I Am Starstruck speaks exclusively with Sri Lankan-Australian comedian Rowan Thambar
Having recently relaunched our ‘I Am Starstruck: Bollywood’ blog, there is no doubt that at ‘I Am Starstruck’ we love advocating cultural diversity.
And that’s why we are super excited about a new comedy show at this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival… The Brown Identity!
With a clever pun based on the Hollywood flick The Bourne Identity, 19-year-old Rowan Thambar has created his own trademark show with a cultural twist.
Taking inspiration from his Sri Lankan background and upbringing in Australia, Rowan uses stand-up and musical comedy to get audiences laughing.. and seriously thinking.
This rising comedic star has two shows left at Sydney’s Fringe Festival, so we caught up with him to chat all things Brown Identity and why fans will fall head over heels for his signature humour.
I AM STARSTRUCK: What made you get into comedy?
ROWAN: I got into comedy over a bet I made in high school. My friend said I’d be too scared to do stand-up at a talent show at school so I kind of proved him wrong. Since then I’ve loved doing it.
I AM STARSTRUCK: How do you prepare for a live stand-up gig?
ROWAN: I guess I just spend time writing material, whether it’s a joke or a comedy song or anything else. Then I spend time practising the material, but never out loud for anyone, which might be weird because a lot of comedians try their material before they put it in a show at like an open mic etc. But I find it easier to not perform it until I get it in my head.
I AM STARSTRUCK: Where do you get your inspiration for your acts?
ROWAN: Most of my inspiration for my material comes from my life and the people in it.
4. Why the name The Brown Identity?
ROWAN: The Brown Identity was the title for 2 reasons. One – it was a pun that I thought was funny. Two – I talk a lot about cultural identity in the show, it’s almost like a overarching theme across the show. The show is really about me growing up and trying to work out my cultural identity.
I AM STARSTRUCK: How much/in what way does your cultural background influence the content of your performances?
ROWAN: Well sometimes it directly effects my material, like sometimes my jokes are purely based on being Sri-lankan. Other times it comes into my material indirectly. Before I said that my material comes from my life and observations I make in my life and sometimes I find the cultural jokes come through indirectly even when I’m not talking about specific cultural issues.
I AM STARSTRUCK: One of the topics you address through comedy is racism in Australia. Have you had any personal experiences?
ROWAN: Yes there have been a heap of incidences where because of my ethnicity I have been blatantly discriminated against, often for no reason at all. A few incidences I talk about in my show.
I AM STARSTRUCK: Do you think racism still exists in Australia?
ROWAN: That is a really big question. But unfortunately yes. I think racism does exist in Australia. I say this because it happens to me and other members of society more often then it should.
I AM STARSTRUCK: Is it harder to make it in the comedy and entertainment industry as a person of an ethnic minority?
ROWAN: Yes I do think it’s harder to make it in the entertainment industry, especially in Australia where the industry is quite small. I think getting into the Australian entertainment industry is hard for anyone, although how many Sri-Lankan/Indian actors do you see on Home and Away or Neighbours? How many ethnic people do you see hosting X-factor? How many sitcoms do you see with Sri-Lankan/Indian leading actors? Not just some recurring role of the taxi driver. But I do believe that is changing. It’s definitely getting better. You have shows in the US like ‘The Mindy Project’ and shows here like “Legally Brown” which are slowly changing these stereotypes.
I AM STARSTRUCK: How important is it to have conversations about issues like multiculturalism and racial diversity in Australia?
ROWAN: I think its extremely important to keep having conversations about racism in Australia, but conversations only go so far.