Just for laughsConversations — By Kadambari Khaire-Ghate on June 29, 2011 at 10:47 AM
Tanmay Bhat and Ashish Skakya were recently in town for an act. We took the opportunity to speak with them and understand what it takes to be a comedian.
Tanmay Bhat is a 23 year old comic from Mumbai. He’s also a part of Weirdass Comedy, India’s premiere comedy consulting company. Tanmay also wrote comedy for Indian television and is a complete fun guy who takes laughter seriously.
I am a comic and I also work for a comedy consulting company. My work is to write jokes every day narrate them and make people laugh and I get paid for that. Why would anyone not want to do a job like this? It’s a fun life. I was always a funny kid, the class clown, known as the funny guy. I got a chance to participate in Hamateur Night organised by Vir Das and I happen to win it. After my performance, making people laugh seemed lot more fun and gigs just kept happening. This wasn’t something that I had planned, it just happened.
What does it take to be a comedian?
Best comics are people who speak the truth in a way that nobody else has said it before. If you are not honest about what you are talking, it will show on stage. People in the audience should feel like yes he is the kind of guy with whom I can have a conversation.
[pullquote_right]Best comics are people who speak the truth in a way that nobody else has said it before.[/pullquote_right]
What is the most difficult thing as a comedian?
To make people laugh! In the initial stage of my career, the first couple of times were difficult for me. Every time I said something and people did not laugh, I felt bad as to why they are not laughing because that is meant to be funny. With performance you get better. Even today when I go on stage, I am nervous, just the way when I was during my first performance. It is just that I am slightly more used to the tension than before.
Do you have any interesting memories of your first ever performance?
The funny thing about my performance is, when I get off the stage, I completely forget about what happened. But I do remember doing jokes on my weight and people were actually laughing. That was the first time people were laughing with me and not at me. That actually made me feel good.
Tell us something about Weirdass Comedy, India’s premiere comedy consulting company?
The company was started by Vir Das and now I am a part of it. It is fairly simple. People come to us with their script and tell us to make it funny. Apart from that we do tons of other things. We do a lot of concept comedy at the Comedy Store. Vir has his own comedy rock band. We are writing comedy movies and books. Basically we are putting our foot in anything and everything that has to do with comedy.
Comedians you look up to?
Loads of them. Among Indians, Vir Das is the best comic I have seen. Internationally I am a huge fan of comics like Speak the Truth, Gorge Carlin, Chris Rock etc, basically all the classic comics.
Ashish Shakya is a stand-up comedian, humour columnist and a TV writer. On the TV front, he’s worked with brands that include MTV, Channel V, Bindass and as of now, has been co-writing the hit news satire show ‘The Week That Wasn’t with Cyrus Broacha’ on CNN-IBN for more than three years.
I enjoy all of these roles actually because they all are interconnected. Half the stand up is in your writing. We are all primarily writers and began from there. I have fun doing all of it and they all give me different sorts of satisfaction.
How different is to write for Television and a live audience?
Television and print by itself is different. There are formats and things that you can and cannot do when writing for television. In stands up, you are free to do anything in front of the live audience.
Any memories of your first ever live performance as a comedian?
Yes, it was at Ham nights November 2008. It was 2 minutes gig and I had written a page of joke. It was passed among the comedians to get feedback. That was my first performance and my delivery was also bad. As an amateur, it was still better but today when I look at it, it feels odd.
[pullquote_right]Being funny consistently without getting repetitive, holding audience attention and making them laugh is challenging[/pullquote_right]
Is there a lot of thought process and preparation behind every performance?
Yes there is. You have bank of material ready and most of it is already performed. So just mix it up when performing in different cities. But you certainly need practice for it and also be prepared to be in a position to handle unexpected. Sometimes, when on stage things will not go the way you want. As per the audience reaction, you should be able to jump from one act to another or start interacting with the audience and so on. Of course all this comes with practice.
What is the most challenging thing as a comedian?
Being funny consistently without getting repetitive, holding audience attention and making them laugh is challenging. You have to be funny but also smart. Sometimes your creativity just dips and you have to get out of that trap. There are days when even little efforts work but on a bad day, even loads of efforts may not work. As an artist, whether you are a new comer or professional, you are going to be nervous before going on stage and I think that is a good thing. One thing to remember as a performer is to always be clam and composed on stage.
Was there any instance when you found it hard to make people laugh?
Yes there was. We do corporate shows too. So in one of those shows, the employees were not aware about the comedy act. So, there we were cracking jokes and there was not a single laughter. They basically wanted to sit and get drunk. That was terrible but again there is always learning.
What do you have to say about the Indian comedy shows taking place on TV?
Not my sensibilities I don’t watch them.
Comedians that make you laugh?
Quite a lot of them. Chris Rock, Gorge Carling, Robin Williams and the list just goes on.