From writing lengthy 4-page research papers at IIT Madras to writing 4-line jokes as a comedian, Manish’s journey has been more pleasant than Bangalore’s weather. Bangalore has been kind to Manish for reasons unknown. He has been doing stand-up for quite some time now, and enjoying to the fullest. Here’s Humour Sapiens in a Tête-à-Tête with Manish Jain.
How did you develop interest in comedy?
Raised in a family that enjoyed watching comedy serials and sitcoms, inclination towards comedy had to happen. Also, TV was not really an idiot box before K serials appeared and took over. We used to watch every comedy serial broadcasted back then; like, Flop Show, Shrimaan Shrimati, Dekh Bhai Dekh, Hum Paanch, Tu Tu Main Main, Hadd Kar Di, Family No. 1, Hum Sab Ek Hai, Zabaan Sambhal Ke, and the likes. I still believe Gudgudee on Zee, Aflatoon on SabTV, and The Great Indian *Comedy* Show were the most underrated shows of our times. Enough nostalgia.
To top that all, my family is pretty much into liking live comedy in different forms. My father got me interested in comedy, and he was my companion in discovering comedy shows on TV. He used to take me to Kavi Sammelan (Poetry Recitals). I feel Kavi Sammelans laid the foundation of stand-up comedy culture in India, as it used to be a place where 12-15 poets gathered on stage to recite poems and anecdotes that were either funny or nationalistic. In fact, Kavi Sammelan is the proof that India was always interested in comedy, stand-up comedy just gave it a proper tag and made it a viable career option.
What do you consider was your first step into the comedy world?
I remember my first tryst with comedy. It was in the 4th standard when I became a news reporter for a fancy dress competition. My Mom had my dress sorted but had no idea what I will say on stage to complement my outfit. The only thing I knew was, it had to be something funny. It was the day of the competition, and I still had no material to present. But something clicked, and just half-an-hour before leaving for school I wrote random lines on things that I was aware of; a few jokes from Current Affairs section, Sports, Weather, and the likes. I recited those jokes to my mom and she laughed. I went on stage and won hearts. And luckily, the prize too. Looking back, I can say that, that was a really tight set.
Apparently, I pulled of a ‘Last Week Tonight’ before John Oliver made it a famous thing. Here’s the proof that I was way ahead in time.
How did you get into stand-up comedy?
As I grew up, I kept up with comedy through Shekhar Suman’s satire, pre-memes twitter era, and AIB podcasts. But I still never knew that I will do stand-up at some point in time.
It took two ‘Biswa’s (Biswapati Sarkar & Biswa Kalyan Rath) and regrets-to-taste to get me into stand-up comedy. In 2015, I was a big TVF fan and a bigger Biswapati Sarkar fan, I met him at the Permanent Roommates success party. We talked for a good 15-20 minutes about the craft of writing and many things profound.
This conversation inspired me to start a podcast channel in IIT Madras along with two other friends. I was a writer-editor of the podcast and wanted the podcast to reach the masses. So in order to advertise the podcast, we started a facebook page where I used to put funny observations related to the institute, which people related-to, to a great extent and the page started to get good traction. I liked the validation and started observing things keenly, to look for pattern that would be relatable to everyone. Eventually, I started sharing content about not just the institute by also about life in general.
Meanwhile, my girlfriend and I attended a stand-up show in Canvas Laugh Club, which had then not-so-popular Biswa Kalyan Rath in the lineup. We were left impressed! I became so much interested in comedy that I started following everything that had comedy associated with it. I attempted mimicking Arnub and got a chance to roast the Director of IIT Madras. My impression of Arnub wasn’t really impressive, but the jokes worked! This gave me confidence that I can translate the written jokes into a performance as well.
After passing from the IITM, I went to an open mic with 10 odd jokes that were written while collecting material for the facebook page, and to my surprise, people laughed and enjoyed. That was it! I haven’t looked back ever since. Now, this human being needs more and more validation from people every week by saying things that mostly make no sense at all.
What are the challenges you’ve faced in your journey?
I was not getting enough open mics to perform initially but everything changed as I started a room for open mic. Now, I make sure there are enough spots for new open mic-ers at my venue as I can relate to their pain.
Your key achievements?
A few achievements which deserve a mention are: (a) Successfully Roasting the Director of IIT Madras, (b) Got laughs in my very first open mic, boosted my confidence, (c) My joke made it to Reddit front page.
Any bombing moment?
Bars and naïve comedy audience are what I sometimes find difficult to perform to. Once in a bar, the crowd was so dead in my set that I got off the stage in 2.5 minutes from a 7-minute slot. My words before getting off stage were, “Okay then”, which apparently was the biggest laugh of the evening.
That night I considered leaving comedy, but I went to another open mic the next day and the jokes worked 🙂 Confidence regained!
Any experiences with annoying audience members?
None, yet! Thankfully.