Tag Archives: Brunei

Gay comic Sam See from Singapore is Coming Out Loud at Edinburgh Fringe

Comedian Sam See will be in Edinburgh this August but here he plays the Merry Lion in Singapore.

Scots comic Scott Agnew suggested Sam See from Singapore talk to me.

So we chatted via Skype…

Sam See at home in Singapore yesterday.

JOHN: Your show is called Coming Out Loud. Good title, because the audience knows what it’s going to get.

SAM: (LAUGHS) Dick jokes for an hour!

JOHN: Is there an elevator pitch for the show?

SAM: An openly gay comedian coming from a country where free speech and homosexuality is illegal… Expect dick jokes.

JOHN: Can you say free speech is illegal in Singapore?

SAM: No. In Singapore, I can’t say that free speech is illegal in Singapore. If you criticise the lack of free speech while you are here, you will be… erm… It’s a lovely irony.

JOHN: Is being gay totally illegal in Singapore?

SAM: Yes. It’s 100% illegal. The law itself is as vague as possible. It is basically the old-school English sodomy laws. It is illegal but…

JOHN: So how can you talk on stage about being gay if it’s illegal?

SAM: Because I am not yet popular or famous enough. On stage I always say I am gay. But, if they try to arrest me, I can say it is a character and then they would have to prove I’m gay which… well, good luck to them.

JOHN: So doing this chat with me could get you imprisoned…

SAM: It depends… They would need to prove I have done something untowards with another gentleman…

JOHN: You can say you are gay provided you’ve done nothing about it…?

SAM: Kinda. But, if you are on-stage saying it, they can still fine you or arrest you for homosexual propaganda or propagating that homosexuality is positive.

JOHN: Anyway, Coming Out Loud at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Why?

SAM: A lot of Edinburgh regulars recommended I should give it a bash – Martin Mor told me: “Come over, Sam, do the full run, go crazy and lose money.”

I guess I have to. It’s the Hajj. It’s the Mecca for comics: we all have to do it once in our life. But I don’t understand how people can do it for 10 or 20 years: a whole month!

JOHN: It’s addictive.

Sam is gearing up for Edinburgh with a tour of South East Asia

SAM: I am doing a whole run shows around Asia before it. I am gearing up to play outside my comfort zone.

JOHN: You started performing comedy in 2012…

SAM: Yes. The comedy scene is Asia is less than ten years old.

JOHN: I presume, if you are gay, you can’t play China?

SAM: I can, actually. I have played Brunei, if you can believe that!

JOHN: Did they reverse the law about stoning people to death if they are gay?

SAM: It’s on hold. The law is technically not in effect but it has not been repealed. In very heavy Moslem areas like Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, I have to be really careful. If I play there, I try to play in embassies like the British or American so I have that clemency of being on international soil.

JOHN: Remembering this is going online, is it just a problem with Islam?

SAM: No. Myanmar is heavily Buddhist and they set people on fire. In China, they put people in re-education camps. There are heavy beliefs in this part of the world: whether religious or atheistic.

There was a chief from the UN who came down to Myanmar to investigate the Rohingya crisis and the chief Buddhist monk of Myanmer called her a slut and threatened to have her raped… Remember this is a man of peace.

JOHN: How do your audiences react to a gay comic?

SAM: They have changed over time. They don’t mind hearing about it; but not too much. When I first started, it was a combination of me not knowing how to tailor the material for the audiences and the audiences not being ready to receive such information. But I have become a more competent performer with time and they have grown with time.

Sam See or Woody Harrelson? You decide.

JOHN: People get pigeonholed. Who do people compare you with?

SAM: I see myself as a much longer-form Joan Rivers, more into storytelling and less insults. 

JOHN: Joan Rivers? So acid-tongued. 

SAM: Yes, acid-tongued, hopefully fast on my feet. But I’ve had comparisons to John Oliver; I’ve had Trevor Noah. For some reason, Woody Harrelson once.

JOHN: What???

SAM: I have no idea why. He is not known for his stand-up comedy!

JOHN: Are there many gay comics in Singapore and surrounds?

SAM: No. I am the one openly gay comedian. There are two who are closeted and one bisexual, but she is more into poetry than stand-up.

