In 2010, Abijit Ganguly started his voyage as a standup comedian after leaving behind his conventional life. After five years of being in the profession of comedy, Abijit performed at various corporate events and national shows including the Comedy Store and Canvas Laugh Factory. In this exclusive conversation with him, he tells us about how he decided to run for the hills and startup with standup comedy.
highlights of this episode
- Finding his inspiration from Abhish Mathew during a performance at the Indian Habitat Centre, Delhi.
- Leaving behind the dorms of the corporate sector to chase the stages of standup comedy.
- Staying original while constructing scripts and being an observational comedian.
QUOTES AND TAKEAWAYS
- “The idea is that you test waters and gain a degree of proficiency in something before you get into it full time.”
- “There’s a huge difference from being just a funny guy to actually doing stand-up and then being somewhat decent at it.“
What inclined you to pursue your career as a standup comedian?
In 2010 I went to see a stand-up comedy show being performed by Abish Mathew at Indian Habitat Centre, Delhi and I was pretty much blown away by what I saw. I had been a funny guy pretty much all my life but this was something different and I knew for a fact that I had to give this a shot. So pretty soon I was at an open mic testing some jokes out and before I realized, I was simply hooked to this. The high that you get when your audience is laughing uncontrollably at something you said is simply incomparable to anything else in the world. Obviously, there was no money into this initially and honestly, I didn’t even have an idea that there could be money in this. So for the first couple of years this continued as a hobby while I pursued my MBA and started working. It was only when college shows, pub shows and corporate shows started coming regularly that I realized I could consider this as a career option. Obviously, that’s easier said than done, particularly since my life before that had been as conventional as possible; DU grad, Corporate sector for a couple of years, MBA, and back to consulting. I delayed the decision to take up stand-up comedy full time for as long as I could because of societal pressure, but honestly after a point it started getting unbearable. It was quite a double life. Performing in shows at night where you’re pretty much the rockstar and then going next morning to office in all formals talking about synergy. I honestly felt like batman. In 2014, I finally took my leap of faith, when I quit my job and took this up full time and fortunately, everything worked out quite fine.
How crucial was the support of your family and friends in this journey?
Support of family and friends is obviously quite crucial in the whole thing but primary factor is how much do you believe in yourself and also, how are you planning the whole thing out. If I’d quit my job one fine day and said to all that I’m going to give stand-up a shot, I’m pretty certain my family would’ve called it a crazy move. Also, by taking such sudden decision people also end up putting a lot of pressure on themselves, which actually doesn’t let them be free around their new endeavour. The idea is that you test waters and gain a degree of proficiency in something before you get into it full time. How wise you are around taking such a decision has a huge impact on how much your family supports you. Fortunately, my family had been pretty supportive around my decision except the occasional nag or two which, I guess parents being parents, they just can’t stop. Honestly, I wasn’t even expecting this kind of a support from them considering they are from a different era and had no idea what my field even was. Their whole thing was simply around trust and faith in my decision making.
While writing the script of a standup show, how do you build your jokes? What genres of comedy do you like to talk about?
I like to consider myself as an observational comedian who pretty much talks about anything that’s funny to him. I keep making notes of anything I observe around myself all the time and generally get to write a new bit when I’ve been thinking about a particular topic for quite some time. Having done this for some years now, your knowledge of joke construction naturally grows and you are able to use some comedy tools (such as rule of three, call back, misdirection, etc) quite easily in your writing as well.
It’s funny, the genres that appeal to you keep changing. At least in my case that’s happened. I used to like writing about contemporary affairs and politics earlier, but don’t like doing that now. Self-deprecation of course comes naturally to me. Off late, I have been veering to an anecdotal style of comedy on things happening in my life.
How has been your journey so far in standup comedy?
I’ve been performing as a stand-up comic for around 5 and half years now and the experience has been kickass to say the least. There’s a huge difference from being just a funny guy to actually doing stand-up and then being somewhat decent at it. The initial year actually passed by trying to understand this transition. But with time as you go about doing it more professionally, you start becoming more analytical about it. Which somewhat reduces the free aspect of it, but at the same time puts you more in control of the audience, their reactions, and extracting the laughs out of them. Of course, the perks of being a stand-up comic are aplenty; lot of travelling, meeting interesting people, having lot of novelty experience, lot of partying, eating out, good drinks and of course subsequently, dying early.
Of course there have been lot of ups and downs as well. Be it financially, creatively, relationships with other people, there would be a lot of volatility that’s natural to any artist life.
Who has been your greatest inspiration in your journey so far?
Incidentally, most of my inspirations and idols are from completely different fields. Steven Gerrard, Dhoni, Leonardo Dicaprio, Christian Bale, SRK, Saurav Ganguly, Brett lee. I’m fan of a good comeback story. Comedy-wise, the one person I feel had a deep-rooted impact on me, without even me realising it back then, would be Jaspal Bhatti. His social satire is pure gold, and the fact that it’s still relevant to current times after so many years is quite incredible.
When it comes to writing how much influence do you draw from everyday life?
A lot. Everyday life and things happening around us are a huge part of my comedy routines.
What is your message for OUR READERS WHO ASPIRE TO BECOME standup comedians?
To the new ones, strive for originality. Don’t go the easy and unethical route of lifting jokes and routines. Stand-up is all about original writing.
To the established ones, pass all your gigs to me. No seriously, please do.