Serious about comedy

Serious about comedy
There are quite a few adjectives to describe Vamsidhar Bhogaraju — funny (he is a standup comedian, after all), talented (winner of RAW Comedy Festival, winner of the Red FM ‘Stand up and Bajao’ contest; proof enough), popular (he has performed alongside national and internationals comics such as Suresh Menon, Dan Nainan, Justin Hamilton, Kate MacLenan, Ronny Chieng, Nish Kumar and ElbowSkin) and also... ex-salesman (he quit his job as a lingerie salesman!). Evidently, Vamsidhar is not your regular person. He describes himself as tall, lanky and cranky and says that since he is unmarried and lives with his parents at the age of 35, he is also the least eligible bachelor in town.

Having recently performed at Hard Rock Cafe for ‘The Next Big Thing’, the biggest stand-up comedy show in Bengaluru, the funny man turns serious and talks to Rajitha Menon about standup, its challenges and the perks.

Tel us about your journey in standup comedy?
My friend signed me up for this standup comedy competition called ‘Punchline’ and I managed to make it to the final round. It’s been a pretty fascinating journey since then. I’ve got to travel the country and meet a lot of interesting people. The best thing about standup comedy is that it is such a leveler. It keeps you grounded.

How did your parents react when you said you wanted to do this?
My parents were a little apprehensive initially but now I think they have lost all hope. On a serious note, they have lost all hope.  

Which is the best compliment that you have received so far?
As comedians, I think we constantly seek validation through laughs, applause breaks and so on. There was this one show after which an audience member sent me a mail saying she hadn’t laughed in over a year since her grandfather’s demise and she thanked me for helping her get through that phase of life. That was quite special.

Who would be the hardest audience to please?
At open mics, which are venues where we workshop our material, we often find customers who have turned up to the venue just to have a quiet drink and relax. They aren’t there for a comedy show. Getting them to sit through the show is quite a task.

A comedian you hate.
Every comedian has his/her own style and the market is large enough for all styles to co-exist. While I might not subscribe to a few styles, I don’t hate any comedian. The scene is just too nascent for any hatred to exist. That said, any comedian caught stealing a joke will be hated by everyone in the community.

Something that the audience does that annoys you?
Happens very rarely, but there will be a couple of people who will loudly talk among themselves or talk loudly on the phone. This is disrespectful to the comedian as well as the rest of the audience who are there to watch the show.

Your thoughts before you went on stage for the first time?
I love the spotlight and I wanted to make the most of my time in it. I was looking forward to having fun on stage.

Being mean and making fun of people is kind of synonymous with ‘being funny’ these days. Your thoughts on this?
I don’t believe so. In fact most of the successful comedians that I know of, do not even curse on stage. Like I said, everyone has their own style and those comedians who do pick on the audience usually follow up with a joke. It’s not just insults being thrown.

Thoughts about the standup scene in Bengaluru?
It’s growing at a steady pace. Sanjay Manaktala, Sundeep Rao, Praveen Kumar and Ahmed Shariff have set up a very strong foundation for comedy here. The Bengaluru comedy circuit is very supportive to new talent and very accommodative of out-station comedians. But there aren’t enough comedians in the country. I hope more people take up comedy and keep at it.

Which is your favourite venue in the city?
I enjoy performing at various places. ‘Hard Rock’ is lovely venue and is run very efficiently by ‘The Awkward Fruit’. All the comedian wants is an atmosphere that’s conducive for comedy — good sound and light, right seating for the audience and no distractions. ‘Awkward Fruit’ has got all the basics right.

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