JOHN: I presume no-one is admitting to being lesbian?

SAM: None of the locals. There are some expats who come to Asia, do stand-up and say: “I’m proud to be a lesbian.” But then they move on.

JOHN: Things must be getting better. You have been on TV in a weekly Singapore panel show OK Chope!

SAM: No-one had really done the panel show format in the region before. There are variety show formats but not the traditional UK-style panel show. Host, regular panellists and rotating guest panellists.

JOHN: Did it work?

SAM: It was a mess, because it was a topical news show where we were not allowed to talk about news because… well… it’s Singapore.

It was a one-hour show transmitted live, with a zero second delay.

JOHN: Jesus! A zero second delay?

SAM: Yes. I am not kidding.

JOHN: This was actually transmitted? It wasn’t just a pilot?

SAM: Yes, a full season… 7.30pm prime time, before the watershed.

JOHN: Double Jesus!

SAM: We all managed to drink in the afternoon before we shot it.

JOHN: Did the TV company get nervous after Episode One?

SAM: Oh yes. Every week, we would have one of the government censors watching us from a booth. He would give us a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.

JOHN: But, if it’s live, it’s too late…

SAM: Well, too late for the show but not too late to put us in jail.

JOHN: And it ended because…

SAM: We made fun of the then Prime Minister of Malaysia who had been accused of being a thief and we made jokes about it and somehow he watched that episode.

JOHN: And the result was…?

SAM: He called our Prime Minister who took us off the air.

JOHN: So the series ended before it was due to end.

SAM: It happened on the last episode at the end of the season.

JOHN: So was someone being intentionally provocative?

Sam See addresses his audience

SAM: No, that whole segment had actually cleared the censors. It was just that, at the time, Malaysia was having an election, so they needed a scapegoat and a way to look strong. If they can get the neighbouring country to formally apologise to them, it makes them look powerful and in control.

JOHN: Do you have a 5-year career plan that starts in Edinburgh and ends in Las Vegas?

SAM: Well, it starts in Edinburgh and then I am in talks with some folks over in the United States for representation. 

JOHN: Presumably, like performers everywhere, you want to move to the US.

SAM: I don’t know. I think I would like to move to one of the other countries, but I would still make Singapore my home base because (a) it is my home and (b) the tax rates are better. (LAUGHS)

JOHN: I suspect Donald Trump thinks Singapore is somewhere in South America.

SAM: No. He knows where we are, because he started the North Korean treaties here.

JOHN: (LAUGHS) You should play North Korea!

SAM: You joke, but some of us have been thinking about it for a while. You just have to find an embassy that’s crazy enough to go along with the idea and just play it on embassy soil and don’t make jokes about the North Korean government or mention South Korea.

JOHN: Getting in might be a problem. And let’s not even fantasise about getting out. Singapore doesn’t have an embassy there, does it?

SAM: We can enter North Korea visa-free.

JOHN: Really???

SAM: Yes, we can just walk in on a holiday.

JOHN: Bloody hell!


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Filed under Censorship, Comedy, Gay, Singapore

Lindsay Sharman, baptised with a head hunter, is writing a play for Edinburgh

Lindsay Sharman, ex-Christian

Lindsay Sharman, ex-Christian, remembered headhunter this week

“I got religious when I was in Brunei,” comedy performer Lindsay Sharman told me a couple of days ago. “I went to a Chinese Baptist church and they were very nice people.”

“How,” I asked, “do the Chinese Baptists differ from the British Baptists?”

“They speak Chinese,” Lindsay replied. “Though they also spoke English, which helped. I got baptised at the same time as a head-hunter in his nineties. Well, he was an ex-head-hunter. He didn’t hunt heads any more, because he was now a Christian and ancient.”

“What turned you on to Christianity?” I asked.

“Jesus seemed like a nice chap and I thought the world lacked a bit of mystery and magic and I was looking for that.”

“Your father worked for the Shell oil company?” I asked.

“Yes. My parents were agnostic, though my mum suddenly got religious about ten years ago. I stopped believing when I was about 14.”


“I was kind of going off it for a while, In fact, as soon as I got baptised, it was kind of like TICK! Done that! – I think I expected some kind of change and nothing happened and then my father died when I was 14 and I think that tested me a bit more as I was getting no comfort from the idea that he had gone to heaven because I found the whole idea faintly ludicrous.”

