Gurmit Singh quits showbiz to make up for lost time with family

Gurmit Singh quits showbiz to make up for lost time with family
Gurmit Singh quits showbiz to make up for lost time with family
11 Mar 2015

Gurmit Singh quits showbiz to make up for lost time with family

Photos: Dang Hui Ling
Videos: Foong Mien Shi

“It must be a blessing to know that you can bring so much joy to people.” – That was the most heart-warming comment local celebrity Gurmit Singh has ever received from a viewer.

After 20 years in showbiz, the well-loved comedian will bid farewell to MediaCorp when his contract ends on Dec 31. During his interview with xinmsn, Gurmit emphasised that though he will take a break from being a full-time artiste, he will continue taking on assignments selectively as “he still has bills to pay”.

When asked on the reason behind his decision, the 49-year-old quoted his family as the main factor. “To be honest, I’ve been struggling to balance between work and family life. I have given it much thought in the past five years,” he said.

According to Gurmit, it was not a sudden or haphazard decision, but one that he has planned and discussed about with his wife Melissa Wong, who has always been very supportive.

There were “good days” when he could spend time with his family on weekdays and there were “bad days” when he did not get to see his kids (Gabrielle, 17, Elliot, 13 and Mikaela, 20-months) for consecutive days. But it wasn’t until last year that it dawned on Gurmit, a five-time winner of the Star Awards “Top 10 Most Popular Male Artistes” prize, to devote himself to his loved ones.

“I asked my children for their opinion and my two older kids said: ‘Dad, there were a lot of times when you were not around.’ That really hurt my feelings because I thought I was doing it right,” he sighed.

Although the Phua Chu Kang star tried not to work on Sundays, he was often absent from important events such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries and New Year’s Eve.

“People don’t realise that when I’m hosting a ‘live’ show like Singapore Idol, it could be my child’s birthday and my family’s having a party while I’m working. People don’t know that I’m actually thinking about the party that I’m missing,” added Gurmit. “I feel happy as a host because I’m doing a good job, or so people tell me. But I feel lousy as a dad.” 

(Continued on next slide)
WATCH: Gurmit Singh reveals the reasons behind his decision to leave showbiz
WATCH: Gurmit Singh talks about the lowest points in his career
WATCH: Gurmit Singh was once a back-up dancer for Aaron Kwok?

Gurmit Singh quits showbiz to make up for lost time with family
Gurmit Singh quits showbiz to make up for lost time with family
11 Mar 2015

Gurmit Singh quits showbiz to make up for lost time with family

Photos: Gurmit Singh's Instagram
When the family welcomed a new member (Mikaela) in March 2013, Gurmit became even more determined not to let history repeat itself. Apart from his children, the actor-host also wanted to show his gratitude to his wife, who used to be an air-stewardess but chose to be a stay-home mum for the past two decades.

“She sacrificed her dreams, ambitions, time and energy. If she hadn’t done what she has done for the past 20 years, I wouldn’t be able to do my job properly,” Gurmit shared, declaring that he is more than willing to exchange roles with his wife in the near future.

While time lost cannot be repaid, Gurmit hopes that he could, in some ways, compensate his family. Delighted to have control over his job scope, the affable man called it a win-win situation for the company and himself, as MediaCorp will remain as his exclusive agent to manage his assignments.

“I haven’t retired from the industry entirely. I’ll still take up hosting gigs, movies and whatever that pays the food,” he reiterated.

In a press release by MediaCorp Artiste Management Unit, MediaCorp Deputy CEO Chang Long Jong said: “Everyone loves Gurmit, the funniest man in Caldecott. But only those who work closely with him will know that Gurmit is a true professional – someone who takes his craft very seriously and is nothing short of a perfectionist." 

