THE BIG DADDY OF COMEDY
‘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.