“I have had a very interesting journey so far.
The course that I took up as an undergraduate, shut down after I completed it.
Like all my friends at college, I too applied for a visa to USA. I got admits from three US universities, based on my GRE score. My VISA was rejected. I applied again after a few months. The VISA was rejected again.
The next year I appeared for GMAT and got admits again, and again my VISA application got rejected!
After that I decided to do my MBA from a Bangalore-based college, and of course, on completion of the course the college shutdown!
After that I worked for three different corporate entities, and by now you know the pattern, all three of them shut down!”
So many rejections can bring out the worst in most people, but Praveen Kumar, hailed as one of the ‘Top 10 Stand-up Comedians in India’, reveals this part of his life with pure nonchalance and a big smile.
Early life and college days
Praveen was born in a small town Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. After his schooling, he went on to take up an undergraduate course at BITS, Pilani. It was here that he came across the mime club. He went for an audition as a fresher but was rejected. Praveen started miming in front of his colleagues at the hostel. He got rave reviews and feedback from them. The next year, he auditioned again and this time got the part. That was one of the major turning points. He got to perform in front of a 2500-strong audience and the intense high that the crowd’s laughter gave him was to become his motivation later on in life.
After his MBA, Praveen got a job selling HP hardware. He resented every bit of it. He moved to a marketing position next leading a team of two sales people to sell air purifiers in Bangalore. The company closed down after a year-and-a-half.
Finally, he got a job as Marketing Manager at Altisource where he remained since 2007. Looks like he broke the ‘shut down’ jinx after all.
“All this while, I had the BITS mime days at the back of my mind. I used to write several blog posts, but the readership was limited to friends and family. I wanted to be out there, performing. And then one day in December 2008, I read an article about stand-up comedy,” ” says Praveen.
Prologue to the stand-up days
That article turned out to be the tipping point for him. Praveen started doing stand-up for his close friends and office folks. Most of his act comprised of internet jokes. He got his first paid corporate gig as well. However, there have been times when things did not go well.
“I still remember that day (November 24, ’09). I was booed and laughed off the stage. I broke down and cried when I got back home. But my family gave me immense support. I decided that this definitely is not the end of the world, and this gave me courage to move on.”
There has been no looking back since. Praveen started doing several open-mic nights and in June 2010, he started doing two regular shows every month on Sundays at Bacchus. This went on till June, 2012, when the place shut down! It is still one of the longest running stand-up acts in Bangalore.
Polished bottoms and going mainstream
Praveen along with three other friends, Sundeep Rao, Sanjay Manaktala, and Sal Yusuf, started a group called Polished Bottoms. They have performed at several different venues in different cities.
Praveen has performed at the Comedy Store in Mumbai and was received well every time. On one occasion, however, the owner of the Comedy Store came up to him and told him that he did not understand a word of what he said and that he needed to work on his accent.
He was confused. He knew he had an accent problem, but he also knew that people were laughing at his jokes. He started looking at accent-neutralization courses.
“It was during this time that I met Ashwin Matthew. He asked me about the situation and then advised me that accent was the truest thing about me. That was my USP. He told me to get rid of the thought and work more on being myself. That is the single best piece of advice that anyone has ever given me.”
One of the big names in comedy
Praveen has surely become one of the biggest names in comedy and has now done over 300 stage shows and corporate gigs. His biggest audience till date has been 4000, when he opened for comedian Kapil Sharma at his Bangalore gig.
On January 04, 2014, he did his first stand-alone hour-long act at Jagriti Theatre in Bangalore in front of an audience of 150 people. His parents were in the audience as well.
Few quick questions
Q: How do you come up with the material for your shows?
Praveen: Mostly I note down stuff from normal conversations I have with friends.
Q: What do you think about Ramesh Srivats?
Praveen: He is God-level. It’s like he just reads the news and comes up with funny stuff within a second.
Q: What’s up next?
My parents were very happy for me after the show. I was trying to convince them for some time now. The show did it for me. I put in my papers this Monday and now I will be doing stand-up full-time.