Hi world out there-My name is Amar. I am 37. I am, at this point of my life, a stand-up comedian. Or, at least, I am trying to be a stand-up comedian.
What does a stand-up comedian do?
A stand-up comedian tells jokes, for a living.
What is a living?
Living is usually defined in the general society, as being able to pay the bills which humanity commands-the house rent/EMI, internet connection, electricity, water, eating in, eating out, and fuel for the car, or fare for the metro, among the works.
So, I am trying to become a stand-up comedian because I am trying to pay all these bills by telling jokes.
What is a joke?
Here is Jerry Seinfeld talking about jokes. But, no, I will give you my definition of a joke.
A joke is a collection of words which a comedian performs on stage intended to elicit a laughter.
This is a joke. Now, if the joke does get a laugh all the time, it’s a good joke. If the joke doesn’t get a laugh, it is a bad joke, in which case, I discard the joke and all effort in creating it, is wasted.
Who are my favorite comedians?
I, frankly, don’t watch a lot of comedy, which many of my fellow comedians do. But, from whatever I have watched, I love Bill Burr George Carlin, who I believe are two legends. Carlin is dead, but just go watch a video and send a mail to hell.
How and why did I become a comedian?
So, I was a shy child. No, I was an extremely shy child. I was so shy that guys in my school used to tease me if I opened my mouth to say anything during the school hours. That’s because I always stayed quite.
I had no confidence for the first 12 years of my school life, and for my entire college life too. School life in India is usually 14–15 years. By the way, I failed nursery and had to do it again. That showed a lot of promise in the early years of my life.
I belong to a middle class family in India, which has become almost a cliche to say. I met Mr. Mukesh Ambani recently. He also told me he is from a middle class family.
A middle class family is one which is not poor, that means we did not sit by the highway, asking for money. We were not rich enough so as to not care about money. As much as a cliché it is, it defines the majority of Indian urban population.
I don’t know why I was shy. I was just so low on confidence. I belong to the Sikh community in India, by birth. I was the shortest in the class, Sikh and quiet, definitely, a great target of bullying. If you are a religious minority anywhere in the world, you are a target of bullying. Unfortunately, that’s the world that we live in.
Please stay with me. I am just trying to connect the dots of my life, as I write this. Does being bullied as a child have anything to do with comedy? I don’t know. Perhaps I was too suppressed to say anything then and therefore, I can’t stop now.
I did not hit the stage for most of my school and college life, but I used to crave to do it. Students who used to be good at debating and talking used to be favorites in the school, even then.
I did not have the courage. The courage to talk, the courage to say what I felt, the courage to fail.
As I grew up, I struggled for happiness. I wondered what made people happy as a 20 year old guy. I started reading, and my mind started asking questions.
Questions, which led me to think about everything. Is this right? Is this wrong?
After college, I worked for a few years in a B.P.O (business process outsourcing) set up and then went on to do MBA.
Why did I do an MBA?
I don’t know. I did an MBA to prove to myself that I can do an MBA from a top B-school and I did. It took me many years to get that degree, which cost me a lot of money. Is my life better as a consequence? I don’t know.
I got an MBA and got a job, got laid off, got into a job again, paid back the education loan and reached a comfortable point. There was no education loan to pay, but I wasn’t feeling great about life either.
In 2010, while I worked in an ad agency, I attended an open mic night where some comedians, including Papa CJ were performing and I saw CJ take the stage and crack everyone in the room.
I was amazed to see what happened. I wasn’t doing well financially and had to stay in the job to pay back by debts but I kept in touch with comedy after that night. I checked in on the open mics, attended them, saw the comedians go to stage and make people laugh, or bomb.
I thought I could do it. But, the first time I tried to hit the comedy stage, I lasted a few seconds. There was a room full of about 100 people and I said a few lines, which I thought were jokes, but I bombed miserably. I shivered, and perhaps thought, it wasn’t in me.
But, the bug had bitten me. I had thought about happiness all my life. My happiness, that of others and here was an opportunity to create real visible happiness.
So what I failed?
So, I did my best to stay in touch with comedy. But after trying to do it with the job for many years, I realized, it wasn’t working.
It wasn’t easy for me. I am not a natural comedian.
Let me explain what I think a natural comedian is.
