This Singapore Tamil woman can guarantee a belly laugh with her spot on videos about mom vs daughter battles.

The emotionally blackmailing mom in a nightie Meet comedian Kelly Kanaga
Features Comedy Monday, December 18, 2017 - 12:40

Has your mother recently spoken about her funeral to persuade you to drop what you're doing and run to the shop to pick up groceries? If this emotional blackmail sounds familiar, you will get a belly laugh from watching comedy videos on the KellysKomedy Facebook page.

With over a lakh followers, Singapore-based Tamil woman Kelly Kanaga is a popular comic who says about 70% of her audience is female. On her page, two characters who make a frequent appearance are "KK" and "Amma" – KK is the daughter while Amma is the mom and Kelly plays both of them!

Amma, dressed in colourful nighties and with large earrings, is the typical Tamil mom who is on her daughter's case. Kelly does a pitch perfect imitation of the kind of things moms are known to say and it's not surprising that she has a huge fan following.

One of four children, Kelly Kanaga, who calls herself KK, was a wellness coach before she decided her life's calling was to make people laugh.

TNM caught up with Kelly for a chat on how she turned to comedy and the kind of responses she has received for her videos.

How did you end up doing comedy?

My diploma in polytechnic was in event management and I have personally executed many event productions. After I left the event management world, I went into the wellness world where I worked for about five years. I was having a successful career but I had an epiphany in October 2016 that led me to creating a page called KellysKomedy. I wasn’t looking to make comedy a profession and still am not. I’m doing it for fun!

The Mom in your comedy bits is someone any Tamil person can relate to. Is she based on your real life mom or is it from observation of people in general?

The Mom character has definitely evolved in the one year since I started and she is an epitome of all the mother figures in my life. I was raised in a joint family, so I was brought up by many aunts and older cousins. My Mom character portrays bits and pieces from all the women I have been raised by.

Although the Mom character is very real, I noticed that when asked about certain issues like say, same sex relationships, she gives very progressive answers. Not one that you'd expect a typical mom to come up with. Why?

I think a lot of moms or so called “yesterday's women" are progressive. We just haven’t asked them for their opinions on such issues. My Mom character embraces not just the typical nuances of an Indian mom but the far more progressive nature that isn't displayed or discussed publicly.

When I was going to give the answer – of course, everything is scripted by me – this is the only question I double-checked with my mom to see where she stands on it. Like I expected she answered, “Absolutely supportive of homosexuality. Everyone should have the freedom to express themselves.”

Do you make any/enough money by doing comedy?

Like I mentioned, I didn’t start doing these videos as a profession. so nope, I definitely wasn’t expecting to make money. But as someone who studied marketing, advertising, and business management, I was aware of the reach of my videos.

I anticipated even before I quit my job as a wellness coach that it would take me two years to see at least a cent. However, due to the amazing reach, I have started making a little money. Not enough to pay bills but enough to have a cheat day.

Do you have any plans of taking this offstage and doing standup events?

I am very adamant in building a stronger KellysKomedy brand. The stronger the brand, the stronger the influence. My vision is to put up stage plays and do web series. Standup was never part of the plan. I definitely have offers coming in but to take time away from building my brand…. well let’s say, the offer must be too tempting for me to refuse. As of now, no plans.

We don't see too many women in comedy. Why do you think this is?

Everywhere I see in comedy, I see a boy band. There is nothing wrong in it. I’m absolutely thrilled for the future of comedy and I’m thrilled for the guys as long as they are doing relevant comedies.

Let’s be real. They aren’t going to sit around in their next meeting and think about, ‘Hey, maybe we should bring a girl in to diversify the mix.” Whatever works, works. I don’t have a definitive answer to that because I sit at home and make videos. I think a comedian who goes out day after day experiencing the struggle of “Women in comedy” should be a better person to answer this question.

Who would you say is your audience?

My audience is anyone – boy or girl – who has a strong older woman in their household. And of course, the older woman herself. 70% of my audience are women. I was absolutely clear from day 1 that my videos need to be relatable. The more relatable, the more shares the videos get. And recently, I have had a lot of children following my videos. I love it when their parents send me videos of their children imitating me!

What kind of process do you go through for writing your comedy bits?

I start most of my comedy sketches brainstorming with, “WHAT IF…” so it goes on, “What if mom went for an audition? What if KK and Priya (KK's friend) pranked mom? What if mom video-called KK? What if mom went for an interview?”

It takes me one day to sketch out the skeleton of the storyboard. I always know how I’m starting and ending the sketch, so I spend most of the day figuring out the in-between scenes. One day to write it and the next day I execute it. I always have two days in between videos.

What kind of responses have you had to the videos?

Off the top of my head, the most beautiful responses I have received recently include one from a woman who told me she been diagnosed with cancer and the only form of laughter she gets is by watching my videos.

Another one is, she is hospitalized and while going through treatment, my videos give her company. Another one was from a mother who told me her autistic child loves my videos and always asks her when she comes back home if KK has put up another video. He loves imitating the Mom character after watching the video.

Who are your inspirations?

My inspiration for the Mom character is Tyler Perry. Others include Melissa McCarthy, Koundamani, Vivek, Vadivelu, Kamal Haasan and of course, Manorama!

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