Mandate - - Creative Minds -


‘I come from the land of the Ka­ma­su­tra and I can screw you in more ways than you can count.’ Papa CJ’s sig­na­ture line has got­ten laughs across the world and has made In­dian men a lit­tle prouder of their her­itage. The Ox­ford MBA and for­mer man­age­ment con­sul­tant has toured sell- out shows across four con­ti­nents, been on var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional com­edy fes­ti­vals and prime time TV shows. We caught up with the standup comic for a quickie.

How do you come up with ideas?

By be­ing a keen ob­server of the world around me, the news I read and the ex­pe­ri­ences I go through...with an eye for find­ing the fun in them.

Do you some­times con­sciously stop think­ing of ideas and let your sub­con­scious mind do the work for you?

Given how I view the world, it’s rarely a con­scious ac­tiv­ity.

How do you dis­cern which ideas you want to use and which you do not?

That’s the au­di­ence’s job, not mine. If they laugh, it stays. If they don’t, it’s out.

Is the pol­i­tics or so­cial mes­sage of what you are say­ing im­por­tant for you to con­sider?

Funny comes first, ev­ery­thing else sec­ond. Sure, I’ll make po­lit­i­cal and so­cial points and take jibes, but I’m a co­me­dian first and a so­cial com­men­ta­tor sec­ond. That be­ing said, hu­mour is an ex­tremely pow­er­ful tool to de­liver so­cial and po­lit­i­cal mes­sages.

How do you use feed­back to im­prove your ma­te­rial and at what stage do you ex­pose your work to feed­back?

I ex­pose my work to feed­back at the con­cep­tion stage it­self. When I have an idea, I take it on stage and talk about it. From there on, it’s a con­stant process of al­ter­nat­ing time at the desk with time on stage un­til it gets fleshed out into a full rou­tine.

What do you give more im­por­tance to: feed­back or your own gut feel­ing?

There isn’t a fixed for­mula. In gen­eral, au­di­ence feed­back, i.e., laugh­ter, is the best in­di­ca­tor. But for co­me­di­ans, jokes are our ba­bies and we are of­ten guilty of lov­ing them too much and hold­ing on to them even when no­body laughs. And then one time, one per­son will laugh at that par­tic­u­lar joke and we will use that as an ex­cuse to jus­tify its ex­is­tence!

Do you some­times use hu­mour as a means of cop­ing with things that sad­den, anger or frus­trate you?

Al­most al­ways. I also talk about all th­ese is­sues on stage. As the old for­mula goes: tragedy + time = com­edy.

Does the at­trac­tion to stand-up com­edy come from want­ing to seek peo­ple’s ap­proval or get at­ten­tion?

No. It’s mostly about the groupie sex.

How do you deal with it when the au­di­ence doesn’t re­spond to your act?

I have ab­so­lutely no idea what you are talk­ing about!

When per­form­ing, do you rigidly stick to the script or do you im­pro­vise? If so, how?

Up to 95 per cent of my act can be im­pro­vised based upon the con­ver­sa­tions I have with my au­di­ence. I am very spon­ta­neous and do a lot of crowd work. So, very of­ten, a large part of my act is com­pletely un­planned and un­scripted.

What’s the bravest ma­te­rial you have ever per­formed?

I don’t think of it that way. I’m not try­ing to be brave. I’m try­ing to ex­press my views in a funny way. That be­ing said, I have had peo­ple try and stab me af­ter a show in the UK and I have per­formed at gun­point in Jo­han­nes­burg.

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