'A good set transcends all cities': A chat with stand-up comedian Anirban Dasgupta
Here's Anirban Dasgupta's profile in short: He's a comedian, writer and full-time married person from Kolkata. Unsubstantiated reports claim that he is the hardest working Bengali in the world; other contenders were too lazy to contest. He is also a certified nice guy.
And, as if that is not enough, he is funny too. Now based out of Mumbai, he is also actively building the comedy scene in Kolkata. Anirban has featured in over 400 shows, including auditorium shows, college fests, corporate and private shows.
Tell us about your act for Chennai - do you have anything special lined up? What can the crowds here expect?
I find myself gigging very less in Chennai, and I am happy to come this time. I did my last special twice in Chennai last year, and now I am bringing my new set.
Are you familiar with crowds for stand-up comedy in the South? How different are they from the North, and elsewhere?
I feel a good set transcends all cities. It depends on the material, not the city.
What are your pet subjects and topics to speak of? Which aspects of your show get you the most applause?
Currently, I am doing material on love. My last special was addressing hate, so I like that it's a different thing for me to approach. Plus some other stories from my life.
How did you become a full-time stand-up comedian? At what point did you realise this was a full-time career for you?
About a year into open mic-ing in Kolkata, I realised that it's not possible to do it alongside a full-time sales job that involves travelling often. So I quit and took a chance on stand-up full time.
We're interested in different kinds of laughs - chuckles, giggles, belly laughs and so on. Do you often study how people laugh, as a comedian?
Yeah, I am obviously interested in how an audience reacts, but it eventually comes down to the joke. Nothing more important than that.
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.
I love Norm Macdonald. I follow some acts who are not popular here in India, but make me laugh like nobody else. For example, I saw a man called Zach Zucker in Melbourne recently - he blew my mind. I'd pay to watch him every day.
Do you believe in keeping your stand-up act clean, in terms of language? Is foul, offensive language essential for comedy?
It's essential if your joke demands it. Otherwise, you can chuck it out.
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?
Please check out Prashasti Singh, Urooj Ashfaq, Sumaira Shaikh. They are incredible comedians.
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 have made many political jokes, my whole special was filled with it. I also faced the backlash on YouTube for political material. It's the sign of the times and you have to figure out a way to express yourself. There is a better way around the corner always.
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?
I hope comedy gets people closer in a hugely polarised society. That's enough.