Forget tea. Dilruk Jayasinha is now clearly Sri Lanka’s most popular export to Australia. Recently hailed as a “slick, confident and talented performer”, Dilruk took home the award for the “Graham Kennedy Most Popular New Talent” at the Logie Awards held on July 1. Winning the award for his roles on ABC comedy Utopia and [...]


Ditching accountancy for comedy

Sri Lankan stand-up comedian Dilruk Jayasinha who’s making waves in Australia talks to Ruwanthi Herat Gunaratne

Making it happen: Dilruk Jayasinha

Forget tea. Dilruk Jayasinha is now clearly Sri Lanka’s most popular export to Australia. Recently hailed as a “slick, confident and talented performer”, Dilruk took home the award for the “Graham Kennedy Most Popular New Talent” at the Logie Awards held on July 1. Winning the award for his roles on ABC comedy Utopia and Cram! on Network 10, Dilruk is now a poster child for perseverance and enjoying what you do. “It was such a shock when they called out my name,” says Dilruk, “it’s the biggest night in Australian Television and when they called out my name as a winner – it really caught me off guard!”

With a number of well known Australian TV stars in the nominations to compete with, Dilruk says that he felt that his luck may change when Australian Bookmaker Sportsbet had his name right at the top of the list to win a few days before the Awards ceremony. “There was a nice grassroots push that fuelled my win and for that I am truly grateful.”

The Sunday Times caught up with Dilruk on the eve of his international tour with the Melbourne Comedy Festival Road show to be followed up with solo performances (“The Art of the Dil”) in London and Edinburgh. Hong Kong for a week, Singapore for a week, the Soho Theatre in London and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before winding up with a few days in Paris. That sounds absolutely exhausting. “Yes!” laughs Dilruk, “So I have a four-day cool down session in Colombo in between catching up with friends and family.”

The second of two sons born to a Buddhist father and a Muslim  mother, Dilruk completed his primary education at St Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya. “I come from a mixed religious background and studied at a Catholic school!” says Dilruk. “I started studying for the London A/L’s at St Peter’s but didn’t end up staying as I was awarded a scholarship to the British School in Colombo.” So you’re a bit of a genius? “Goodness no!” he laughs, “I was what you would consider more hardworking than studious. So even at the age of 11, I would be getting up at 4 in the morning to study.”

Dilruk credits school with first putting him on stage. “I played Hermia – the pretty one,” he laughs, “when we participated at the Inter-School Shakespeare Drama Competition once and subsequently played King Duncan on another. It took me a while to get the male roles to be honest!” Never a comic role? “No, the jokes were at home, we were and still are a humorous family. My brother even used to pay me cash for a good joke! He would dish out a ten or 20 Rupee note whenever he thought I had said something worthy of a laugh.” Clearly Dilruk was destined for stage albeit of a different style. “To be honest stand-up was not something that we had been exposed to as children. I think my first experience with it was when a friend who was visiting told my brother and I about Eddie Murphy’s Stand Up Special. We lived close to Nastars, Liberty Plaza, so we ran and borrowed it! We enjoyed it so much that I don’t think we ever even returned the tape!”

And stealing that tape changed your life? “I wouldn’t say so,” laughs Dilruk, “I was mesmerized with the show but I never saw that as a career. We went on to then watch Eddie Murphy’s Raw and decided to share it with my father. Though we considered him the “cooler” parent he told my mother about the show, she completely disapproved of the language and didn’t want us watching it after!”

On completing his Advanced Levels Dilruk made the journey to Australia to study Accounting at the University of Melbourne. It was whilst a student that he came to enjoy the likes of Dave Hughes and Will Anderson; both established stand-up comedians. “I started going for the Melbourne Comedy Festival in the mid 2000’s. I remember being at a Will Anderson show and thinking that here was a different type of comedian. All this while I had seen comedians like Eddie Murphy who portrayed `characters’. Will Anderson played himself in everyday situations to get the same sort of laughter. I remember thinking – ah that may be do’able.” Was that the changing point for you? “Goodness no, I was still keen on accountancy – my parents had spent a fortune on my education and I was also very much still an “accountant” in my future.”

Jubilant: Dilruk celebrates his win at the Logie Awards. Pic courtesy Lawrence Furzey TV

In 2009  Dilruk began his “real” work as an accountant at one of the “Big Four”. “But I wasn’t giving it my 100%,” he says. “I felt like I was not switched on. The financial crisis had happened and there were others in my team who would be at work from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and getting far more work done than I was working from 7 a.m to 9 p.m. That was when I realized that I may be trying to climb up a ladder that’s leaning against the wrong wall. The truth dawned on me that I would be happier outside accounting.” And so, that same year, Dilruk and his employer decided to part ways.

“I then joined a former employer – a small firm – on a part time basis. Initially it was four days a week with one day for me to focus on comedy, then it became three, two and finally just one. I think by that time I was just going back for the company! Incidentally that firm handles my taxes now,” laughs Dilruk.

In September 2010 Dilruk made his first appearance as a comedian on stage. “It was at the Comic’s Lounge in Melbourne that encouraged newcomers on Tuesdays. They had seating for 400 and that night there were about 20 people there in total. I bombed so badly but left happy,” he reminisces, “I had found something that I truly wanted to do. Up until that time all I had done was study well to get into university and to ultimately get the good job. But here was something that I was happy doing even when I didn’t do it well. I think that’s the day I truly became a part-time accountant and an aspiring comedian!”

Where do you get your inspiration from? “My stuff is mostly anecdotal and I draw a lot of inspiration from my work and life. My parents have been featured in quite a few of my shows but I’ve never done anything about my brother.” Afraid of an onslaught from him? “Hardly,” he grins, “it’s just that I would have to do a one-hour special on him and him alone!”

Dilruk’s parents flew to Australia to watch him perform before a live audience just last year. “They got quite emotional seeing me perform in Sydney and also at the Comic’s Lounge in Melbourne. Not to the 20 people I performed for in 2010 but to a full house where I was the headline act.” How does your mother handle you swearing like Eddie Murphy? “She’s fine now,” he laughs, “during the early days she used to watch my shows on mute!”

Getting on Television with “Utopia” proved to be another unreal experience for Dilruk. “I had been watching Season 1 and 2 of Utopia from my couch and I was suddenly starring opposite these big stars in Season 3. It was so surreal that it took a while for me to snap out of `fanboy’ mode!”

Finally and most importantly – when will you perform in Colombo? “Soon,” smiles Dilruk, “It’s vital to cater to one’s audience and I think I need to do my research before I get on stage in Colombo. At the moment my work is all very `Aussie centric’. Plus, there’s a lot of people I know who will be in the crowd and I need to make them all proud.”

Judging by the way Dilruk has made his mark in Australia’s entertainment industry that will be a walk in the park!

The Logie Awards
The Logie Awards are an annual awards ceremony that celebrates the Australian TV Industry sponsored and organised by the magazine TV Week since 1959. Awards are presented in public and industry voted categories, with the highest honour and most widely publicized award being the Gold Logie, which is awarded to the Most Popular Personality on Australian Television for the previous year.

Most Popular New Talent Award winners include Chris Hemsworth (2005), Bindi Irwin (2008) and Simon Baker (1993).


Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.