Comedy's in her genes

Comedy's in her genes

drama queen

Comedy's in her genes

Nervous? I am like a little puppy in a pitch-dark room!” says Jamie Lever, as we meet during the run-up to her next stage performance.

“So, this is my combat strategy: I make sure I look cool and confident (though on the inside, I am a tangled mess of nerves) and sit confidently like a boss, with my legs splayed, chest out, and with a smug look...Then I carry that persona on stage. It helps. Fake it till you make it. Don’t they say that at Ted talks?” We guffaw and the mood is set for a rambling conversation.

“But I feel it is good to feel nervous as you stay grounded,” says Jamie. Tough to believe that she feels nervous, as she has wrapped up over 150 live shows with her dad — the evergreen comedian Johnny Lever. “I love my dad, but being Johnny Lever’s daughter is both a boon and a bane. People expect me to crack a joke every other minute or randomly spout his dialogues from his films, or go ‘yabba dabba jabba’ or something,” says Jamie.

Familial beginnings

“It is a blessing because people treat me with so much respect. Dad’s got so much goodwill in the industry. But he never wanted to me to get into the entertainment business, what with the late hours, nonsensical schedules, the seamier side, etc. He has always been so protective. Just so that you get the drift, sleepovers were never allowed as he always says you have your own home and bed to come back to. Past 6 pm, he would start asking what time I was coming home,” explains Jamie.

Talking about her turning point, she says, “My dad was touring the UK when I told him that I wanted to be a stand-up comic. So, he came to London to audition me. I had mustered up the passion, confidence and scripted my own act. He made a few changes and gave me 10 minutes on stage as part of his show. I was zapped at the thunderous ovation I received.”

But did Jamie ever dream of being a comedian? “No! Even today, aunties sidle up and say, ‘Kuch life mein serious karogi ya sirf comedy karogi?’ But you know, when I was in a 9 to 5 job earlier, those were the worst days of my life! I used to sit in front of the computer, feeling sad and horrible and telling myself that this wasn’t life,” she reveals.

Jamie is one movie old. She starred with Kapil Sharma in Kis Kisko Pyar Karoon, but hasn’t signed on any other film after that. “Everyone wants to stereotype you and put you in the same bag-of-laughs role again and again,” she says. Then, the offer to co-host the talent show Sabse Bada Kalakaar (SBK) on the telly came along.

“I can’t be a normal host. It is just too boring. I am a comedian, and I am happy with gags and hosting red carpet events. On SBK, I get to do impromptu character play and show my kalaakari. The show centres around the talent of kids in the age group of 5-12 years and I have great fun interacting with them. In each episode, I enact a different personality. I have imitated Farah Khan, Asha Bhonsle...so there is an element of surprise. I feel that to be a good comedian, you have to keep the bachpana alive in yourself,” says this comedian.

Setting herself apart

What is it that she has that her dad doesn’t? “Keeda!” she laughs. Then adds, “As a female comic, I bring in a fresh perspective, a humorous take on women’s problems. Sometimes, women audiences do not identify with men bringing up such topics. Also, I bring in a spot of sureela singing during my acts. Like my mimicry of singer Asha Bhonsle is appreciated so much by the audience. Actually, I have learnt from my dad to listen to the audience and to go along with the flow. For instance, earlier, I used to keep wondering why I should imitate my father again and again? People have access to so much humour these days: there are so many jokes on the social media and the Internet. As a comic, I need to offer something different, new and fresh. But people love my mimicry of dad, so I do it as well as a part of my act.”

At 29, Jamie writes her own script, with inputs from her dad and her uncle. “Every act is a Lever production,” she says. So, where do the meat and fodder come from? “Current affairs, anything trending on social media, any new emoticon....anything new,” shares Jamie.

Of course, she loves watching old Bollywood and Hollywood films, reality shows on the telly, and attending comic shows. Will we get to see her as a participant in a reality show? “Never! I will never be a part of one, but I love observing the body language of the participants and how they act under stress. My entire family loves watching Big Boss,” she says.

Drama queen, chatty and cool, Jamie Lever promises to be the next game changer. We are rooting for you, Jamie!

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