'Comedy is an art form for the weak and unheard': A chat with Deep Chhabria
A conversation with stand-up comedian Deep Chhabria before his act at the CounterCulture Comedy Club Chennai.
One of India's youngest professional comedians, Deep Chhabria was born and brought up in the bustle of Mumbai.
His profile in short: He majored in advertising to become a copywriter and happened to start his own comedy collective, called Comic Kaun? At the age of 21, he became a regular at premium comedy venues across the country.
The profile note adds: The downfall of his self-esteem began when he realised that after years of growing up he turned out to become a Jacky Bhagnani look-alike.
Tell us about your act for Chennai - do you have anything special lined up? What can the crowds here expect?
I love Chennai as a city. I've been there once before, but fell in love with it. I hope I can pull out some local references and observations. I think the crowd can expect some light dark humour and existentialism.
Are you familiar with crowds for stand-up comedy in the South? How different are they from the North, and elsewhere?
I've been to Bangalore a couple of times. I think the audiences in the South are definitely more receptive, patient and respectful. In the North, they can get a bit testing and brash. The audiences in the South are very sweet and encouraging. Mostly.
What are your pet subjects and topics to speak of? Which aspects of your show get you the most applause?
I have a lot of bits on my parents, millennial behaviour, stories from New York and some very, very insensitive material on subjects like terrorism, etc. Applause is subjective.
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'm actually not a full-time comic. I have a day job as a copywriter. I work as a creative partner at an ad agency called BBH, and I make ads for some fun brands like Red Bull, BookMyShow, Tic Tac, etc.
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?
I often study why we don't laugh. Silence is more intriguing than laughter. When people laugh, I take it as it comes, and when they don't laugh I analyse the silence.
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.
My favourite international comedians are Dave Chapelle, Bill Burr, Jim Jefferies, Norm Macdonald, Sarah Silverman, Louis CK, etc. My top Indian comics are Sumit Anand, Biswa, Karunesh Talwar and Anirban Dasgupta.
Do you believe in keeping your stand-up act clean, in terms of language? Is foul, offensive language essential for comedy?
I do try to keep my material as clean as possible, but I do throw in a couple of cuss words when I'm going with the flow. I try to be honest, more than clean. Whatever helps that happen.
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?
Ha ha! I wouldn't. Comedy is itself an art form for the weak and unheard. There's no role I can play bigger than the art, that'll empower. I do try to give travelling acts stage time at the venues I run and suggest them to the famous crop of comics, so they can use them as opening acts. Is that noble enough?
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?
Honestly, political humour has never been my thing. I throw in an opinion here and there, but I'm too cynical and politics is a huge black hole to get into if you're easily triggered. So, I stay away.
Also, I didn't receive my voter ID in time this time, so I'm not sure where do I stand in criticising the government. I'm hating the election commission though.
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?
The role of comedy is to make the world more comfortable with itself. It's a medium that helps people accept themselves more and know that the evil that lives in us deserves to be heard and laughed at.