Let’s Put a Smile on that Face: In conversation with Papa CJ

By Team YS|10th Oct 2011
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Papa CJ

Are you relying on a Hangover sequel to tickle your funny bone? Do you re-run funny youtube videos with fake laughs to crack up? Here's to quickly upgrade your resources- because there is more this country offers than you might wonder!In a humorous conversation with Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory.in, the Oxford graduate and stand-up comedian - Papa CJ, tells us about the funny side of being funny. Read up on what platform stand-comedy sets by the 'papa of punchlines' himself!

Papa CJ was also one of finalists at British Council’s Young Performing Arts Entrepreneur Awards, 2010. To know more about the Young Performing Arts Entrepreneur Awards, click here. To follow the Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards on Facebook, click here

An MBA from Oxford and then stand up comedy? What triggered this? 

I realised that stand-up comedy was my calling in life very soon after I started doing it. Had I not thrown up my job I would currently be rotting in the drain of a corporate organisation as an underachiever with little ambition who compromised on his dream to follow his heart and now has to suck-up to a man he despises so he can put food on the table and give himself the illusion that one day his pathetic life may mean something when he has a fancy meaningless title that impresses nobody. I figure I’d much rather be on a stage kicking that rear than be in an office kissing it.

When did you start performing? Can you please take us back to your first show? 

I started performing in November 2004. My first show was on a boat on the River Thames in South East London called the Wibbly Wobbly Boat. The gig was notorious for being very rowdy and the legend who ran the show, a man called Malcolm Hardee, brought me on to stage by saying, 'The next guy is probably going to be crap, but anyhow, please put your hands together and welcome him on to stage, Papa CJ'. The gig went surprisingly well and I have never looked back since.


Papa CJ

How many shows have you done so far? Any show that comes very close to your heart? I have done about 1000 shows so far. The one that sticks in my mind is one I recently did for a group of Al Qaeda suicide bombers (laughs). The show was going really well but when we started singing ‘Death to America’ together they started getting excited and blowing themselves up. It was quite traumatising for me but I suppose the audience had a blast. The next days show did get cancelled though as the auditorium was razed to the ground. Also they realised last minute that there were a lot of funerals that day. And wait - let me remind you, it’s a comedian you are interviewing.

(Laughs) I’m sure the CIA would be very interested in knowing that. Besides that - what are your other notable achievements?

I was Headboy at the Lawrence School Sanawar. Then after completing an MBA from the University of Oxford and paying off my student loans, much to the delight of my proud Indian family, in November 2004 I threw up my consulting job in London to pursue my passion for stand-up comedy. Since then I have been invited to perform in multiple countries including USA, Canada, Northern Ireland, UK, France, Malta, South Africa, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia. In 2008, I represented India on NBC's TV show, Last Comic Standing and from the thousands of global contestants who took part, I was ranked as one of the top ten comedians in the world. I have also worked as a motivational speaker and executive coach and in the last 5 years have trained over 50 blue chip companies all over the world. I founded a charity 6 years ago that works towards bringing children out of child labour and back into the formal schooling system. This charity is largely funded by my comedy.


Papa CJ

Tell us more about your Charity. Six years ago I figured I needed a way to earn income without paying any tax. So I set up a charity in the UK called 'One Child' and told people that it worked with underprivileged children in India. The truth really is that the 'one child' is me and I use all the charity's funds to feed my own selfish needs (Laughs). Jokes apart, my charity does very good work. The work we do covers informal education, women and child heath, micro-finance, disaster preparedness and supporting the formal school fee. We run three Child Education Centres and support a village of over 5000 people.

Do you perform around certain themes? 

My only criterion is that whatever I do needs to be funny. However as you grow as a comedian, the real joy is to go beyond the easy laugh, to challenge yourself continuously and to have superlative crowd work. There is nothing a crowd enjoys more than good audience interaction…because they know that it is magic that has been created in the moment and that part of the show is something that nobody else in the world will ever see.

How do you think the ecosystem in India should evolve to support more artists?

The time between following an artistic passion and being able to sustain a living from it, is long and indefinite. The best way to support artists is by paying for their services. That will encourage others to consider the art form as a viable profession. So the next time you're looking at engaging an artist, please pay them hard cash.

Anything else that you want to share with the readers of YourStory.in? 

Well, if anyone has ANY questions or would be interested in taking up stand-up comedy, you can contact me through www.PAPACJ.com. I started up open mic nights in India three years ago and am constantly supporting upcoming talent. I'd be happy to help new talent get a platform to perform, grow and showcase their talent.

Did you have some fun while reading the story? Share your views by writing to us at feedback@yourstory.in  

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