'I've evolved enough over time'

'I've evolved enough over time'

Papa CJ has had many firsts in the  standup comedy world. He has won awards for being the best standup comedian in Asia. He's also the only Indian to have shot a solo special with Comedy Central Asia. He has performed over 2,000 shows in 25 countries and Forbes Magazine has  given him the title of 'the global face of Indian standup'.  

Papa CJ was in the city recently to host the 'Black Dog Easy Evenings' at Manpho where he showcased his love for the stage.  He spoke to Anila Kurian about how the comedy scene in India has changed over the years.  

How was the show?

It was just as the tagline of the event says, 'let the world wait'. It was a night to turn your phones off and just focus on the show. It was
all about being in the moment.

For someone who has been a part of the comedy scene in India for a long time, how do you think it has changed over the years?

There's a lot more opportunity and everybody has an access to the stage now. Having said that, the way one presents themselves these days needs some working on. And expectations of the audiences have also changed so the comedians are constantly trying  to make their work stand out.

What do you think makes good comedy content?

You need to have the confidence to make people laugh. Usually, everyone goes for the easy joke and then do the observational ones. But because of the nature of the medium these days, many experiment with the edgy ones. It doesn't always work unless you have the confidence to pull it off.

So what can a comedian do to improve his work?

It takes a lot of time to be comfortable with yourself. If you're trying to say something that you don't believe yourself, know that the audience will see through it. The beauty is when you find that and have a voice of your own. The audience will teach you but you need to be willing to learn from them too.  

How important do you think it is to be original with your work?

Well, as someone who has performed in different parts of the world, I can say with confidence that every Indian comedian on the planet is accused of copying Russell Peters. That's just how it is. So producing original content is critical but it's important to know that it's okay to approach the same subjects but have a different point of view.


Is there a type of comedy that you don't like?

I've evolved enough over time to look back at my own old videos and accept that they were terrible. It shows that I've grown. Having said that, I don't like roasts as they are hurtful. Insult comedy is not something I enjoy.

What's something that your audiences have taught you?

Humility. I believe that you are only as good as your last gig and if you don't deliver on the spot, then you're just not good.


What do you do when you goof up on stage?

Whenever I tell a joke and I see that people haven't laughed, especially when I know that my joke is good, I usually say, "I have done over 2,000 shows and if you don't laugh, you are the problem. I know I am good so I am judging you for not laughing".

What do you think about the places you perform at?

America is the McDonald's of comedy; they want everything like fast food. In Europe, it's like fine dining; they have the patience to listen to a three-minute story that you know will pay off at the end. But in India, English language is different in different parts of the country. Here,  the  more local and topical it gets, the funnier it is.  

What does your day off look like?

I don't have a day. I have a night. I really don't surface before lunch (laughs).

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