A middle aged CEO with grey and black hair stood on the stage with a mike at front while people were wondering what he was going to say. He says, “At this age, I’m perhaps the oldest stand-up comic. I’m so old that these young people backstage get confused! Should we call him ‘dude’ or should we call him ‘dad’?” And auditorium echoed with laughter.
It was a simple case of mid-life crisis when amidst running his business, the CEO of Kaytek Computer Services Pvt. Ltd found something ‘out of the box’ to deal with his mundane life.
ALSO READ: Five Stand-Up Comedians’ YouTube Channel You Cannot Afford To Miss
He is none other than one of India’s best known stand-up comedian Atul Khatri who believes that Amitabh Bachchan twitter account was hacked because his password may have been ‘Rekha4ever’.
This 47-year-old dude (or dad) found his ‘never-known-before’ passion in 2011 when he sought to escape from his monotonous life and landed on the stage of ‘open mic’, which is usually filled with people in their 20s trying their hand in stand-up comedy.
Self-proclaimed ‘Horny Sindhi’ (at least, this is what his Facebook says), Khatri got away with the age factor to establish that 40s could be new 20s. From winning 'CEO Got Talent' in 2014 to becoming India’s one of the most loved stand-up comedians, Khatri has proved that ‘funny’ has no age and ‘porn’ unites all.
We had a chat with Atul Khatri on the second inning of his career as a stand-up comedian and what future it holds as an industry.
FN: Let me start with very obvious question how you reached the decision that you want to do stand-up comedy at the age of 43?AK: I was running my own business and it got very monotonous after a point of time. So, my wife pushed me a lot saying that I was meant for something more than this. It wasn't that I knew for sure that I want to do stand-up comedy. I wanted to try bartending because I could mix drinks well but then I was too lazy to take up the course on Sunday afternoons. Then I thought of taking up DJ but even it didn’t work out.
FN: How did stand-up comedy happen?AK: While I was figuring out what to do with my life, meanwhile I kept posting jokes on Facebook just as comic-relief. There, I realised I have a sense of humour which people appreciate. I decided to take part in ‘open mics’ which happen in all major cities for new-bees. My hands were sweating, my legs were shivering and my throat became dry but I managed to that win 4-minute slot. That’s how it started.
FN: You have also won 'CEO Got Talent', it was prior or after the title when you started getting noticed by people?AK: Not really because of the title. Getting noticed by people took its own time, but the title did help me in some way.
FN: Is it difficult to be on stage with bunch of younger people?AK: My fellow comedians tell me that I think young which sort of always helped me to connect with the audience but it is difficult. When you are 47-year-old guy with grey and black hair, people tend to judge you more, “Areh! Ye kya bolega” (What will he speak?). But then when you start talking about Game of Thrones, Facebook, Tinder etc., audience start connecting with you.
FN: English speaking comedy about, say,Tinder or Facebook is said to be an elite class entertainment for people who can afford tickets worth 750 bucks, do you think it holds future as popular general entertainment?AK: I don’t think it is considered niche or elite, educated people with internet access, who have social media on their fingertips can connect with the kind of comedy we do. What most of us do is very simple English which is understandable. I have performed in smaller cities like Vishakhapatnam, Coimbatore, Indore and the kind of response we get is honestly sometimes better. So, I don’t think it is constrained just to South Bombay or South Delhi.
Moreover, we have a different genre. We talk about politics, sex, caste, religion etc., which help audience to connect. It is not merely typical Bollywood mimicry or the kind of comedy Kapil Sharma does. Though that is a different genre and they have their own audience.
I think we have a long way to go because we are a new industry. In west it is happening for some 40-50 years. We are just 3-year old industry. We are at the tip of ice-berg.
FN: How do you think people can take up stand-up comedy as a full time job because initially one has to perform for free in ‘open mics’ or private parties?AK: I would say, initially, to start up with one cannot take it up as a full time job. It takes 3-4 years to become a professional. Many people want to quit their job and take up stand-up comedy, so I suggest them moonlighting. Also, there are many writing assignments, like East India Comedy writes script for IIFA. There are other writing opportunities for advertisements, shows and sketches. This is how you establish yourself in the industry.
FN: What’s lined up next and how are you managing it with your business?AK: There are couple of shows lined up in Bengaluru and Goa. Besides, I am also shooting for advertisements. I think technology helps a lot in multitasking. You get all your e-mail on phone and it helps in managing your clients easily. This is how I’m juggling stand-up with business.
‘To crack or not to crack a joke’ is the question. In Pragya’s case, getting the timing wrong is one of her prominent underlying talents. An IIMC pass-out, she hits the right chord every time on a serious story but hates the entertainment section so much that she penned her epitaph early in life. It reads: ‘The Nation Wants To Know Who The Hell Is Gopi Bahu.” Knows every nook and corner of Delhi University and single-handedly takes good care of the education section. Have been trying too hard to master the pirouette but ended up hitting a furniture every single time. Sometimes it's hard to locate her in a crowd of five. When not working, she is either sleeping or stalking.