“What age did you go to Brunei?”

Lindsay Sharman

Lindsay Sharman was once younger

“We went out when I was 8 and returned to England when I was 14. At that time, it was Moslem in the same way England is supposedly Christian. Although not any more, because the Sultan’s now gotten Islamic. He’s turned super-Moslem. Women are getting stoned for adultery out there now. There was none of that in my time. No-one covered up when I was there: it was all shorts and T-shirts and vests. Although, two years into us being there, the country did go ‘dry’ and they banned karaoke. I was very upset because I had been going to have a karaoke birthday party. I was 9; it was a big thing to me.”

“And now,” I said, “you’re writing a play about religion for the Edinburgh Fringe in August. What’s it called?”

Lindsay Sharman Gives Us The Willies. It’s not really a play. It’s one of those weird Edinburgh things that can only exist in Edinburgh. It’s a play insomuch that it’s not going to be stand-up comedy and it’s going to have a narrative. But don’t ask me details. Everything might change by August.”

“What,” I asked, “was the original, basic idea?”

Mel Brooks once told me to open my mouth when being photographed

Mel Brooks once told me to always open mouth in photos

“The Gospel according to Mary Magdalene, done as a New York Jew: a bit Joan Rivers-esque. I thought I would link the fact they were all Jewish to comedic Jews and the immediate thought for me was Mel Brooks style fast-talking.

“I tried that out and it did go quite well, but then I thought it could be a play-within-a-play. What I don’t like about the Edinburgh Fringe – or what I feel I have to be flexible about in Edinburgh – is that the audience comes into a room which is not actually that suited to performance and you don’t necessarily acknowledge it. I don’t like that. I don’t like watching a show where they haven’t acknowledged they’re in a room in Edinburgh at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

“So I wanted to fit it into something which allowed her not to be at The Jerusalem Head tavern in wherever. I wanted to acknowledge the fact it was a show in Edinburgh. So then I had the idea of a play-within-a-play about Mary Magdalene but everyone’s buggered-off because it’s the most offensive play there has ever been. All the actors have fucked-off, so it is an audition for new actors and all the audience are potential actors and I am going to audition them. This is my current idea. But it might change out of all recognition in the next few months.”

“So it has continuity of time and place…” I said.

“Yes,” Lindsay replied. “But, at the same time it will be dipping in-and-out of this ‘most offensive’ play about religion.”

“And it’s called Lindsay Sharman Gives Us The Willies…?”

“Yes. Though it might bear no relation to… Well, it might do… There’s going to be stuff about circumcision in there.”

“Cutting edge…” I said.

A Penitent Mary Magdalene by Nicolas Régnier,

Jewish Mary Magdalene by Nicolas Régnier

“Because it’s a play-within-a-play,” Lindsay continued, “it’s going to look at all the issues in the world at the moment. So, for once, I’m going to do something topical. Usually I don’t do anything topical.”

“Burning Moslems?” I asked.

“I might tip-toe around that a bit.”

“Is there a serious kernel to it?”

“Maybe. Who knows? Don’t ask me details. Maybe. I don’t know if there is a way of avoiding the seriousness of the topic. Though you can take any serious topic and give it a light treatment. It will still be totally absurd. And the play is partly going to be about social control and how religion forms part of that. If one person has a beard, everyone has to have a beard. Except the women, of course.”

“Why of course?” I asked. “Will it have multiple characters?”

“It will have… Maybe. Who knows?… Don’t ask me too many details at this point, because it could all change.  I’ve got other things to think about: I’m trying to write a book at the moment.”

Lindsay Sharman last night, as Madame Magenta

Lindsay Sharman performs as Madame Magenta

“Another one?”

“Yes. I’m almost there. I’ve got about four more chapters and then I’m finished.”

“What’s the pitch?”

“It’s a whodunnit, a murder mystery. It’s really complicated, whereas the first one was just ridiculous, so I could vomit that out in no time. “

“A whodunnit in the traditional drawing room sense?”

“Sort of. Yeah. I guess so.”

“Featuring Madame Magenta?”


