People Don’t Take Gay Guys Seriously: Gino Sunga

As a child, I was shorter than everybody else so I was the butt of jokes. My real name is Meliton, which rhymes with “skeleton.” So they called me “Meliton Skeleton” because I was thin too.
I had to step up to the plate and try to be better than them. I dealt with it by trying to come up with more ingenious insults. I always went to my father for inspiration.
When I started telling jokes, I fit in better, and the other students became friendly.
Comedy has always been a part of my family. If you were an outsider looking in at them, it’d be like watching a sitcom. My mum was a drama queen; when she was upset with my dad, she’d have a fainting spell, but she’d make sure she was beside a sofa.
When I want to do something funny, I get inspiration from my mum and how she deals with life, people, and my father’s death. We were having the wake and right in front of his coffin she was already talking about the car she wanted to buy with all the contributions. It’s a way of coping.
I first came to Singapore with a band. I was the singer. I was thinking “I’m so good, I’m going to be fabulous on stage, they’ll be mesmerized by my dance moves and everybody will love me,” but people walked out every time we were on. We were doing very good songs, but not popular ones.
There was one time I tried talking to the crowd, and this guy looked me up and down, and his friends laughed. I was humiliated, I wanted to hit him, but instead I pinched his cheek hard and said very gayly, “You’re sooo cuteee.” Everybody laughed.
After that, the band wanted me to act gay but at that time I was still in the closet. I had a girlfriend and I didn’t want people to know. I was worried. Did I slip? They dressed me up, and I lipsynched to Tina Turner. I had a skirt, a coconut bra and we didn’t have a wig so I used a mop.
At that time, all I felt was humiliation because there’s a difference between a comedian and a clown. You laugh with comedians, but you laugh at clowns. Slowly but surely, I started feeling this sense of accomplishment. I realized I had the power to make people laugh. Turning into a “comedian” was a very slow process.
People don’t take gay guys seriously; they think they’re funny party animals; not serious about life and always joking. If my insults came out from a straight man they wouldn’t sit well, but with a gay man, it can be put down to him just being bitchy.
The thing about comedy is, you reach a point where you start thinking, “Is this mine? Did I read it somewhere?” I’d listen to a comic and think, “I’ve been using that line forever.” A comic once said, “There are only 10 jokes in the world, comedians just learn to tell them in different ways.”
Singers can sing the same song every night but people will still request it. No one requests jokes. No one says “You tell that joke very well! Can you tell it?”