The Day I 'Lost' It - India's Top Stand Up Comedians Talk About Bold Moments that Defined Their Life
To make people laugh, is a tricky business, especially if you are a stand-up comedian. Either you have your audiences rolling on the floor with laughter, or you, die a horrible, tumbleweed-across-the-stage death. It takes guts to stand – up in front of a crowd and deliver gag after gag in an attempt to entertain. And like any other performing medium, the beginning is always the toughest, it takes courage to make that first bold move. Firstly, you have to battle your own inhibitions, followed by turning a deaf ear to the many advice coming your way, which indirectly are stopping you from living your dreams. However, like the old saying goes— nothing is impossible to a willing heart, if you have the talent and the will to pursue it, there is nothing that can stop you. And the four comedians we spoke to, set perfect inspiration as they recall that one moment when they lost it and made that bold move, which changed their destiny.
(Having done over 250 shows in over 17 cities, Sorabh Pant is one of India’s most successful comedians. He has been rated amongst India's top 10 stand-up comedians by the Times of India. Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan has testified him as ‘the funniest guy on stage.’)
“The day I lost it was on December 8, 2008. I had a show at India Habitat Center with Vir Das. It was the first time I ever did comedy and it is never a smart thing to go do standup for the first time in front of 400 people. I still did it because Vir was very supportive and additionally, I made the decision to do it on the basis of doing anything I have ever done i.e. because it sounded like it would be fun.
Of course, I was completely wrong —I was so nervous that my 10-minute routine was finished in about 4 minutes. It was the ultimate premature ejaculation of comedy. I got one laugh and that too was a laugh of relief when people realized that I was leaving the stage.
I never consciously set out to be a stand-up comedian. Six years back that was never an option. It just happened and I love it. I used to love stand-up comedians and I never knew I could be one of them. The reaction of people for the first year as a comedian was tepid as best. I still keep apologizing to anyone who saw me before 2012, because it took a while to become good.
My family was really supportive but skeptical. But, their skepticism evaporated once the cheques started coming in. As with most things - money chases success and stupidity!”
(Tagged as one of the most promising names on the comedy circuit, Sahil Shah is one of India’s youngest professional comedians. As a stand-up comedian, he is seen regularly at the Canvas Laugh Factory, NCPA and a number of pubs and clubs across the country.)
“I was always the funny guy in the group and I was the one with the worst jokes. One day I was encouraged to try out this rubbish at an open mike night and when I realized people were laughing even though they did not know me, I lost it and realized this is what I wanted to do. Then I bent down and picked up all the spare change they threw on the ground.
My parents are doctors. They kind of abandoned me because I have a younger brother and they hope he will be the one earning the money in the family. In all honesty, everyone has been super supportive and I thank my friends for being there for my first show and supporting me and preventing me from bombing. Now it's the greatest thing ever because I'm one of the few people doing something that I love and also earning from it!”
(Atul Khatri is a 40+ guy, who got up late in life and decided to do English Stand-up comedy so that he could tick it off his own bucket list. An Indian Computer Engineer and a British Management Scholar, Atul brings in a fresh 40+ perspective into the world of stand-up comedy. CNN-IBN recently rated him as one of the top 20 Comedians in India to watch out for.)
“This thing was growing inside me for a very long time. I wanted to do something different and it became my New Year resolution for Jan 2012 that I have to do something different. Before stand-up comedy, I had tried my hand at DJing too. I was 45-year-old then and somewhere at the back of my mind I had this thing that I don’t want to have any regrets when I retire and grow old. I never want to think then that ‘Oh I should have done this, I should have done that.’ I firmly believe that we have only one life and one should live it to the maximum. So the trigger point for stand-up comedy was New Year’s resolution. I went and registered myself at the first open mike, which was happening on Jan 2, 2012. I had never done stand-up before, I was never a stage person either so I had to kill a lot of demons to go up on the stage. And your first open night should be like that; your throat should get dry, your hands should shiver, your legs should tremble… all that happened to me. I did not tell anyone that I was doing this. Not to my children, not to my friends …I only told my wife, who accompanied me. There were around 30-40 people and fortunately I did well. I won that open mike. I started doing more open mikes and within 8-9 months I was doing professional stand-up comedy.
My parents thought ‘beta pagal hogaya hai,’ however my children, who are in their teens were very cool about it. My wife was very supportive and my friends were proud of me.”
(Danish Sait is an Indian actor, radio jockey, TV host, prankster and a comedian who is always ready to make you smile. One can hear him loud and clear on his prank show on Fever 104 FM Bangalore and see him perform at The Improv)
“I think my moment when I decided to venture into what I am doing today, was when I quit my radio job in Dubai. My boss pulled me into a studio and said – You are leaving Dubai and going back to India… what will you do? Become a star?’ - And I guess I said - ‘yes I will become a star’, somewhere from within and here I am today. I am not a star yet, but it my boss saying in a very scornful way that I am not going to do well, triggered something in me. I think that was the moment for me. I believe that success silence a lot of people and I started with that zeal and a lot of anger and anguish. To be honest, I never had a moment as such about when I decided ‘oh this is what I want to do’ because I always knew what I wanted to do in my life. For me, it was the moment when I decided to do better in life. I think that one moment that really turned me around was when my boss pulled me into the room and said really mean things to me, I think that was the turning point. After I quit my job in Dubai a lot of people said great move, but nobody ever gave me that reaction of ‘oh wow we are proud of you.’ I felt that I had to do better, I felt people had boxed me down and I had to come back harder.”
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