Mr. Chang also expressed his support for Gurmit, an iconic member of the MediaCorp family, as he embarks on a new chapter in his life and career.
This year, Gurmit and his family moved out of their landed property into a three-room condominium that has been fully paid for – something that the comedian is very happy with, due to his soon-to-be “part-time artiste with no steady flow of income” status. However, the actor has no plans to start a side business that will demand extra attention from him.

As for the burden on his finances, Gurmit believes that lesser income translates to cutting down on expenses (no more Business Class travels, for example), but that is nothing compared to having more quality time with his family.

Gurmit, who recently wrapped filming for Okto programme KNOCKOUT Carnival, will make his last appearance on TV with Ch5’s Meet My Family and Toggle original series For A Better Tomorrow. If time permits, the host will be involved in the sixth season of Our Makan Places: Lost and Found next year.

To mark his “retirement”, Gurmit will be travelling to Finland to see the Northern Lights with his family next month. “For the first time in 20 years, I would be able to spend New Year’s Eve with my family,” he concluded. 

As a show of appreciation to Gurmit for bringing us two decades of fun and laughter, click through the gallery for a look-back on the highlights of his career (in his opinion).
WATCH: Gurmit Singh reveals the reasons behind his decision to leave showbiz
WATCH: Gurmit Singh talks about the lowest points in his career
WATCH: Gurmit Singh was once a back-up dancer for Aaron Kwok?

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
11 Mar 2015

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career

1) Phua Chu Kang
“There are too many [memorable moments] to list. There were times when I was doing five projects concurrently. It feels like I’ve been around for 50 years,” Gurmit chortled.

Of all his projects, the one that he is most thankful for would be none other than Phua Chu Kang. “PCK will always be part of my life, whether I want it or not,” he added.

Thinking back on the early days of the show, Gurmit revealed how PCK had no sponsors or budget (the cast had to rehearse in a “storeroom’s storeroom”) and how everything changed when the programme beat Under One Roof, the top rated show at the time, in all categories at the Asian Television Awards.

Since then, major sponsors signed on and commercial breaks were sold out for advertisements. PCK went on to accomplish greater achievements such as musicals and a movie. “When the musical was playing, PCK’s face was plastered on an airplane from Singapore to Hong Kong!” Gurmit exclaimed.

While the success of PCK is something that the comedian is very proud of, it also appeared to have stunted his growth as an artiste, due to its iconic image. Even years after the sitcom has ended its run, people still see Gurmit as the contractor with his trademark yellow boots.

“I still go to Malaysia to do shows as PCK. I may be stuck with the image, but that’s fine. It just means that I have to work harder and be patient. As long as he is in demand and before the audience lets him go, I will take it positively,” he said. “If you ask me [at my deathbed] to name one thing that I have done really well in life, it will be PCK.”

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
11 Mar 2015

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career

2) His first hosting gig on Live on Five
In Gurmit’s words, Live on Five (1994) is the classic example of “getting thrown in at the deep end”.

Back then, he was a rookie with no training or experience. His only “theatre background” was performing at the now-defunct Haw Par Villa. Following a nerve-wrecking audition, Gurmit was, to his disbelief, told to host the one-hour live show every Monday night on his own.

“I remember getting diarrhoea every single time because I was so nervous. Until today, I still get stomachache before a live show,” he confessed. “I’ll never know if my performance will pan out right for the audience. I always have this fear that I might do something wrong and everyone will be upset with me, then I’ll lose my job.” 

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
11 Mar 2015

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career

3) Golden Horse Awards nomination in 2007

In 2007, Gurmit was nominated for the coveted “Best Actor” prize at the Golden Horse Awards, for his performance in local movie Just Follow Law.

“That was so bizarre, right?” the actor, who was enjoying a casual swim when the nomination list was announced, chuckled.

Speaking on his Golden Horse experience, the 49-year-old said that the reporters in Taiwan were very surprised that he could converse (and sing) in Mandarin. However, the most entertaining part was how Gurmit’s wife, who walked the red carpet with him and acted as his personal translator during the show, was mistaken for a celebrity.

