'The understanding of stand-up comedy has improved': A chat with Anand Rathnam
Stand-up comedian Anand Rathnam is known for his viral videos like Corporate Job and Motivation, and he also appears in the Amazon Prime special Take It Easy.
Tell us about your act for Chennai - do you have anything special lined up? What can the crowds here expect?
This is my first time performing in Chennai, and I'm very excited to be doing this. My comedy is mostly my blunt and absurd opinions on many observations of our lives. So the audience can expect to hear something that will them make them laugh and uncomfortable.
Are you familiar with crowds for stand-up comedy in the South? How different are they from the North, and elsewhere?
Yes, having performed in Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai... I can say that there is no difference between audiences of North and South.
But I must say that in the past 3-4 years, the understanding of stand-up comedy has improved drastically among the audience in all these cities, because now the audience is more supportive towards different kinds of humour. So, we're headed in the right direction, I guess.
What are your pet subjects and topics to speak of? Which aspects of your show get you the most applause?
I generally talk about the issues and struggles of my daily lives, spreading from failing to impress women on dates, to finding loopholes in the concept of marriage to not understanding why humans like flowers. Well, I'm still working on the applause aspect of the show.
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 was working as a civil engineer in construction management from 2014 and I came across an open mic in 2015, and I just gave it a shot. I did not do well on stage, but I liked what I was doing, so I started getting more on stage and before I knew it, I was hooked.
So I decided to quit my job in 2016 and take up stand-up full time and haven't looked back yet. I'm kidding, I have looked back many times.
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?
The favourite kind of laugh for a comedian is the belly laugh, 'cos that is when the joke has done the best performance it can.
I generally don't try to study the audience as it is very hard, because every night you see different kinds of people. So what I can do is write something that I find funny and convince the audience why that is funny.
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 stand-up comedians are Bill Burr, (the late) Patrice O'Neal and Dave Chappelle.
I love them because they love talking about things that bother them, even though the audience might get uncomfortable.
It's inspiring to see someone make a large collection of people disagree at an opinion first, and then make them laugh their guts out at the same thing.
Do you believe in keeping your stand-up act clean, in terms of language? Is foul, offensive language essential for comedy?
I think both are just different styles of comedy. The language is just a medium to communicate your ideas, and as long as you're funny, it doesn't matter if you use foul words or don't.
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?
It's so nice to see so many different styles of comedy these days, and that has become possible only because many different kinds of performers have started doing comedy. And, I myself am too much of a noob for me to comment on the new 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?
For me, Indian politics is like the Ramayana - it's too complicated, a lot of people are passionate about it, and I just agree with everybody, because I dunno about either of them.
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?
Come to my comedy show, because when you buy a ticket, I make some money and I can convince my dad that it was okay to quit my job, and I can do more shows.
When this cycle is complete, I genuinely feel like I'm living in a healthy and evolved society.