'Humour is a powerful tool'

'Humour is a powerful tool'

Comic timing

As one of the finalist on American reality show Last Comic Standing in its sixth season in 2008, Papa CJ became known as the ‘Global Face of Indian Stand-up’. The New Delhi-born and Oxford-educated stand-up comedian spoke to Metrolife about his style of comedy and today’s comedy scene ahead of the new season of the American reality show which will be broadcast on FX and FX HD channels.

You specifically call yourself an “Indian” comedian and not international even though you are known abroad.

Somehow people have this perception in India that if it is ‘international’ it is better. I have a big problem with that. I’m Indian. And my country has people with great talent. And I don’t appreciate them being treated with less respect and dignity especially in our own country. More often than not they can cater to the tastes of our audiences far better than international performers. Even more so in art forms like comedy.

Comedians often shed bad light on India through their jokes. Why so? 

To each their own. Each comedian makes decisions based on their own value systems and point of view. Personally, I like to portray India in a positive light when I perform abroad. As regards to performing in India, let’s not forget that humour is a powerful tool to show a mirror to society. And I see nothing wrong with healthy criticism if it leads to laughter, change or both. Not everything is fantastic within our borders and sometimes just hearing and acknowledging that is the first step in the right direction.

How has comedy evolved especially with the likes of social media channels AIB, TVF, Being Indian ?

The pace of growth of comedy is off the charts, especially with the demand for content in the digital and online space. These various media also give comedians a shortcut to wide recognition if they can create content that gets widely shared. My passion however remains working with live audiences.

Does comedy and vulgarity go hand in hand today?

As it has ever occurred to you that it may be the audience that is ‘vulgar’ and not the comedian? Comedians say things on stage because they see people laughing at them. If you don’t want comedians to say certain things, stop laughing when they say it. Rest assured we will stop saying it.
 
Which Indian comedian would you like to see in Last Comic Standing, Season 8?

Varun Grover. He has a unique voice and I love watching him on any platform. I think Sundeep Rao would do very well on the show too.

Your upcoming projects?

The one I’m most excited about is the India Tour of my new show Naked in January 2016 across seven cities in India. It’s a multi-genre production that comprises elements of theatre, comedy, improv, poetry, music and dancing and I believe it is my most raw, honest and compelling show till date.

Your advice for budding stand-ups?

No advice at all. Each of us are the sum total of our own experiences and must carve our own paths and tell our own stories based on our lives and truths and not those passed on to us by others.

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