“The photographers were taking photos of her, thinking that I was just an escort! The artiste manager had to clarify that I was the star,” he said laughing. 

At the awards ceremony, Gurmit not only got to rub shoulders with fellow nominees Tony Leung and Aaron Kwok, he also got to meet Shu Qi, whom he referred to as “one of the hottest Chinese actresses”. Seated beside Aaron, Gurmit cheerily told the Hong Kong heavenly king that he was once his back-up dancer at the singer’s mini concert at Haw Par Villa! 

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
11 Mar 2015

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career

4) Hosting the National Day Parade and other major shows
As a host, the National Day Parade will always be one of the biggest arenas that Gurmit ever got to stand on. To have a venue filled with 65,000 people in attendance was nothing short of satisfying.

“My hair stands even as I speak. It is beautiful to see people from different race and religion coming together as one. It really makes you feel patriotic,” he said with pride.


Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
11 Mar 2015

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career

5) Dark side of comedy

Along with the “highs” of Gurmit’s 20-year career were, inevitably, some “low” moments. 

In 1998, the acclaimed host received an unprecedented amount of negative feedback – to the extent of personal attacks – from the papers for his programme Tonight with Gurmit. A viewer even wrote a letter to the management, saying that he does not want to watch Gurmit on TV anymore because he “did not like his hairstyle as his parting was on the wrong side”.

The comment, which Gurmit labelled as “funny bad”, served as a reminder for him to take other people’s opinions in his stride, as long as he has done his best.

Nevertheless, there was a point where the self-critical Gurmit refused to pick up calls from the producer or show up until the ninth hour. “I couldn’t tahan (take it). My retirement could have been much earlier,” he pointed out.

When his mother and father passed away in 2001 and 2003 respectively, Gurmit had such a hard time dealing with the loss that it affected his work. “My childhood ambition was to own a big house for my parents to live in and to get them a chauffeur so that they can enjoy life as they have worked so hard. But I didn’t get to do that,” he said.

For four years, Gurmit was constantly angry and depressed. If he passed by his parents’ old house, he would start crying while driving. That period of time was especially tough for him, due to his role as a comedian. “Some people didn’t allow me to [grieve]. They still expected me to be funny and happy-go-lucky. Just because I’m a comedian doesn’t mean that I can forget about the death of a family member,” the actor asserted.

Despite his unhappiness at work, the family man never brought home his problems. Hitting up the gym, playing computer games at a LAN shop or going for a long drive were his stress relievers on bad days.

A new T-shirt was released with each season of PCK, and this is Gurmit's favourite design.
A new T-shirt was released with each season of PCK, and this is Gurmit's favourite design.
11 Mar 2015

A new T-shirt was released with each season of PCK, and this is Gurmit's favourite design.

At the end of the interview, Gurmit left a heartfelt message for his fans and viewers. He said: “Thank you very much for the past 20 years of support. You may not realise this, but I want to acknowledge your contribution to my life and career. When you watch my show, you support me; and when you support me, I am able to command a salary and I am able to bring home food and clothes for my family. That may sound ridiculous, but if you look at it hard enough, it is the truth.

If you don’t watch my shows, I cannot be here then I don’t have a livelihood and a career anymore. So I really want to thank you for the past 20 years. I’m not leaving you totally in the dark. I’ll still be around, I’ll still do shows here and there because I want to spend time with my family, and I’m sure you will understand. I’ve given 20 years of my life to you. I just want to give the next 20 and more to my family.”

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
11 Mar 2015

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career

Gurmit shared a badge that he received to mark his “flight” with a Red Lion during one of the NDP rehearsals.

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career
11 Mar 2015

Most memorable moments of Gurmit’s career

Photo: Gurmit Singh's Instagram

This year, Phua Chu Kang was immortalised as a wax figure, joining Madame Tussauds Singapore’s celebrity hall of fame. 

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