“Written in the first person…”

“No. It’s got different perspectives. It switches perspective every couple of chapters.”

“When is this being unleashed on the nation?”

“In about a week and a half.”

“But you haven’t finished it yet!”

The cover of Lindsay Sharman’s novel

Lindsay Sharman’s first Magenta novel

“I’ve got about 10,000 words to do. I can do that in a week and a half. I did the first book in about three and a half weeks.”

“What’s the new book called?”

Magenta 2: The Reckoning.”

“It’s not, is it?” I asked.

“Why not?” I think titles are over-rated.”

“What about My Night of Sex With Tom Cruise and an Armadillo?”

“That’s probably my third book,” said Lindsay.

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Filed under Books, Comedy, Religion

Comedian Lindsay Sharman is NOT posh nor a bargain bucket Miranda Hart

Lindsay Sharman as herself in a selfie

The real Lindsay Sharman captured in a selfie

“I keep getting compared to Miranda Hart,” comedian Lindsay Sharman told me when I met her in Soho yesterday.

“Tall, posh voice, y’know,” she said. “The other week, Time Out called me the bargain bucket Miranda Hart. I thought Well, at least I’ve been noticed; at least I’m not speaking into the void completely. On the other hand, there’s Is this what people are actually going to start thinking? I do get hit with the ‘posh’ stick quite a lot and I don’t know whether to live up to that or to drastically change my act.”

The first time I saw Lindsay was at the always extraordinary monthly Pull The Other One comedy club in South East London (where she is now their regular compere). She was performing as a very angry poetess with a strong Scottish accent. Is she really Scottish? I thought and, by the end of her act, I had decided she either definitely was or, if not, she certainly had Scottish blood relations.

She is not and has not.

There is a clip of her on YouTube.

“I did a gig recently,” she told me, “and there were a couple of Scottish people in the front row, rough as anything, and they were loving it until about two minutes before the end when one of ‘em said to the other: I don’t think she’s fuckin’ Scoootish! and they looked like they were about to beat me up, so I ended with Thankyou very much, goodnight! and got the hell out of it as quickly as possible.”

“Why is the poetess character Scottish?” I asked.

“Because I knew I couldn’t do a really aggressive character in my own posh English voice,” said Lindsay. “It would just sound like I was terribly angry about the lack of Waitrose shops in the area. So I went for an accent I was comfortable with – and the Scottish accent is more characterful. There is an element of aggression it… It allows you to have a bit more bite and…” Then she started to laugh and corrected herself… “But it’s still friendly at the same time!…” she added. She leant towards the microphone on my iPhone and said clearly: “I like the Scottish people very much

“You see, I’m doing my first hour-long Edinburgh Fringe solo show in August,” she explained. “Madame Magenta: Libris Mystica.”

(There is a video of her as Madame Magenta on YouTube)

“That’s your other character,” I said.

“I think it’s just me in about 20 years,” she laughed. “It’s me but not giving a shit about what people think – and in a turban. She’s a fortune-teller, a psychic, a medium and just a shyster, really. She’s doing it for the money. In a way, it’s exploring those folk who exploit the vulnerable.”

“Comedians?” I asked.

“No, they exploit themselves,” said Lindsay.

“Would you go back to being an actress?” I asked.

“I hated being horrendously unsuccessful,” Lindsay laughed. “I’d like to be able to balance doing acting and comedy. But I do like generating my own material and I like the camaraderie on the comedy circuit

“I was an actress years ago, when I was aged about 18-23, but very unsuccessful, so I gave it up. Height was a problem too. Most actors are absolute midgets (Lindsay is 5’10”) and they’re not just short, they’re perfectly scaled-down. They’re these weenie little people. I think I could probably beat Tom Cruise in a fair fight.

Lindsay Sharman

“Actors have got a hard, shiny exterior”

“As an actress, I always got cast in comedy parts – if I was ever cast – and I always felt ridiculous if I was ever cast in anything that wasn’t funny. I did an acting course in Reading for a year. We did a play every two weeks so, inevitably, I was going to have to play a serious role. I remember having to deliver this godawful rape speech, feeling ludicrous and wanting to stick in some inappropriate jokes. I managed to stop myself although, on the second night, they decided they wanted some atmospheric music and one of the other actors started humming Babooshka behind me.”

