Degree Kaapi with Praveen Kumar and Alex Babu
(Exclusive interview for British South Indians by Sharanya Bharathwaj)
MAY we all MARCH together into exciting APRIL in the AUGUST presence of two most sought after stand-up comedians?Yes! Praveen Kumar and Alexander Babu, the aficionado comedians associated with Evam Standup Tamasha, will soon be in the UK to present ‘Orthodoxically Yogi’ in English, hosted by Bluefeather Studios.
Praveen Kumar, who is a PUNdit of timely and appropriate PUNctuations is known for his clean comedy and humility. His eternal love for Biriyani sprouted even before his management studies at BITS Pilani! He says funnily that “his love for comedy is so much that he decided to get married”! Though he holds an MBA from Ohio University, he believes that the experience of MBA (Married By Accident) has increased the ‘brightness quotient’ of his life! A humble and polite person that he is, PK has also been a ‘violinist’ during childhood.
He has also been nominated for Forbes Top 100 celebrities in India, Rated as one of the Top 10 stand- up comedians in India by Times of India and one of top 10 comics in India to look out by IBN Live.
Alex Babu is a prolific stand-up comic…. who sits down to play music and bends to perform Yoga! An ex(hausted) software engineer that he says , he was , discovered Comedy as the spice of his life! He has a unique capability to Hum Our favourite songs while delivering exceptional humour. He makes you explode with laughter, be it his hilarious take on Hillary or his speech about TamBram Mama or his ode to Michelle Obama. Alex also manages to stay on the beat when he plays the Tabla besides maintaining harmony while playing the Harmonium.
Here’s an exclusive interview with the talented duo before their maiden performance together in the UK:
Hi Praveen Kumar & Alex,
Greetings from British South Indians!
BSI : All of us in the UK are excited about your “Orthodoxically Yogi”…..What is in store for us ?
PK: “Orthodoxically Yogi” – the name is derived from mine and Alex’s respective specials “Orthodoxically Me” and “Yogi and the Bear”. And we both bring the best jokes from all the years of stand up we have put in. So the audience can expect to see us in our best elements and a laughter riot guaranteed.
AB : As Praveen says, both of us will be playing our best sets from our respective recently concluded specials- we did 20+ shows across India and were well-received. Praveen’s humour carries childlike innocence and goofiness. I am big fan of his wits. You will like us (and the shows) for sure!
BSI: Please tell us something about your family ….
PK: I was born and brought up in Kancheepuram but settled in Bangalore now. Dad is a doctor and mom is a home maker. I wanted to become a doctor from my childhood and intentionally spoilt my handwriting too…. but couldn’t become a doctor but Vitamin M which was required in huge amount is what I didn’t have (Vitamin M by the way is ‘MARKS’)….. So became an engineer (Surprise). My wife is a home maker and my daughter is almost 7 years.
AB: Ok, let’s start with a yogic reply: See, it’s not your family or my family, but ‘our’ family! As the age old Indian scripture says ‘vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, meaning ‘the world is one family’. Through my art, I aspire to share this sense of belonging. Sure, let’s keep that one for an Oscar speech.
Here is something about my immediate family. Mine consists of one wife and two children (7 and 5 year old boys). Ours was an arranged cum love marriage. Both of us met through a matrimony site, decided to get married and then brought the parents in. We both love children. We were exalted when we had our first child. The prolonged excitement soon led to the second child. Like how you feel grounded when you stand on two legs, the two kids now keep us grounded and help us appreciate all the simple things in life!
BSI: When and where was your first stage show as a comedian? How was the response?
PK: I started getting on stage from my college days in BITS Pilani. I used to do comedy mimes with a group of people. But after we passed out, all of us went in different directions. To put up a mime we need people with similar mind set. So I couldn’t do much. I always wanted to do something related to comedy and I got married. And then I read an article on Stand-up comedy and I thought that is something I can do alone without depending on anybody. I got on stage in 2009 for my college Alumni night. It was pathetic. People were laughing AT me. Even my friends didn’t laugh. I felt bad but luckily I didn’t quit. I continued to work on it.
AB: In my school days. I was in the elementary. My mom was a teacher in the same school. There was this school day drama and I was playing a grown up man wearing a Dhoti. I was worried whether the dhoti will slip away anytime. So, I kept holding on to it admittedly in a peculiar position. My mom was in the front row along with all the other teachers. At one point, she said loudly ‘take your hand off from there’. That got the biggest laughter for the show. Great response!
