'Stand-up is the new startup'

'Stand-up is the new startup'

Laugh riot

'Stand-up is the new startup'

There were three trailblazers in the art of stand-up before it seeped into the City, ‘like tea from a tea-bag’, and Praveen Kumar, with his avuncular presence and stereotypical ‘engineer-like’ looks is easily one of its pioneers.

Devoid of any airs and glitz, he began his journey through modest steps and is now one of the few top clean comics in the City, adding to the largesse of stand-up along the way. Today,  his schedules are hectic but the sincerity remains the same.

Praveen Kumar is an exemplar of converting weakness to strength and his recent power-packed performance, ‘Kanchipuram to Koramangala’, is proof enough. The set comprises stories from various incidents of his life, spliced with humourous experiences. Distinct in his style and stage presence, he now has more than 400 corporate shows, all of clean humour, and five standing ovations to his credit.

The tryst began in 2002 in college but the dream took a backseat as he moved on with higher studies. He bounced back to comedy only much later, when he performed at the college alumni night.

He recalls, “It was such a bad show. I don’t even want to remember those jokes. The worst part was that the emcee introduced me like I was the best stand-up comic.”

However, he continued with open-mics and recalls that the scene turned on its head when comedian Vir Das hosted an open-mic competition here.

“We were given only two minutes to try out the act and the prize for the winner was five minutes in the next competition. We saw it as a prestigious prize. I won one of the editions.” Soon, he started alternate week nights in Bacchus with two other comedians. Though neither of them got paid, they were extremely happy that they could perform and went on to give more than 50 shows in the City.

“The turning point in the Indian comedy scene started when ‘Comedy Stores’, a UK brand, came in 2010. I performed with three other foreign comedians and it was the best five minutes for me. However, the owner later told me that I had to tone down my thick, South Indian accent and I was discouraged at first but a friend motivated me to play to my strengths and entertain an Indian audience in my style. So at my next show, I converted the weakness to a strength and stole the show.”

The success story sky-rocketed and he began performing for corporates soon. He says, “In a corporate show, most people are forced to listen to us unlike a public show. One has to get their attention in the first 10 minutes and shouldn’t make them think much. I liked the challenge and tailored my material just for corporates. I dropped my ‘A’ rated jokes and started writing clean material which was very challenging.”

An established expert in an art teeming with new comics by day, Praveen finds this growth as a positive sign. He cites originality, hard-work and consistency as the keys to become successful. “The art is going in the right direction. If not the ‘new engineering’ or the ‘new DSLR’,  stand-up comedy is definitely the ‘new startup’.”