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Standup Comedy
Parul Chabra
Compere: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome onstage, Indian laughter on the international comedy scene, the rising voice of a billion people - Papa CJ.

(In walks Papa CJ with his bouncing black locks, into the spotlight on stage. He waves generally at the pub audience at Novotel Hyderabad, whom he can’t see clearly as the lights are turned down on them. He waves anyway, hoping that all the chairs are filled this night, as usual.)

If you don’t know him yet, I guess you’re out of touch with stand up comics, so let me give you a very brief introduction.

(Papa CJ groans; gives a weak smile; shifts his feet.)

Compere: Papa shot to fame on the NBC TV show Last Comic Standing – where he beat 3,000 contestants to reach the final 10. He has also performed on British and Australian television, besides touring the world with his jokes.
(This compere is probably talking too much; Papa CJ gets a mike of his own.)
Papa: Stand-up comedy is an art form best enjoyed live and not in front of a TV screen. It’s a bit like sex - there really isn’t any substitute for actually being there. As far as I’m concerned, watching stand-up on TV is like surfing comedy porn.

A self professed direct descendent of the Maharaj of Merebaapkaraj (mere-baap-ka-raj), Papa was born in Delhi, brought up in Kolkata and moved to London to do his MBA at Oxford. He worked as a management consultant there for five years. And when IBM gave him an year’s sabbatical to do some soul searching, Papa found himself liking the comedy clubs, so he chucked his ‘job’ after an year of trying it out, and has since become the only native Indian stand up act in UK.

Papa: You wouldn’t know that you like orange cream biscuits unless you’ve eaten them. So when I saw these stand ups, I told myself, “Hey, I can do that,” and went ahead and tried doing it. I realised I can make more money waking up late, never wearing a tie or a suit, never having to commute at rush hour, always traveling to interesting places around the world, working less than two hours a day, exercising free speech in its truest form and of course, spreading laughter and cheer.

Com: So you were laughing all the way to the bank? Funny money?
The first year was particularly tough. It meant waking up at 11 AM everyday, having a meal at 2 PM, hitting the road at 4 PM to some obscure town. I’d get back to London by 2 AM and spend another two hours taking different night busses to get home because I couldn’t afford a cab. Sometimes I’d travel eight hours for a five minute gig, with no money in it. At the end of it, I had no money, no relationships and no sanity and no life. One whole year I did that – and when I got tired of being thus poor, I stopped the routine. But at the end of it, every manager and promoter knew me. When I fly in to England now and see all those lights on the citysphere, all the small dots on the map – I’ve performed there. Maybe I haven’t seen around the cities, maybe I’ve seen only the insides of the pubs there; but I’ve been there, done that. (Sad music plays in the background. Actually no – Papa’s routines don’t have music, mostly. It’s all him, uncensored.)

That’s a miserable comedian! I know you won’t mind me saying that, because you announce in your shows that political correctness is not to be expected. You make jokes at the disabled, at being Indian in a western culture and of course, a whole lot of sexual jokes.

Papa: Comedy is tragedy plus time, to quote Woody Allen. You can’t joke on a bad thing while it is fresh, but down the years, you can. Most comics are miserable human beings. It is through their pain and misery that they try to discover laughter. Comedy is their vent.

Com: Why is that most things funny are about sexual or profane things?
Papa: We Indians are embarrassed of laughing openly at dirty jokes. Which is why I’ve learnt to turn the lights down on the audience, so that they can laugh when no one is watching. I always start very sweet, nice and polite, mixing new jokes with the old. And slowly, I will push the line. Unless you push the line, you won’t know that a line exists. But I am not here to hurt people. And not all comedians are like me there are non non-veg jokes too.

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