and quiet child" in school, one who was so timid that he would rather hold his bladder than interrupt the teacher to ask for permission to visit the restroom.

"Many of my former teachers are very shocked that I ended up in showbusiness, much less a comedian," he says during the interview session that was conducted in a mix of Malay and English.

The turning point in his life came while he was a Secondary 3 student in Montfort Secondary School when his teacher asked him to put on a skit for a Teacher's Day performance. "No one wanted to volunteer and the teacher picked me."

He panicked for a while but got his wits together and came up with the idea of spoofing the late King Of Pop Michael Jackson, creating a character that he named "Montfort Jackson".

To his surprise, his schoolmates laughed during his performance. "It was a light-bulb moment for me. Hey, I can make these people laugh!"

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