Feroze Kamardeen, the creator of the popular stand-up comedy Freddy talks to Purnima Pilapitiya

The contemporary coffee shop has evolved into a space that hosts more than casual chit-chat or the bibiliophile who sits in a corner lost in a book and a steaming cup of coffee. It’s not uncommon to see negotiations, meetings and even homework being done in such cosy surroundings. When we caught up with Feroze Kamardeen, the playwright was an inconspicuous figure at Coco Veranda (one of his familiar haunts, we were told), coffee cooling on the side of his open laptop and a rib tickling character assassination of a politician happening through the dialogue on the screen.

Feroze Kamardeen
Feroze Kamardeen

Next week, Colombo audiences will get to see Feroze’s scripts come to life under StageLight&Magic’s popular stand-up comedy franchise Freddy’s latest show“Freddy 3- A New Hope!” The man behind the scripts is busy polishing them up, putting in hours of research and fact checking.

The winning formula that has made Freddy such a success over its run of three years and counting, is a dash of hard-hitting information, addressing issues that require accountability and responsibility and an exploration of our Sri Lankan cultural, religious and social stereotypes and norms. All this through humour that is familiar and close to home. But at the core of Freddy is a responsibility that Feroze and his crew feel towards educating their audience while entertaining, not shying away from tackling the cold hard truth even if it means calling out individuals and institutions that are responsible in the first place.

Feroze’s interest in politics and satire are clearly reflected in his body of workfrom productions like Animal Farm, Julius Caesar to probably what is his most memorable work next to Freddy; Pusswedilla.

Feroze’s laid back, albeit passionate interest in theatre was sparked during his days as a debater at his alma mater D.S. Senanayake College, he thinks. But it wasn’t till 2006 while working on a production called “America”, that he discovered his flair for script writing and what Sri Lankan audiences were starving for most- Sri Lankan political satire. Adding his own spin to the second half of the play, Feroze decided to tweak it; adding a Sri Lankan presidential candidate with a happy-go-lucky ignorance meets arrogance to contrast with the American presidential candidate; onstage waltzed the product of his imagination – Chinthaka Pusswedilla.

“The reaction to him went through the roof,” he lights up, recalling how audiences fell in love with Pusswedilla. “When you see people connect with something so deeply you know it has the potential to be something more,” he explains. So he kept Pusswedilla at the back of his mind later giving him his own show that would go down in Sri Lankan comedic history played by Dominic Kellar.

“I saw the same thing with the first Freddy.” Although the very first instalment of Freddy saw comedy skits peppered with three stand-up acts, the very next instalment had only three hours of pure stand-up. “I felt the skits were becoming unnecessary.” In June this year, Freddy went to Temple Trees, performing at the auditorium before a sellout crowd of over 2000.

Freddy’s roster of performers has seen the emergence of distinct voices who bring something new to the table with every show while solidifying their own persona as comedic artists. This time’s audition for Freddy saw 25 wannabe funny men and women vying for a spot, leaving even Freddy’s creator speechless. But picking the right person for the show isn’t always his strong suit, Feroze admits. “I’ve been lucky,” and his gut insticts have always paid off, whether it was auditioning a non-Sinhala speaking Dominic Kellar for the role of Chaminda Pusswedilla, randomly asking Pasan Ranaweera to read for the role of Cyril Nitharamasuffering or introducing three very unfamiliar faces to the comedy scene in this October’s show.

As he highlights and re-highlights a line for the nth time, we wonder what Feroze the writer has picked up since he first scribbled scripts in 2006. “Everything I do has to be verified,” he smiles, maybe thinking back to a time where getting his Pusswedilla scripts approved warranted its own action adventure drama. But he has also learned to look at both sides of a story. What does spur his work is injustice.

But at the end of day, “We just want to make you laugh,” he smiles. “We don’t have any answers, we just want to make you think.”

Source : The Sunday Times