Pop’s the word with Johnny, Jamie Lever's new OTT series 'Pop Kaun?'

The show, also starring Kunal Kemmu, Rajpal Yadav, and Chunky Panday among others, follows a man who, after finding out that he’s adopted, sets on the search for his biological father

author_img Seema Sinha Published :  26th March 2023 01:10 PM   |   Published :   |  26th March 2023 01:10 PM
Johnny and Jamie Lever

Johnny and Jamie Lever

Almost all parents—doctors, lawyers, businessmen, actors—want, or at least hope, their children to follow in their footsteps. But not Johnny Lever. He was taken aback when his daughter, Jamie, first revealed her intentions to become a comedian. 

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“I asked my wife to stop her,” he says. The reason was simple: comedy isn’t a skill you can train for; it is inherent, and Johnny wasn’t sure Jamie had it, that is until he saw her perform a 10-minute set at one of his shows in London a decade ago.

“She got a standing ovation. A woman even said I had competition at home,” recalls Johnny, adding, “I made it clear though that she wouldn’t get any preferential treatment because of me. She will have to stand in queues and give auditions.”

Now, the two have teamed up for the first time in the new OTT series, 'Pop Kaun?', currently streaming on Hotstar. The show, also starring Kunal Kemmu, Rajpal Yadav, and Chunky Panday among others, follows a man who, after finding out that he’s adopted, sets on the search for his biological father.

Johnny, 65, has established himself as a veteran comedian in Bollywood, delivering memorable performances in films such as Raja Hindustani, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Aamdani Atthanni Kharcha Rupaiya and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. And Jamie is her father’s daughter. Like him, who had left a job at Hindustan Unilever (he got his stage name following a performance at the company), she too gave up a marketing job to pursue comedy professionally.

Gradually gaining a strong foothold in the industry, she is quite popular on social media with over a million followers on Instagram, where she puts up mimicry as well as dance videos. She has also hosted a handful of TV comedy shows and appeared in films such as Housefull 4, Bhoot Police and Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon.

So when the 35-year-old found herself on sets with her father, she admits feeling jittery and recalls having waited for him to leave the room before performing. “I had heard stories of how he is on sets, but really didn’t know what to expect. Sometimes he goes into dad mode and gets protective, constantly checking if I am saying my lines right,” she says. Johnny, like a typical father, begs to slightly differ. “She forgets that I am her father and her attitude towards me on sets is, ‘Arre, hatt na… you are my father at home’.”

That said, he is also his daughter’s harshest critic, who, Jamie claims, is “miserly” with compliments, but she isn’t complaining. “Before the world starts judging or criticising me, it is better to have my dad be tough and prepare me for the real world. One comment on social media can make or break you,” she says. Johnny is also her biggest teacher.

“I am privileged to have an institute at home,” she says, adding that every morning she gets a “masterclass” from him at breakfast. “Comedy is all about observation. Comedians have to work much harder than the regular actors, and one has to keep learning all their life,” Johnny adds.

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While Jamie has a readily available trove to learn from, she acknowledges that it is also important for her to constantly evolve, both in content and style. While the comedy from Johnny’s era was more slapstick, replete with situational jokes, it is dark, subtle and realistic humour that gets the applause and woots today.

“Change is the only constant. If you don’t stand out and give something new, you will become stale. You have to keep abreast with what is relevant to people right now,” she says.