Wilbur Spreads His Comedic Gospel of Love
During the 1970s and ’80s multitalented actor Benyamin Sueb, popularly know as Benyamin S, was the darling of the Indonesian entertainment industry, known for his thick Betawi dialect, tacky humor and exaggerated inferiority.
His films are still broadcast on local television. And in 2000, the brutally satiric “Da Ali G Show” premiered, launching the career of Sasha Baron Cohen, who would go on to even greater heights of awkwardness with Bruno and Borat.
Appearing in Jakarta this Saturday, Canadian comic-musician Wilbur Sargunaraj, known as Wilbur, may just be the missing link between Benyamin and Borat.
With his “Love Marriage” video set to hit a half-million views on YouTube, the comic is becoming an increasingly well-known on the Web, with film critic and cultural commentator Roger Ebert tweeting “Wilbur Wants a Love Marriage. Dare you not to like this Indian music video with its smiling bride.”
Wilbur is the alter-ego of percussionist Paul Benjamin, a Canadian of Indian descent who is credited as Wilbur’s producer. His catchy, synthesizer-driven songs are marked by their intentionally amateurish production and goofy earnestness, mixing Bollywood with euro-techno, while his taped interviews with unsuspecting strangers channel Cohen’s knack for deception, minus the mean-spiritedness that runs through much of the Borat’s and Bruno’s ambushes.
Instead, Wilbur’s humor is aimed at the larger goal of fostering cross-cultural unity.
Local filmmaker Sandeep Ray is responsible for bringing Wilbur to Jakarta. “I saw his ‘Love Marriage’ video and was mesmerized by it!
There is something simple, charming and almost innocent about it. It stands out in this era of slick, overproduced music videos with pretty leads,” Ray said.
“I think Jakarta clubbers will love it. It’s catchy, easy to sing along with, very campy and high energy.”
After writing Wilbur to express his admiration, Ray discovered that the comedian was appearing in Singapore and Cambodia this month.
“I dared to ask him if he would considering coming to Jakarta if adequate arrangements could be made. To my delight, he said yes. The only clause was that he wanted to perform for a children’s charity benefit.”
Ray said he formed a “Wilbur committee” with a group of friends to organize the benefit, and they were able to book Eastern Promise bar in Kemang for Saturday’s show.
The profit from the performance will be donated to Balarenik children’s charity in East Jakarta. “We got the open air venue [at Eastern Promise] for free because of the owner’s generosity,” Ray said, adding that local performers would be on hand to give Wilbur some lessons in dangdut and Balinese dancing.
On Friday, Wilbur is scheduled to perform for 30 children living at the Balarenik shelter.
“Yes, he is funny and cheeky, a non-conformist, a fantastic performer and has a great ear for pop compositions,” Ray said. “ ‘Love Marriage’ isn’t just a cute song, it actually touches upon a very old debate in this catchy, campy way and so there is a bit of an activist in Wilbur too. [He’s] a real 21st-century electronic pop maverick.”
Wilbur Sargunaraj is live in concert titled ‘Break Some Downs’ on Saturday, June 26 at 8 p.m. in Eastern Promise, Jl. Kemang Raya No. 5, Kemang, South Jakarta. Tickets are priced Rp 100,000 and proceeds go to the Balarenik children’s charity.