Dr. Nitya Prakash in conversation with standup comic Manish Tyagi aka Knotty Commander
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do when you’re not doing standup comedy?
I am 52, and an Engineer by education and profession. I have served in the Indian Navy for 23 long years. I quit the Indian Navy in May 2012 as a Commander and got into Corporate Training since I wanted to pursue my dream – to train people and impart experiential learning. At that point of time, I was also engaged as the Business Head (India) for the channel partners of Cummins India Ltd. to market Cummins brand of marine engines and gen-sets across India.
Currently, I am a Standup Comedian and trust me, it is like a full time job. Creating content, managing the social media, promotion of events, ticket sales, travel & logistics, paper work, invoicing, etc. and last but not the least, chasing clients &payments.
Apart from all this, the social responsibilities at personally & professionally also takes quite a bit of time.
What can people expect when they come see you in general?
Being a Corporate Trainer, I love to interact & roast the audience. At my show, you will find that most of my content stems out from relatable personal experience, which is presented with a dash of humour. High on energy, quick on my feet is how might find me on stage.
Apart from this, I draw a lot of humour from day to day stuff which you read / see on twitter / social media.
How did you get into comedy?
During this period post Navy, one of my very close friends from Mumbai told me about a new art form known as Stand-up Comedy and suggested that I should give it a try. It took some time to figure out where it happens in Delhi but I finally landed on stage for the very first time in August 2014.
Apart from this, it was my daughter who used to say that since I could make her laugh under any circumstances, why I didn’t become a standup comic. She is my true inspiration.
Who are your comedy idols?
I look at comedy as a very personal work space where each of us have distinct styles. So, it’s like you are competing against yourself. Having said I would like to mention Jeeveshu Ahluwalia as one artist who had been very supportive all through my initial days &is a treat to watch & follow.
What’s the first joke you ever learnt/told?
I have been reading / telling jokes right from the time I was a kid; as far as memory goes. Back then, concept of standup comedy did not exist but we did have mimicry & other forms of entertainment.
There are so many but one that I would clearly remember is my father recording his uncle on a tape recorder way back in 1975. Dad – “ Mamaji, aapko pata hai aadmi chand par pahunch gaya”. Grandpa – “Chaand par kya rakha bhai? Kaddu?” Playing back & listening to this was so hilarious.
How do Indian audiences differ from, say, a US or UK audience?
Since this art form is relatively new in India, the comics as well as the comics are still evolving. I am sure that in the next 10 years, we too will have a very evolved audience who would be a little more tolerant than it is right now.
What’s the state of stand-up-comedy in India?
We are a nation of 1.3 billion people and growing by the second. The awareness for Standup Comedy is also growing fast, thanks to the internet and unlimited band widths. It’s nice to see that even Tier 2 cities are hosting stand up shows and audience coming in large numbers. Good shows also often translate into someone getting you over for a private or corporate show. There is time before it peaks in India and anyone who is talented & hard working can & will go places for sure.
Also, Standup Comedy is like any other form of entertainment. You have to keep evolving, working hard and pushing the boundaries. That will define how stable it is as a profession. Sky is the limit to the kind of money one can make in this line as well.
Have you ever been heckled? How do you usually deal with hecklers?
Yes, of course. Heckling at a Stand up is similar to facing bouncers whilst batting. Over a period of time, you do learn which one to take on & which one to duck. There are multiple ways of doing so. For example, when I used to host open mics, there was a young guy who got offended on a Bihari joke and started heckling. I asked him as to how old he was. He said 25. I told him that I was 50 and used a typical line from fauj “When I was in uniform, you were still in liquid form, so shut the f*** up”. It worked.
Does a good show give you a rush? How about when you bomb?
Yes, of course. Touch wood, I have not bombed in a while but the nervousness before I step on the stage, remains. Back then, during the open mics, we all used to bomb. And when that happened, I would come home & wonder why I was even doing this. But then, the resolve was to go back to the same venue and perform much better the next time around.
It’s still tough to come back and sleep after a good gig. The adrenalin rush is high and it takes a while to sleep after hitting the bed. I still go over the gig in my head wondering where I can make it better the next time.
Say someone is just getting into performing stand-up comedy. What advice would you give them?
An aspiring comic needs to figure out as to WHY he or she wants to pursue this art form. Comedy is a serious business and one can go far only and only if it’s a passion. I would also say that be original and create your own style which people can relate to.Don’t try to copy anyone or try doing their material. Be yourself. Patience is a definite virtue one has to have.
Who do you think are the funniest international comedians right now? And who are your favourite local comics?
I do have a funny bone, so I laugh at anything that is remotely funny. I don’t watch online videos because at the end of the day, it is me against me. Having said that, Russell Peters is one such international comic. Out here, I simply love the energy of Jeeveshu, Gaurav Gupta and many others.
What’s the filthiest joke you know?
Lots of them! Can’t share them here 😊
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Not really, unless you have a question for me.
Your message for the readers of Bombay Weekly
Life is too short. Be yourself, stay happy. As it is, India is 140th in the happiness index of the world. So let’s be tolerant and learn to laugh at ourselves, along with others.
Where can we follow you?
- Facebook: Manish K Tyagi / Knotty Commander
- Twitter: Knotty Commander
- Linkedin: Manish K Tyagi
- Pinterest: No
- Instagram: Knotty Commander
- Snapchat: No
- Youtube: Knotty Commander