Dilruk Jayasinha is a happy, friendly Sri Lankan stand up comedian with an adorable smile and a memorable laugh. He’s appeared regularly on Melbourne based podcast The Little Dum Dum Club and co-hosted channel 31 show Live on Bowen for two years. Jayansinha frequently does spots at the Comic’s Lounge, amongst a myriad of other venues and comedy rooms. This year marks his second Melbourne International Comedy Festival with a solo show, and with a run of 22 shows, it’s more hectic than ever. Jayasinha steps off stage at the Exford Hotel and takes a deep breath. He’s just done a five minute promotional set, one of over 45 he’ll be doing over the course of the festival. His show, Immigrateful, opens on the 26th.
“The show’s good, though if I’m being honest,” Jayasinha pauses, unsure whether to actually admit to anything: “I’m out of my comfort zone. For the last four years I’ve avoided talking about my background. I wanted to make sure people weren’t just laughing because it was different, not because it was funny. But I need to shake off those insecurities and tell the story of my life in Australia.”
Race is a touchy topic for Australians, given our celebration of multiculturalism but also stigma as a racist country. In the last few weeks, in light of the report into mandatory detention, Jayasinha realised he needed to discuss refugees in his show as well. “Originally I felt like too much of an outsider to commentate, but I feel guilty. It’s wrong if I don’t mention it, if I don’t explore it,” Jayasinha says. “I’ve got another perspective, but a little bit of white privilege. I’m caught in the middle.”
It’s also something that been on his mind. “I make sure I talk about the things that interest me most.” As much as he likes it here, only seeing his parents for three weeks a year is something of a struggle. Jayasinha has been in Australia for eleven years, and originally moved over to study. “The premise of the show is how great I’ve had it in Australia, how welcoming it’s been. I’m scared of being dismissive, but it’s unfair to manufacture racism. This is my story, my experiences.”
Not only does Australia love Jayasinha, he loves it. When asked if there’s something he doesn’t love, he struggles to find something. “That’s such a good question!” he thumps his knee in frustration. “Maybe, and I should say, it’s not for me, I’m not a smoker, but maybe weed should be legal – wait -” he interrupts himself, “- same sex marriage!” Jayasinha laughs. “Obviously! I can’t believe I said marijuana before that!” Alcohol is Jayasinha’s drug of choice, but he goes cold turkey in the lead-up to, and during, the MICF. “I know myself. Once I’ve had one, I’ll have more.” Given how much he’s got on over the next month, it’s no surprise he’s taking it easy on the booze. “I love drinking, but I love stand up more.”
Jayasinha really does love stand up, which is why he doubled the amount of shows he’s doing at MICF this year. “I love performing, and every performance makes you better,” Jayasinha explains. This isn’t a hobby, this is a career, and something he hopes to keep doing for as long as he can: “Stand up is the rest of my life” he says earnestly. It’s certainly a career in which practice is important, and the amount of gigs Jayasinha has done over the past year have helped his writing significantly. “My first show took me three years to write. This one took six months,” he says.
He’s proud of his first show of course, because “it captured what I was thinking at that time of my life,” and he hopes this show does the same. Immigrateful is much tighter, given that the first one contained material from his very first year of performing. Looking back, he admits: “the jokes just weren’t as well structured.” Yet he’s learnt and improved since last year’s festival. MICF is an important time for comedians, Jayasinha agrees. “It’s like final exams. You see all the rewards, you showcase, you meet people, you’re seen.” That’s why Jayasinha is working so hard; the interview takes place after two spots and before three more. “I crave stage time!” he exclaims.
The business side of things is also handled by Jayasinha, but he doesn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much. “Someone advised me to self produce for the first few years. Then you know what it takes, so when you employ someone you know exactly what their job involves.” It’s good advice, but Jayasinha is over it. “I’m sick of emails,” he sulks, he just wants to be onstage.
Immigrateful is on from March 26th until April 19th on every night except Mondays. It starts at 7pm Tuesday – Saturday and 6pm on Sundays at the ACMI Games Room. Tickets are $15 – $19 and are available from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival website.