A natural comedian is a guy who talks the same off stage and on stage. He/she is the same person. For natural comedians, it is easier to get better as a comedian because it comes to them as an extension of their personality.
I had to learn to be a comedian.
I had to learn comedy, step by step, open mic by open mic, failure by failure.
I quit my job in 2015 to pursue comedy and writing. I have written a bunch of books also which will be available on Amazon sometime this year, so watch this space.
I failed and failed and failed. I have seen a lot of people who came, tried and left, but I stuck around, in spite of audiences looking at me with sympathy and pity. I stuck around.
Was leaving the job easy?
Listen, whoever you are, if you are thinking of quitting the job to pursue your passion, do it early in your life. By early, I mean in your 20’s or even earlier.
My name means immortal but technically, I know I am going to die and so are you. Quit as early as possible to follow your passion/love/whatever the fuck you may want to call it, so you have some time on your hand, to get back, if you fail.
I feel I have reached a point of no return. I feel. I am at a point now where I have invested a few years in trying to become a full time comedian and writer and I will find it difficult to get back to a normal employee routine, if I have to.
Is there even a need? I ask this question every day and convince myself there isn’t, while eating half a bread a meal. No, don’t worry, things aren’t as bad. Why would you worry anyway?
So, what is this obsession with comedy all about?
Ever since I started doing comedy, there hasn’t been a day I haven’t thought about jokes. I think about jokes all the time, every day.
I am always thinking of new stuff that could make people laugh.
A good jokes takes a tragedy/pain and spins it in a way that it makes people laugh.
A good joke is a hilarious expression on life.
A good joke makes people feel they had a great time.
A good joke is an expression on society and culture.
A good joke isn’t intended to offend anyone, but quite often, it does.
Yes, I am a stand-up comedian, ladies and gentlemen and the show has just begun, if I get a few more years of life. Who knows how long we have? I know as long as I live, I am going to tell jokes. I don’t know if I will make money or not doing this, but this is something I can’t NOT do anymore.
Stand-up comedy is one of the great art forms to ever exist. I adore it to death. It’s a medium through which the artist looks at life-his life, that of life around himself and he tries to make it funny.
I am honoured to be a part of this community. Some of my fellow stand-up comedians are amazing people and some of them suck, but all of them make people happy, when they hit the stage.
Let me try and connect the dots again.
If I wasn’t a shy and bullied kid, would I be a stand-up comedian now? I don’t know. There is something called destiny and there is a lot of stuff that’s just beyond our understanding. However, the fact that I stayed silent for so many years, warrants that I write jokes and make fun of life, as it is.
Life is difficult, no?
Life is difficult. It’s not easy to live a good life. I don’t think ONLY being able to pay the bills and being able to buy the things that money can buy makes for a good life.
Why do I choose to stay a stand-up comedian in spite of the fact that it’s so fucking difficult?
That’s because comedy gives me a purpose in life. I have a purpose.
My purpose is to make the world an inspired and visibly happier place.
Is that worthy purpose to have?
I don’t know. It’s something that resonates with me. It makes me feel I am up to something. It makes stand-up comedy a part of my life and connects it to a mission.
I want to make you laugh and I will write jokes to make you laugh. I will try those jokes on stage and if they work, I will keep them and they will become a part of my set, and well, my story.
That’s how it works.
To any comedians who cared to read this piece, I admire your courage to do this. Stand-up comedy is and perhaps will always be an extremely difficult profession to pursue. It’s not easy to make it work, in this game. Here is Bill Burr, explaining why.
I am trying and will always be trying. I know I will fail many more times and I will come back to the stage again. It has happened far too long now for the pain to sting as badly as it used to. It doesn’t sting as hard anymore because I have made people laugh and tasted blood. I know I can do it, now. I know I can.
Here is me trying, and kind of succeeding.
To people reading this, who have had difficult childhoods, and kept their desires and passions dormant for years, I want you to go and have a shot at it. What you crave to be, inside your heart, it what you are really meant to be. This piece is not just about comedy. It’s about life. Be whatever you WANT to be. Don’t be what you HAVE to be.
Even if you fail, you will have tried. If you tried and you didn’t give up, you didn’t fail. You died trying.
What’s life all about?
Life is about figuring out what makes YOU happy and then using THAT to scale up the happiness for the world around you.
That’s what I am on. Thank you for reading and see you from the stage!
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