I feel the Bengaluru audience has improved over time: Papa CJ
Veteran comedian Papa CJ, who was in the city recently, speaks about his upcoming books, his early experiences of doing standup in India and the evolving Bengaluru audience.
Papa CJ is on a writing roll. The veteran comedian, who is in the 19th year of his comedy career, is working on three books right now. “The first book that will be out will be a republishing of my book Naked, since I got the rights back when my previous publisher shut down. The second is a book on entrepreneurship. The third draws on life and business lessons from a career in standup comedy,” shares CJ, who was in Bengaluru recently.
Regarding the writing process, he elaborates, “I write books like I write comedy routines. I have post-it notes of all the content I’d like to have in the book (like jokes). Some of them naturally fit together and are placed in a logical sequence. They become chapters (like routines or ‘bits’ as we call them in comedy). Then the chapters are put in a logical order, and appropriate segues are created. And you have a big finish. That’s your show right there!”
It was in October of 2004 when CJ began doing standup comedy professionally, after having his start in the United Kingdom, CJ travelled to India and had an interesting encounter with a lady. “I started in the UK and did 700 gigs over three years before moving back to India. I did two multi-city tours in India in 2008 and then launched the English-language comedy circuit in Delhi in the first half of 2009. Starting up in India was interesting at that time. I remember meeting an aunt who said, “Son, what do you do?” I replied, “I tell jokes, aunty, I’m a comedian.” To which she responded, “Son, I also tell jokes. What do you do for a living?” he recalls.
The veteran comedian mentions that his primary influences have been the UK headliners with whom he has worked on the live stage. “I’ve spent over 2000 hours in cars with comedians and seen how they have prepared for their shows, how they have worked in difficult rooms with diverse audiences, and how they have analysed their sets afterwards. I’ve also begged them to watch my set and give me feedback, and learned from the same. I’m not a huge fan of watching comedy on screen. It’s best enjoyed live,” he says.
Regarding the state of comedy in India, CJ says it’s all part of the evolution. “Audiences evolve.
Comedians evolve. We have access to standup comedy from across the world in the palm of our hand and expect comedians in India in a nascent comedy scene, who started performing last Monday, to live up to the standards we see from comedians who have been performing for 20 years in an industry that has been around for over 50 years. That is not a reasonable expectation. So my advice to Indian audiences is to be patient, and if you don’t like what you see, don’t laugh. That is what will force the comedian to raise his or her game. Unless, of course, you are replaced by another audience who laughs at what he or she is currently doing,” says CJ, who recently hosted EazyDiner Foodie awards.
Before leaving, CJ shows love towards his fans in Bengaluru. “I’ve always loved performing in this city and I feel the audience has improved over time. A decade ago, Bengaluru had two kinds of audiences. One that laughed at everything and another that gave you nothing and made you want to cry. Over time, the latter has gotten familiar and fond of the art form, and that saves performers from including a box of tissues in their technical,” CJ concludes, who is also working on a lot of customised corporate training and coaching, incorporating humour into them in a major way.