I’ve spent a few years working as a humour writer (or as my parents call it, ‘being unemployed’) and the voices in my head always told me I was funny. Also, within each writer is an attention-whore so brazen she makes Sherlyn Chopra look like a nun. These factors, coupled with unholy amounts of beer, pushed me towards my dream of getting up on stage and soiling my pants in front of 300 people.
I’m referring, of course, to my first stand-up comedy performance at Hamateur Night at Blue Frog a few months ago. One stage, 15 amateurs, 2 minutes each – it’s like the comic’s version of ‘Wham Bam Thank you Ma’am!’
To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. (It’s kind of like saying ‘The vuvuzela is annoying’ when what you really want to say is ‘It’s like Himesh’s nose on steroids’.) Waiting in the wings, I was shaking more than Mohammad Ali in a massage chair. However, the loss of my comedy virginity went well, thanks to friends who’d been promised free beer for applause.
Cut to seven months later. I can’t claim to have extensive comedy experience, but by now I’ve spent more time on stage than Sania Mirza ever did at Wimbledon, and as such, I’ve learnt a few things.
For one, nothing beats the thrill of making people laugh, especially if they’re sober. It’s an amazing head-rush, even better than sex. Think about it. No matter how good you are in bed, you’re never going to get a round of applause (unless you’re one of those who try to spawn at Bandstand. That place always has a supportive audience.)
Secondly, stand-up comics are – and I mean this in the nicest way possible – damaged in the head. If you make a career out of writing jokes, you lose the ability to see things straight. For example, a regular person reads a news report about the Queen’s baton coming to India, and moves on without a thought. However, a comic reads the same report and wonders if he can use the phrase ‘queen’s baton’ to describe Elton John’s you-know-what.
It’s great to see the comedy scene in the city picking up, especially with the recent opening of The Comedy Store, an English institution far more relevant than the Royal Family. Audiences are now willing to spend an evening watching stand-up, as opposed to, say, a movie. This makes sense – the last time Bollywood cracked me up was when Sajid Khan referred to himself as a ‘director’.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a full-fledged comedian. I imagine it involves tons of writing, rehearsals and underwear, preferably female, being flung on stage. Also, I can imagine what it must be like to go to a school reunion and meet former classmates – the kind that would eat chalk on a dare – who now head major banks and use important-sounding words like “fiscal synergy”, “fiduciary incentivization”, and “charge the hooker to my expense account”, whereas you spend your day mulling over obscene modifications to Mayawati statues.
(P.S: If that last line made you imagine the statue with a ‘baton’, then you might want to try your hand at comedy. Leave your ego at the door.)
(Note: This is my HT column dated 27th June 2010.)