A global face of Indian humour

Celebrity comedian

Papa CJ has been pushing boundaries of the country’s fast growing humour industry. His grip on the art form can hardly be restricted to the Indian sub-continent. He was invited to perform his new show Naked at prestigious institutions such as Harvard Business School, The Soho Theatre, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, at Tufts University and
Carolines on Broadway.

Metrolife got candid with the comedian who talks about his journey and latest projects.

Excerpts:

When did you realise that you wanted to become a stand-up comedian?

I went to the Edinburgh Festival in August 2004 and saw stand-up comedy for the first time. I remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever — just one man on stage with a microphone having fun. And that was his job! Three months later, I was on stage for the first time. I did 250 gigs in my first 10 months and never looked back.

How was the support from your family and friends?

Phenomenal! Especially from my parents. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have made
it even half way to where I am now.

Tell us the experience of your first performance?

My first performance was on a boat called The Wibbly Wobbly Boat on the river Thames in South East London. It was infamous for being a rough and difficult gig, but I managed to hold my own and lived to tell the tale.

Why the name Papa CJ?

That’s something you’ll find out when you see my show, Naked.

In your opinion, how easy/difficult is it to become a comedian in India?

It is at least a hundred if not a thousand times easier to become a professional comedian in India than it is in the UK or the US. When I started out in London in 2004, if you wanted a five minute spot at a decent comedy club you had to compete with at least 500 other new comics who wanted the very same spot. In countries where the comedy scene is more established, it is not only much harder to get work but also much harder to
distinguish yourself and get noticed.

What according to you are the primary roadblocks?

Your own mindset.

Have you ever faced any criticism for your work?

Sure I have. When it is not constructive I ignore it and when there are valid points I try and learn from it and improve. Sometimes though the critic and I just see the world differently and that’s fine too.

What is your philosophy of life?

Smile!

You have worked with many big names. Anyone left in your wish list?

I’d love to get an insight into the minds of Chris Rock and Louis CK – to see how they go from taking an idea to a finished routine.

What lies ahead?

My solo show Naked was invited to premiere at Carolines on Broadway in New York where it received two standing ovations on it’s Broadway debut. It was an honour to be invited to be a part of that select club where headliners like Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld,
Chris Rock, Jay Leno and Jon Stewart had performed. My show Naked is also the first ever show from an Indian comedian that has been invited to premiere at the prestigious Soho Theatre in London this February.

This month I was also invited by Harvard Business School to speak at The India Conference in Boston. While I was there The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy invited me to give two guest lectures on The Arts of Communication course that is attended by students of Harvard, MIT and Tufts. As regards future plans, often even I don’t know them until just before. However, I have been invited to host the award ceremony on the closing night of the New York Indian Film Festival in May 2016.


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