Thursday, October 1, 2015

Every day is a learning experience in stand-up comedy - Comedian Praveen Kumar

“Every day is a learning experience in stand-up comedy”, says Praveen Kumar, as Krishna Raval probes him for secrets to his success.

Praveen Kumar has been nominated for Forbes Top 100 celebrities in India (2014). He has also been rated as one of the Top 10 stand-up comedians in India by Times of India (2011) and one of the top 10 comics in India to look out for by IBN live (2014).

After he graduated from BITS, he wanted to do something related to comedy and so he got married ;) .He has performed over 900 shows in around 17 cities in India. He has performed with the famous comedians like Kapil Sharma, Vir Das, Papa CJ, and Cyrus Broacha.

Krishna Raval: Let me begin with my heartfelt compliments. I enjoy your work, and admire your courage to follow your dream. Not many can leave the comfort of a steady life to find their calling.
And then the journey from the first act to this point where you are well-known all over the country, you have come a long way, clearly speeding up to reach places.

Praveen Kumar: Thank you.

KR: Thank you for agreeing to indulge in a conversation with us.
PK: It’s absolutely my pleasure.

KR: I am always curious about an artist's inspiration.

My first question is, where do you get your inspiration from? I mean, even while socializing, or having a heart to heart with someone, does the idea already start spinning? Or do you actually make time, sit, mull over things and choose a subject for the next performance?
PK: Great question. I don't usually think about topics to decide what I should work on. I take topics from my personal experience. Mostly disasters and incidents that leave a bad taste. Then one day I just sit and work on the story by adding my own approach to it and converting it into an act that I can perform on stage.

KR: You have an MBA from BITS, Pilani, and had a steady job. You quit everything to pursue your dream. Was it a gradual process? Or was it a spur of the moment 'now or never' kind of a decision?
PK: It was a gradual process. I never thought I will quit my day job when I started comedy. But slowly when I started enjoying it more and more, it gradually led me to pursue it full-time. I just knew that is what I wanted to do, and then it was just a matter of time.

KR: How difficult was it to change your career knowing it will give you satisfaction, but might not fetch a steady income right away? What were the challenges?
PK: I put my papers after I was pretty sure that I will earn at least 75% of my salary through my comedy. I do miss the steady income, but I am very happy with the way comedy is treating me. I know I made the right choice. No regrets at all.

KR: Can you share that one special moment with us which gave you an assurance and the confidence that you made the right decision? Did that moment arrive after a lot of uncertainties and hurdles?

PK: That moment comes every time I get down the stage after a successful show. My mother recently came to one of my shows and she was very happy with it. With all support from my wife, parents and friends, I know I am in the right space.

KR: Who is your best critic? Do you practice your work with someone before your performance?
PK: My wife. She tells her opinion from the audience’s point of view. It definitely helps. I also bounce off my ideas with other comics to get their perception.

KR: Do you have a role model? Are you learning different aspects of your field from someone?
PK: Every day is a learning experience when it comes to stand up. You have tons to learn from everybody. Be it an amateur or a professional.

KR: There are many upcoming artists in your field. Do you think the competition is tough? Do you enjoy a particular comedian's performance?
PK: To the contrary, it is even better if more people work in our field. There will be more shows, and we will be able to reach more people. Personally, I enjoy Sundeep Rao’s and Sanjay Manaktala’s performances.

KR: What is your favorite thing about your job?
PK: The satisfaction of making others laugh.

KR: Do you gauge the reaction of the audience and revise your work again and again? Have you ever been disappointed by a response and learned from the experience?
PK: Yes I have had very bad shows when I started off in 2009. Luckily I didn't get disappointed but worked on my mistakes.

KR: Any parting advice or suggestions for the upcoming artists?
PK: Keep at it. There is no other way of getting better than getting on stage. First you need to get better, then you can look for publicity, and money will follow later.

KR: It was a pleasure talking to you, and we wish even more success for you in the future.
PK: Thank you.