Correspondent: Meenakshi Kumar
Image Source: Deccan Chronicle
Meenakshi Kumar sits down for a quick chat with stand up comedian Naveen Richard, who needs no introduction, in this special behind the scenes interview at Saarang, 2018.
Q: How do you feel when someone asks you to say something funny in an interview? Say something funny.
NR: You know, as a comedian, life takes you through all sorts of trials and tribulations, one of them being of course the fact that you’re put on the spot in innumerable situations, give or take a few. And hence therein here we find ourselves, in such a situation. And I hope that answers the question.
Q: How did you get into comedy?
NR: I did law because I actually wanted something that’s easier than engineering but harder than B. Com, but then I realized law is hard and there are words to memorise; (I’m) not good at that… ah I had a memory joke, I forgot my memory joke. Anyway, I finished law- the only reason I finished law is because when people ask me if I finished law, I tell them yes I finished law, that’s the only motivation that kept me going. So after that, I started doing theatre and through theatre, I started doing stand up.
Q: Do we have a real life uncle Francis to thank?
NR: It’s Francis, he’s very sensitive, he doesn’t understand why I keep asking why he gets so upset. He keeps saying, “why do they call me Prawnjiz, its Francis!” He gets very upset. But yes, as to is there a real life one- I mean, he is real. That’s it. He’s as real as it gets. But yes, there are several such uncles like him in the Tamil space of my relatives, he’s kind of like an amalgamation. His wife is Malayali, he’s Tamil.
Q: How difficult was it to break into the comedy scene?
NR: Since I got in early, when I got in there might’ve been about… you could count the comedians with your fingers, there must’ve been around 20, and there must’ve been 10 established ones and like 10 new ones, so everyone kind of knew each other. It’s harder to break into the Bombay circuit, in Bangalore it’s smaller, in Chennai and Bangalore, so when I went to Bombay nobody knew me and I had to start from scratch over there.
Q: Do you ever find yourself censoring content?
NR: You know I tried today, it didn’t work. With such a big, large crowd here, you need to do something to keep the energy going and you know colleges, they love it when you curse but you try not to, that’s why I didn’t go overboard except when you’re just giving out all your energy. For instance I would have never done this in Christ college, where I’m from, I would’ve kept it super safe even if the show didn’t… get called off stage. IIT’s alright that way, if you don’t push the limit too much.
Q: How do you deal with a joke not working?
NR: You act like nothing happened. Just like any other time you embarrass yourself, you act like nothing happened and nobody noticed, only here, everybody noticed. But you act like it didn’t affect you and you move on or you can address it and then people will laugh at your misfortune, people are always laughing at your misfortune…
Q: Do you have hecklers in your audience?
NR: Yeah, I have hecklers sometimes. Every one in ten shows something will happen. Initially you just have to make sure your patience doesn’t wear off. You’ve just got to be patient. All you’ve to do is talk to them, any heckler is some kind of idiot. You speak to him enough, his idiocy will come out.
Q: Can we do a quick revisit of a journey of a joke? It takes you approximately three to four months for a piece?
NR: Oh no, sometimes if you’re lucky the first time you try it, with just a few more tweaks. Sometimes, it’s just a concept and it takes months, sometimes you try, then you put it in your stock, one year later it comes back. It all depends on how relaxed you are; for instance I couldn’t think of a good opening joke today for the IIT thing, the deer ratio something like that. I was racking my brains, I was just not doing anything and then suddenly it came to me. Then someone said there’s a tinder stall somewhere. It all depends on how relaxed you are.
Q: What is your advice for aspiring comedians?
NR: You know, you have to find out what kind of comedian you are. It comes naturally to some people; those guys tend to be a little more lazy, other guys who are not as funny have to bring in the funny with hard work. So you have to know which kind of comedian you are, and if you’re not naturally funny then you have to work harder, use tropes and formulas. We all use formulas, some more than others.
Q: A llama walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does it say and why is it here?
NR: What kind of Mexican punch line set up is that… A llama walks in wearing a sombrero, he’s all like “eyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy yo,” that’s exactly what I’d imagine it would say. “What?! Alright, cool, wrong room.”