Dr. Nitya Prakash spoke to stand-up comic Anshu Mor about stand-up comedy in India, getting heckled on stage, and his plans for the future. There’s never a dull moment with this funny man.
Hi Anshu, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do when you’re not doing stand-up comedy?
It’s a pleasure. Thank you so much for doing this. I am a bi-product of two teachers, born and brought up in Delhi. An MBA by qualification, I spent 18 years in corporate life (last 11 of which were at Microsoft) before deciding one fine day to quit my job as Head of Xbox Business at Microsoft India to follow my passion of doing stand-up comedy.
Since I was a child I have been fascinated with the stage and mic. Even during corporate life, I took every opportunity to be on stage or to create any kind of entertainment content. In 2016, I decided to take the plunge primarily because I didn’t want to look back at life and regret not pursuing, what is perhaps, my biggest passion in life.
Now, I have set up my own company called Talking Mime. It’s an entertainment and storytelling company. We provide entertainment content centered around humor as a genre. Currently we are engaged in standup comedy, podcasts (video and audio) & an upcoming web-series. We also work with corporate clients to provide workshops on Art of Business Storytelling and brand consulting.
What can people expect when they come see you in general?
My style of comedy is more about storytelling and observational comedy. I tend to talk a lot about my life experiences – as you can imagine being married and a father of a teenage son – there is enough content from within my family only. Off late I have also started doing a lot of observational material around sensitive topics like Feminism, Death and Extra Marital Affairs. I love the challenge to make the audience laugh on these topics! All-in-all the audience can expect good clean comedy and a high energy show!
How did you get into comedy?
As I mentioned, I quit Microsoft to become a standup comedian. At the time of leaving my job, I had never been to a standup show before, I didn’t know what the process was, who the comedians were in the circuit and how much money was to be made. I just knew that getting up on stage and making people laugh was something that I really wanted to do.
I was fortunate that within a few months of quitting my job, I got introduced to Amit Tandon, who gave me some direction and then Canvas Laugh Club opened in Gurgaon (where I stay). That’s where I got my first 7 minutes spot which thankfully killed. From there on it was a relatively fast climb to getting multi comedian lineup shows and my own solo shows.
Who do you think are the funniest international comedians right now? And who are your favourite local comics?
From the international circuit, Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld, Marc Maron and Jim Jefferies have been a big influence. From the Indian scene, I am honestly in awe of most of the comedians (still) but If I were to name a few whose comedy appeals to me, it would be Amit Tandon, Rahul Subramanian, Biswa, Zakir Khan and Jeeveshu
What’s the first joke you ever learnt/told?
Ha haha, the first ever joke on stage was a fairly simple one and it went like this – “When I left my job to become a standup comedian, my parents thought I was joining Bollywood – My mom called me up and she was like – Beta Ye Sab TohTheek Hai, bas Karan se door rehna!”
How do Indian audiences differ from, say, a US or UK audience?
Audiences everywhere are the same. They come in to a show wanting to laugh. It’s how relatable your content is to them specifically that matters. Of course, US and UK have seen standup comedy for 6-7 decades now and the bar is higher there because of that. In India it’s still less than decade old and audiences (and us comedians too) are still trying to figure the art form. But the growth of Indian comedy scene has been phenomenal and that’s all thanks to audiences encouraging the art form and turning up at shows!
What’s the state of stand-up-comedy in India?
Standup comedy has been around for just under a decade, but it really took off in the last 3 years. It couldn’t be a more exciting time for comedians in the country with great opportunities for stage time and also opportunities to explore other areas of related art forms like Acting & Writing (web series/books etc.). We are still very few comedians in the country compared to say the US or UK and that only means there is enough scope for every comedian to grow and find their own audiences.
Still a lot of work needs to be done to have more comedy rooms beyond Delhi and Mumbai, but I think the momentum is there.
Have you ever been heckled? How do you usually deal with hecklers?
In live shows, I do encounter hecklers sometimes and what I have realized is that majority of the time when that happens, the person heckling doesn’t know any better. Mostly a polite dressing down works but if the person is still insistent on becoming the butt of the jokes, I give them what they want :-).
There is however, an unfortunate trend of people outraging over comedy but I guess the world we live in, outrage & oversensitive attitude is something which we all need to get used to. The comedian is only putting forward his/her perspective on a topic with the intent to make you laugh. The intent is never ever to consciously insult anybody. If you find a joke funny – great! But if you don’t, you have every right to not like it or to simply ignore it but what is not acceptable are the threats/abuses that are sometimes hurled (especially online)
Does a good show give you a rush? How about when you bomb?
Absolutely. I don’t think I have every experienced a high bigger than the high of having a good show. There is no better feeling than to make a room full of strangers crack up with laughter because of a joke you created.
Bombing is an equal part of a comedian’s life. We all bomb sometimes – even with our best material. I wish I knew the formula to cope with those moments. They are the worst moments by a long stretch. A bad show stays in your head for a long time. That’s why they say standup comedy is an ego crushing job. The trick is to always ..always.. get back on stage again as soon as possible.
Say someone is just getting into performing stand-up comedy. What advice would you give them?
Focus on both the craft and the business side of standup comedy. Stay away from politics, coterie mindset and don’t feel jealous of anyone else’s success. We are just starting in this industry. There is enough work and scope for all of us to build very very successful careers out of this. Believe in your work and remember the only validation you require is from the audience. Audiences are the only ones who will make or break your career.
What’s in store for 2019/2020
Although its been a fairly short journey for me so far, I feel 2019 would be a pivotal year for me. I am very excited about my solo show Kan.U, which I’m touring the country with right now. I am also in the process of writing my new solo special which I intend to take to the international markets like US, UK and South East Asia in 2020 and hopefully have it also released on one of the major OTT platforms in the country.
I have just re-started my audio podcast series, with a new format and name (The People Burrito) and I’m excited about bringing perspective of people from different walks of life through an audio only experience.
I am also in the process of writing my first book (fiction) which should be out by first quarter of 2020.
Your message for the readers of Bombay Weekly
First keep reading Bombay Weekly :-). Second, please go out and support standup comedy by turning up at Live shows (specially my shows) and third, please follow me on the social media handles mentioned below (see, always promoting!!)
Where can we follow you?