“Actors are of a type,” I said, “and comedians are of a type. Comedians are all barking mad.”

“I think we’re just more honest with our neuroses,” said Lindsay. “Actors have got this hard, shiny exterior when they’re moving through life.”

“There’s the cliché,” I said, “that actors have to always be someone else.”

“When they’re not acting,” suggested Lindsay, “they’re playing the part of being actors. I used to be a member of The Actors’ Centre in Charing Cross Road and I always felt deeply uncomfortable there, because someone would ask how I was doing and I would say Oh awful! Can’t get arrested for work. Just being honest. Then I would ask How’s it for you? and they’d go Last week I had a meeting with blah blah and I’ve got a really exciting project I can’t tell you about and they’d give you their potted CV and tell you all the exciting things that were going to happen. And I’d believe them. I’d think Wow! You’re doing really well! Actors just have a different basket of neuroses from comedians.”

“And you stopped acting because?” I asked.

“Because I got to such a level of poverty and disillusionment,” Lindsay explained. “I had a job touring musicals round old people’s homes which was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Then I decided I was going to become a lawyer.”

“Eh?” I said.

“I signed up for a law course then, about a week later, thought What the fuck am I doing? I’m not interested in the law and changed it to an English course at Greenwich University. Later, I worked in the Business School where no-one spoke English. Greenwich has an office in China that just takes on anyone and promises they’ll teach them English when they get to Greenwich. But the English Department was very good; I had some great tutors there.

“After that, I got on the BT graduate management scheme where they train you to be a leader. It lasted about 18 months, then they paid me to go away. Then I became a stand-up.”

“You tend to hide behind characters,” I said. “The angry Scottish poet and Madame Magenta the psychic.”

“Everybody seemed to think I was being a character..."

“Everybody seemed to think I was being a character…”

“Well,” said Lindsay, “I didn’t for the first three years, but then I realised everybody seemed to think I was being a character when I was being myself anyway.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because when I go on stage as me,” explained Lindsay, “I get even posher-sounding. I used to start with a couple of posh jokes which didn’t relate to my real life at all – Yes. I know what I sound like. Let’s get that out of the way and move on – I’m not posh but, when I say I’m not, no-one ever believes me.

“I was born in Great Yarmouth and my entire family are from Great Yarmouth. My surname goes back to the Domesday Book in Norfolk. Sharman means ‘shearer of sheep’.”

“How did your posh accent come out of your Great Yarmouth background?” I asked. “Did you have speech therapy?”

“No,” replied Lindsay. “We moved around a lot and I lived abroad for seven years. I went to Brunei when I was 8. And then I went to boarding school in Singapore for a couple of years. Brunei didn’t have any schools for foreigners beyond the age of 11, though it did for the locals. When we got there, my sister was 11 and tried the local school, but it was educationally all over the place; she had a range of ages in her class. A lot of people in Brunei send their kids to boarding school in England but that’s a 14-hour flight away, so we were sent to boarding school in Singapore instead. I suppose I’m the product of social mobility.”

“Like a gypsy,” I said.

“Actually,” said Lindsay, “I do have gypsy blood in me from way back – my great-great grandmother got together with someone from the travelling fair that used to come to Great Yarmouth every year and had a baby in great shame.

“My dad worked for the Shell oil company. Well, he did loads of different things. He was manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken shop at one point. And he was a damp proofer. They had a terrible damp chicken problem.

“I’m in a bit of a weird transition period at the moment.”

“I’m in a bit of a weird transition…”

“I’m in a bit of a weird transition period at the moment. I’m trying to cut out a lot of the really depressingly shit gigs because they’re not even helping me develop new material… but I’m not a club comic, really. They don’t entirely embrace character acts at the moment.

“The clubs where you can earn a living are the slightly tougher hen and stag night ones and you’ve got to go in there quite aggressively with gags, which isn’t really my style. I’m more of a chaotic meanderer. I have sort-of Get Out of Jail Free card with my act by being deliberately chaotic.”

“Your act isn’t chaotic,” I said.

“There is an element of Oh! What am I doing? Bwahh!! Bwaah!!” said Lindsay.

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Filed under Acting, Comedy