For Munah and Hirzi, their lives are about to become much more bigger than that 10 Dares video they posted back in 2009. The wacky duo, known for their topical parodies on Singapore issues and their flamboyant personas (that leave some onlookers gasping at their antics in public), will hit the telly come Wednesdays when their brand new show, “Munah & Hirzi: Action!” premieres on Mediacorp’s Malay channel, Suria. Maimunah Bagharib and Hirzi Zulkiflie started out as comrades in Temasek Polytechnic’s media course and have since not looked back, racking thousands of hits and solidifying their status as the holders of a new wave of Singapore comedy.
In an email interview with Popspoken, we catch up with Maimunah Bagharib. The duo are busy studying for their exams (all the best, fellas!) but had a bit of time to spare to tell us more about their latest venture. Maimunah also discusses the dynamics working on a television set, closing down their YouTube channel (OMG!) and being scared of spiders. Of course, she also has some things to say to her enduring fans who have stuck with the duo through thick, thin and Hubab. Here we go!
Popspoken: Since starting out 3 years ago, was having a TV show ever in the cards for the both of you? How do you feel about reaching this stage in your careers?
Maimunah: Not at all. A lot of people have asked us, whether this path is what we intended for. But honestly, when we first got on to YouTube, we just did it for fun and to share videos among our friends. We didn’t realise at the point, Youtube was a growing medium and that other people would be able to catch on to our videos as well. When we fist posted up 10 Dares on MunahHirziOfficial, we wanted to just share it between our closer friends but other people starting watching and liking it and then asking for more. And we though, “hmm, this could be something”. The rest is history.
Hirzi and I, even before YouTube, have always been interested in drama. So right after graduating from Temasek Polytechnic in Communications & Media Management, Hirzi started chasing his acting dream and going door to door for auditions. I followed suit and that’s how we started our acting career. YouTube and acting started separately but I guess through time, as we both were involved in YouTube and acting at the same time, these two started to merge. And in some ways, it has helped us grow a lot more as performers and writers. It’s really been like a dream how things work out because we’ve been putting in a lot of time and effort in our acting career as well as our YouTube videos.
Tell us a little bit more about the TV show “Munah & Hirzi: Action!”. How did the concept came about and how has the filming process been thus far?
It’s a drama loosely based on our lives as Munah & Hirzi, in terms of YouTube and the progression to something else. A writer from Papahan Films approached us and told us about this concept he thought of and he had us. So we sat down, penned some things down and voila, a drama about our lives.
Filming was a real great experience. We had an amazing crew to work with and the cast involved are just stellar. Actors like Bobby Tonelli, Rafi Khan, Nadiah M. Din and even new faces like Ateeqah Mazlan and Ainon Talib were just a few that were part of this cast. Everyone in this production is just amazing in their own way and we always have a blast on set. It’s really nice to be able to work with people you can really click with and work doesn’t feel like work at all. It really drives your passion.
Your guerilla-style videos are outrageously campy and have indeed garnered a healthy following. Do you think Suria’s crowd will be as accepting of your style of humour than the online crowd has been i.e. your typical makcik tudung?
Nowadays, hardly anyone watches television anymore.
I guess what Suria and any other TV channel is doing at the moment is trying to tap into the Internet audience. Nowadays, hardly anyone watches television anymore. If we want to watch something, we turn to the Internet, we go online. The Internet is a powerful medium and it garners a whole lot of viewers so I guess when something from YouTube goes over to television, viewers would want to follow up and find out what’s going on.
Hirzi and I are very fortunate to have such wonderful followers, some have even been with us since day 1 of YouTube. And some started to follow us when Hirzi and I broke into the acting industry in 2009, when we started to act for dramas on Suria. These followers are the people we are doing our craft for. These are the people who held bring us to where we are today. And I’m sure they are ready for a change and for something fresh.
I must admit, Hirzi and I do get negative comments once in a while. I mean, there’s always bound to be someone who has something bad to say. But we take that as something constructive and work towards being better. At the end of the day, we know all that matters is that we know who we are, what we stand for and that we have got such amazing followers behind up every step of the way. I really am so thankful for them.
How has working with each other been different on the TV show as it is on the YouTube channel? Any idiosyncracies that have popped up on set that you both haven’t realised about one another before working on the show?
Actually Hirzi and I have worked together for TV dramas on Suria before. We have a good working chemistry. We respect each other’s crafts and talents and we help each other out when we know there is some room for improvement. And even if we disagree on something, be it for Youtube or work, we know to keep it as that. It won’t affect our friendship. I guess we both have an understanding that when it comes to work, it’s work and when it’s friendship, it’s friendship. These two shouldn’t mix and mess everything up.
Both of you have been working in other projects of late, with Happy Ever Laughter etc. Once the offers for other opportunities show up often, does that mean the end of your YouTube channel or will it just be a hiatus? How long do you see yourselves doing YouTube videos for?
Actually, since a year back, we have been taking up other jobs that come from YouTube, such as clienteles who engage us to create content for a campaign. Hirzi even got offered to write for Dream Academy’s Productions in The Hossan Leong Show & Happy Ever Laughter. So throughout the years of YouTube, we’ve also been working outside of YouTube on many other projects.
We have announced that we are closing our channel down by the end of the year. But we are not going on a YouTube hiatus because we are getting offers. We are doing it for ourselves as individuals. Hirzi just started school at Chapman University and I’m graduating from the National University of Singapore. It’s time that we focus our attention on the main priorities now, which is where do we go in our careers as individuals. The channel will still always be there and even though we won’t be producing as many videos, we’d still be there to keep everyone updated on what we’ve been up to. So it’s not really an end, it’s just us taking some time to find ourselves and hopefully be better in what we are doing.
Your fearlessness on videos shines through in the parodies and the unsuspecting onlookers. Is there anything that scares you? How did the fearlessness and the all-out bravado come about?
Spiders! Haha. Other than that, I think the fact that you love what you’re doing and you’re doing it with your best friend, that itself is a major factor in helping you be fearless, if you call it that. Hirzi and I have always been a little off (heh) and we love to just be wacky. So when I first met Hirzi, I immediately made a connection with him and we know that whatever crazy things we do, we will always have each other’s back. That helps a lot, having someone you trust and who believes and supports you always.
Anything you want to say to your fans?
That we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are without all their love and support. It might sound cliched, but it’s true. Our followers are always there for us and always back us up when someone says something negative. Sometimes, you get so caught up with doing what you’re doing, you tend to lose the passion for the work. But when someone comes up to you and says “You know what, I appreciate your work” or “I really look up to you”, it humbles you and reminds you about why you’re doing this in the first place. At least that’s how we both feel. Being appreciated for the work you put up is amazing and it’s really the followers that help keep us going and keep our passion alive.
Munah & Hirzi: Action! premieres October 17, Wednesday, 9pm on Suria.