'A different side of me': Kunal Rao warms up to Chennai before his next web special

We caught up with stand-up comedian Kunal Rao for a quick exchange hours before he takes the stage at the CounterCulture Comedy Club Chennai...

author_img Jai S Published :  19th May 2019 01:29 AM   |   Published :   |  19th May 2019 01:29 AM
Kunal Rao

Kunal Rao

Fun fact! Kunal Rao has actually also done a Ted Talk. But he isn't about to get too serious in Chennai this weekend, as he takes the stage at the CounterCulture Comedy Club.

A flyer note for Kunal's upcoming show goes as far as to quote his therapist: "If you understand what's going on in that brain of his, please let me know." - Kunal's therapist, it says.

The flyer adds, "Almost forty, Kunal is convinced he has no idea what he’s doing with his life. In fact, no one does. But more importantly, he’s sure that that’s how it’s supposed to be."

The show is mostly funny, often relatable, sometimes silly, occasionally dark and intermittently thought-provoking, adds the note.

We caught up with the comedian for a quick exchange hours before he takes the stage...

Tell us about your act for Chennai - do you have anything special lined up? What can the crowds here expect?
Oh, it doesn’t get more special than this! This is my latest hour of jokes that will eventually be on Amazon Prime. I am taping it one week after this show, in Mumbai! In the last year, I have tried to find my voice, so the audience will see a different side of me. The show has empathy, apathy, concern, cynicism, frustration and all-around “feels”!

Are you familiar with crowds for stand-up comedy in the South? How different are they from the North, and elsewhere?
They are a little more conservative, but more welcoming as well.

What are your pet subjects and topics to speak of? Which aspects of your show get you the most applause?
I usually talk a lot about myself and my past. I talk about my age, my relationship status, and a lot of opinions I have about the evil world we live in! But nothing is more relatable than my hate for traffic!

How did you become a full-time stand-up comedian? At what point did you realise this was a full-time career for you?
I started comedy at a time when things were different. I used to do cold calls to bars and restaurants myself. When I started making a little money, I decided to do it.

Do you study how people laugh, as a comedian?
No, I don’t, but now I think I should!

Kunal Rao


Tell us about your top stand-up comedians, the ones who inspire you - and who make you laugh out hard, even when you're alone.
That’s impossible! There’s something to learn from every comedian.

Do you believe in keeping your stand-up act clean, in terms of language? Is foul, offensive language essential for comedy?
My act is mostly clean. I do have some awkward naughty moments, but they are meant to specifically create the awkwardness. There are no rules for comedy. It’s up to each performer what he/she chooses to talk about.

How would you like to empower more women, and also regional language performers, as rising stars of stand-up comedy? Who would you like to recommend?
People who are interested in doing comedy should just keep getting on stage. 

On a personal note, do you prefer making political jokes, or would you rather stay clear of making political statements - out of fear of a backlash, perhaps? 
I don’t follow politics that closely. I prefer talking about personal opinions.

Lastly, with so many reasons around the world for people to be angry, or sad - what would you say is the larger role of comedy for a healthy, evolved and mature society?
At its core, the main job of comedy is to make people laugh. Over and above that, each artist can choose what further role they want to play through their content.

Kunal Rao performs live at CounterCulture Comedy Club Chennai on Sunday, May 19, 6 pm-7 pm. Tickets `499 available online.