BSI: How different is it to perform overseas when compared to performing in India?
PK: Not much.. but if we have Indians coming in for our show.. they want to hear some “back home” references and they will be very happy if their expectations are met.
AB: Not too different as we are still talking to folks from the home land. However, each show offers the challenge and an opportunity to connect with that moment, that place and people. The connection makes a huge difference to a show. That way, every show is indeed a new show.
During my Amazon Chennai days, I used to work closely with the UK office and reported to the boss in the UK. I made a lot of good friends in the UK office thanks to a few work trips. A bunch of them including my ex-boss are coming to watch me. I am now on the third year into this new career, visiting UK as an artiste. Hence, this tour is very special.
BSI: It’s important for a comedian to look at a normal issue with a different perspective. So, how do you select the concepts?
PK: Actually it’s not a different perspective. It’s like an opinion. We take a stand in any issue and make fun from that stand. For example if you want to talk about Trump, we need to take a stand and make fun from there..
AB: A comedian’s job is to narrate anything in a funny way, just like a musician’s job to find a musical way to convey any emotion. The medium varies, but the job remains the same for any art – to reflect life! Just like a mirror would help you to know the truth about your looks and help you groom better, art helps us to stay truthful. I strongly believe, everyone is and should be an artiste. The size of the audience and medium varies. Job is the same! How do I select concepts/topics? I start with myself, and let the story/connections take over.
BSI: You started your career as an engineer and later switched to Stand-up comedy. What was the convincing factor about comedy that made you choose it as your profession?
PK: The biggest convincing factor that made up take stand up comedy is the satisfaction of making people laugh. It’s like a drug. It will be really overwhelming if someone comes and tells after the show that they haven’t laughed this much for long. That’s the main reason why I am doing comedy. I decided to take it full time once I started earning at least 2/3rd of my day job salary and that too on a regular basis.
AB: As I was getting close to 40, my wife observed that I have not been truly happy with my regular job. I was in denial, initially. As they say, the wife is always right. We both then decided that we will save up money for one year, so I can take a break for an year to pursue my passion and then get back to reality. As we got closer to the start of the sabbatical, we got a little greedy and made the one year into three years. Soon, we were convinced that we should go all the way and make a living out of my passion. Being associated with yoga and spiritual aspects prepared us for ‘minimal’ living and hence the journey has been a lot easier and enjoyable. I am in the third year and making my first trip abroad for performing. Life has been very kind.
BSI: How stressful or easy is it to be a stand-up comedian? Pros/cons?
PK: It is not as rosy as it seems… there is a lot of hard work, heart breaks, disappointments, struggles etc that goes behind a comic on stage. It is not easy to be a comic. Pros will be the satisfaction you get. There is no con until you stop getting laughs when you are on stage. That’s the biggest disappointment for any comic.
AB: No stress, only work. At times, yes, hard work, but I wouldn’t call it stress. When you practice your passion (or bring passion into whatever you practice), it is just work. When you enjoy your work, working hard only makes you stronger. Hence, It is not just work anymore, but work out!
BSI: Comedians are believed to be serious in their personal life. What kind of a person are you off-stage?
PK: I am not very serious or very jovial in real life. I think I am a right mix of both according to the situation.
AB: I am the same on and off stage, I believe. In fact, I am working towards having more of real me on stage. That’s the bulk of work.
BSI: What would be your advice for youngsters who aspire to have a career as a Stand-up comedian?
PK: There are in fact many.
- Be at it. If you fail it’s ok. Your attempt can be a failure but there shouldn’t be a failure of your attempt.
- Don’t expect money for the first 2-3 years. Focus on getting better. Money will follow you.
- Don’t compare yourself with anyone. Compare you with yourself from your previous time on stage.
- If you think you are not funny enough, hard work will get you there.
AB: George Carlin once said ‘Don’t do comedy to become rich or famous. Do because you enjoy doing’. That simply applies to everything. Find something that you truly enjoy and live it. Money and fame may come. Even if it comes, it will go. If you are anyways enjoying your game, you will be happy!
BSI: Your message to your fans residing in the UK:
PK: Please come for the show. Trust me you won’t be disappointed.
AB: Looking forward to meeting you all in person! Let’s meet, share some love and laughter, multiply them, then parcel and take them home!