Rohan Mukherjee who was looking forward to a career in environmental law litigation until comedy entered his life and shook things up. Read on to know more about this stand up comic.
Tell us about your life journey in brief?
I am currently in my final year at National Law University, Odisha. Grew up in Kolkata. I started a company called Grayscale Legal when three years into law school and was looking forward to a career in environmental law litigation until comedy entered my life and shook things up.
What prompted you to take up stand up comedy ?
I had zero clue of the English stand up scene that had been developing in India for the past few years. Even more surprised to come across open mic nights being held in cities like Kolkata. I don’t know. I was at a slightly low point, when I was seriously considering dropping out of college and had fantasies of working in a fast food chain by day and doing stand up by night. Not a very posh fantasy, but an achievable one!
I remember coming across a clip of George Carlin in 2010 and being blown away by the rationality in this man. And the fact that he was pissed at things – tiny minute tid bits of social niceties, got me going. Back then I had no other outlet to be witty, sharp and convey an idea passionately to an audience other than going for parliamentary debates. So when I came across an open mic hosted by Kalkutta Komedians, I jumped at the opportunity and took a 6 hour train to Kolkata from Cuttack for 2 minutes of stage time. Did a bit involving masturbatory gestures in front of my dad who was there in the crowd. Got the bug since.
Tell us about your team, if you have?
I am writing with a comedy collective in Mumbai called The Awkward Fruit – we organize stand up spots, sketch comedy etc. Wish I could give you further details but I’m more or less in touch with my team over phone and email since I’m geographically located in the far and mystical place to the east.
What type of content you prefer when it comes to stand up comedy?
As an audience member I pretty much like all kinds of funny. When it comes to my own material I don’t think in terms of ‘what message do I want to convey’ but rather what to me is frustrating, absurd or hilarious. I’ve realised that the minute you get conscious over those imaginary borders of ‘intelligent jokes’ and ‘cheap laughs’, you ruin the natural flow.
What is your dream/ vision?
Oh show business dreams. I’d like to go crazy rich in Mumbai and then snort cocaine every day. With cornflakes, with daal chawal.
I’d love to see a more comedy receptive society. We’ll get there, we’ll get there. It’s pathetic that our big Lenny Bruce – George Carlin free speech fight happened over a 40 minute roast, but since we’re here already, let’s have a blast. As comics, it’s almost spontaneous at times to cuss the audience when a set goes damp – and that I don’t think is fair. We are right now at a stage where both the audience and the comics are learning how to handle this form of art that suddenly exploded in the last few years in India. A few years down the line, I know I’ll see a parliamentary roast on Lok Sabha TV. Why not. ‘Murica does it.
What difficulties you face as a stand up comedian?
Since I’m at a place from where the nearest city with any comedy scene is 7 hours away, I am not able to hit as many open mics to test new material as I would have liked to. So instead of fine tuning my old material, I tend to try fresh material in all open mics. I wish I had cool stories like “Bro he pulled me by the collar and beat the crap out of me. Like, literally bro.” or “I was asked to vacate the venue as the organizers felt the audience getting more and more hostile.” But alas. I have had a plain life so far.
What motivates you or keeps you going?
Oh, it’s therapy. Period. Someone once said that stand up comedy is a mental disorder that you can do for a living – and it couldn’t be more correct. And the whole gush of adrenaline when we get on stage and feed on the applause.
Any fun/ memorable incident?
Oh yes. I did my second open mic in Vizag and won it as well. Did some material on chefs and cooking. After the show, a guy came up to me, shook my hand, introduced himself as a chef at the same hotel and said he got exactly what I talked about. I mean, second open mic and the idea of this guy who cooks professionally connecting with my material meant the world to me.
What advice you’d like to give to someone who is interested/newbie in stand up comedy?
Woah. Too early for that shit. Way too early. But yeah, if you’re weird in a social setting, stand up might be for you – and write. All comics I meet say the same, write – You’re a writer who performs his own material – And hit at least 100 open mics before deciding on taking it up professionally. By that logic, I just bluffed my way through this interview.
Anything else you’d like to share?
My pay. If you set me up with a nice gig.
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