Harsh Gujral, the funny boy from Kanpur is as charming as you could imagine. He has been known to find humour in everyday situations and has a spontaneous style of comedy that will leave you in splits and wanting for more. With his capacity to tickle our funny bone and relatable content, Harsh is a joy to watch.
Humour Sapiens got into a Tête-à-Tête with Harsh Gujral. Read more about the boy next door here!
1. How did you develop interest in stand-up comedy? What was your first stage experience like?
Comedy always interested me. During school too, I was one of the mischievous kids and made my friends laugh. When I first visited London; yes, I got a chance to stay there for a year *insert ahem ahem*. It was there that I saw stand-up comedy live for the first time. That made me sit up and look for comedy videos, and it was the videos of Jeeveshu bhai that I saw first. Instantly, I marked him an email and I told him that I was keen on performing with him. To which he responded saying, “write your comedy material and start performing at open mics to start with.” When I searched for places that host open mics, Canvas Laugh Club came up and I looked more about it. After calling them up, I got to know what open mic really was. But I didn’t start immediately. I went to watch an open mic and checked out how was it done. It was an entirely different ambiance, I realised. Completely baffling. I waited for a week, wrote content and then performed at an open mic. Now you know how talented I am. I had to Win and I Won. *insert another ahem ahem* As I won that open mic, my first open mic, it gave me some confidence that yes, I can do this and maybe this was something I always wanted to do. So, yea, I was always interested in comedy, but Canvas gave me a platform to kickstart this as a career.
My first stage experience was mind-blowing. Any and every dirty joke I could think of, I did them all in under 4 mins, and Delhi audience was having a great time, undoubtedly! They thoroughly enjoyed the non-veg kind of jokes and were applauding endlessly. It left me wondering…what’s the matter with these guys. But I was enjoying too.
I still have that snippet video of my first performence that I got filmed secretly. It wasn’t that great in comparison to how I perform now. But that’s how a stage works. The more you perform, the better to become. But all in all, it was a great experience.
2. How has the journey been so far? Were there any challenges that you had to face?
Up till now, my journey has been quite satisfactory. And I am very thankful to God almighty for it. I used to watch other artists’ videos on YouTube and wondered how those people could be so talented and creative to carry out such a difficult art form in front of so many people. Now that I share stage with them, I feel happy about how far I have come. It has been great till now and if god willing, it will be such in future too!
If I talk about challenges, in my opinion stand-up is an individual challenge that you face every time you get on to that stage to perform. You have to create jokes and keep the audience entertained. Though there are phases when you can’t think of anything and you begin to feel that it is over, but it is not! No one helps you in that moment and says, “okay buddy, I can perform on your behalf.” You have to pull yourself together and keep the show going. It’s a continuous challenge for you; an everyday challenge. You fall back, you lose, you get up and try again. Just keep doing your bit, things will automatically fall into place.
3. What was the reaction of your family when they got to know about your encounter with stand-up comedy?
My parents were not able to understand initially as to what I was actually doing. Whenever I told them I am going to perform at an open mic, they seemed clueless about it. Eventually, they understood that I perform on stage and do comedy. But weren’t quite sure as to what do I do. They felt, I go and perform everyday but never come back with any money. This was an alien concept to them.
It was quite funny that they didn’t understand that why did they have to send me money while I was in college and even when I was working.
My mom used to ask me every day after shows if I got some money, and when I responded saying that I had to spend a few hundred, she used to laugh at me saying, “you are the first comic who pays to perform.” Things were different back then; she had a hard time understanding the concept of open mics. The situation is different now, she feels better. Earlier when I used to say, I will quit my job, they discouraged saying, “you shouldn’t let go off a fixed monthly salary amount.” But now parents are happy and supportive of what I am doing. Now they say, “do whatever you love. Don’t do job if you don’t like.” Things have changed with time.
4. Any take on regional comedy?
Regional comedy is definitely good for India, because most of us do comedy in Hindi and can cater to a wide set of audience pan India. But regional comedy allows people to have references from their colloquial language in the jokes, and that immediately becomes a connecting factor. Regional comedy has a bright future. Slowly you will see people performing more and more in their local dialects. But I will still be doing Hindi comedy. Whenever anyone asks me to even say a punch in English, I say no! But I don’t deny, regional comedy is good for the scene, good for the art form. When people will do regional comedy, more people will get attracted to this art form, more audience will be seen appreciating it.
5. Any experience with annoying audience member?
The audience cannot really annoy you if you are annoying enough, right? When it comes to my shows, I am more annoying than the people who come to see my shows. I try my best that none of them leaves the premises alive. 😀
See, the logic is simple, if they cannot breathe, they cannot annoy! Up till now, I have been pretty successful in sucking up the last straw of life in them.
But it happens. Like, in one of the shows I did for doctors, really aged doctors – the kind who would need doctors to accompany them to ensure their well-being. It was hard to make them understand any kind of jokes.
One of the aged doctors, started walking, real slow, and kept walking until he reached me. I was oblivious to the fact that the tortoise had me as the target. He came towards me, snatched my mic and said, “this pretention of jokes and mimicry must end right now. Now I will tell the jokes.” (Ye chutkule sunaane ka jo dhong kiya jaa raha hai, usey abhi samapt kiya jaye. Ab hum chutkule sunayenge.) I was stunned. The next thing he did left me speechless…
He took his phone out from his pocket and started reading whatsapp forwards. It wasn’t that he memorised those jokes. If he’d done that, I would have let him tell jokes. But you cannot really mess with oldies. They are the kings in their own sweet world. They can do whatever they wish.
So, yes, apart from this, there has hardly been a case where anyone other than me has been so annoying, be it at school, college or office. I take pride in it.
6. Any bombing moment you’d like to share?
Bombing is inevitable. Everyone bombs.
By the blessing of the god, there have been extremely insignificant bombing moments in my life. There hasn’t been any such moment where I destroyed my act beyond repair. So, when the jokes aren’t working, I switch to talking to the audience. Because I know, once I talk, I will find something to joke about from it and then return to my original pace and carry on with jokes from there on. There are times when jokes fall flat, but I manage then! Isn’t that what we call experience?
The day you try everything and attempts to make them laugh by hook or crook are not working…understand that day…It’s the audience that’s bad. 😀
7. Who is your favourite comic?
My favourite comic from India has to be Kapil Sharma. When I used to see him perform on TV and say certain lines, I realised, some of the lines were what I had already used in my life, and now I saw him saying those on TV which people seemed to like. I was able to relate and found that my style is similar to his. I feel he is the legend in the TV comedy scene.
When it comes to YouTube and other stand-up comics in the scene, I really like Anubhav Bassi. We have performed together, and I have seen him become a star from the start of his journey. When you see someone rise up, their journey, you appreciate their efforts even more. I like other comics too…I like Zakir Khan. Recently, I shared the stage with him and realised that this man was meant to be a success.
I like myself too, I like my comedy as well. “Mai apna favourite hun” This is the lesson I have learnt from girls. You should better be your favourite, don’t care if anyone else likes you or not.