'Being superman might be easy, but being a family man is the most difficult thing ever': Meet Bangalore based stand-up comedian Praveen Kumar
39-year-old, Praveen Kumar a BITS Pilani graduate has been in the comedy sphere from 2009 onwards.
Having performed in over 1400 shows globally, he is known to leave his audience in splits, and rolling with laughter with his narratives of simple experiences and relatable stories from day-to-day life.
How do you react when a mouse runs passed you at home or when you need to communicate with house painters or electricians without knowing Hindi, or when it comes to deciding whether upma or biryani will rule the day?
Praveen Kumar recounts all these experiences with his unique brand of humour.
In an exclusive interview with YS Weekender, Comedian Praveen Kumar talks about how he got into the standup space, his joke writing process, memorable moments in his career, and how he went about shooting Amazon Prime’s Mr Family Man
Excerpts from the interview...
YSW: Tell us how you ventured into the comedy space.
PK: I started to do a lot of mime in college, and used to get a high by making my peers laugh. I used to perform in front of around 1000-2000 people.
After I graduated, everyone went their separate ways. There was a void in my life and I wanted to do something related to comedy, so I got married.
In 2008, I read an article about stand-up comedy, and realised that this was a field I could participate in all by myself without depending on others. I decided to give it a shot, and performed at my college alumni night and it was a disaster. Luckily, I didn’t quit and I continued, and here I am today.
YSW: Is humour something that comes naturally to you? Did your family or friends ever tell you to pursue this full time?
PK: I used to be the funny one around, making people laugh and organising games, and being a part of the cultural committee. At that time, I didn’t know anything about stand-up comedy. I used to watch it on TV, but everything changed when I read that article.
YSW: With the Covid-19 lockdown keeping everyone indoors what is your message to fans out there who are trying to cope?
PK: Personally, in the first two weeks, I found it very difficult to cope. I spent my time watching movies and web series.
At the back of my mind, I faced restlessness, as I didn’t know what the future would be like or what would happen. However, after 2-3 weeks of the lockdown I realised this is how it is going to be for the next few months or a year, and we need to learn how to make peace with it.
I started doing online shows, and open mics to begin with as well as paid gigs. I am glad that I did something, rather than wait for a miracle to happen.
The one thing I realised during the lockdown is that with limited resources, we need to learn to make maximum use of it.
YSW: You have done over 1,400 shows across the globe, what have been some of your most memorable ones, and why?
PK: There are quite a lot of memorable ones for me, and I remember one contract show in 2009 where I got booed a lot. No one was clapping and it was a huge disaster.
In 2017, I performed for the same company again and this time, I got a standing ovation.
This was memorable moment for me and one I will never forget because it is at the same place that I had failed once.
It was then that I knew I was doing the right thing, and I am grateful for not quitting stand-up comedy.
Another memorable one is the Mr Family Man launch show that took place in Chennai last year.
YSW: How do you come up with the ideas for your comedy segments? What is your brainstorming/thought process like?
PK: I live my life. I don’t sit in one corner of a room or think of jokes. There will be something weird that will happen in life. We just need to make a note of it, and elaborately work on it.
So, if you have seen the Mr Family Man show, it could be something like a mouse entering the house, or how I struggle with painters when it comes to speaking in Hindi, or how I dealt with a parent teacher meeting in my daughter's school.
So, my jokes are based on true stories and real life, but I do occasionally add some masala, from time to time.
Live your life, and jokes will come to you.
YSW: Who were some of your early inspirations growing up? Who are they now?
PK: From my childhood till now there are two inspirations for me in comedy. One is Goundamani a legendary actor, and Crazy Mohan a writer-cum-Indian actor and comedian.
YSW: Amazon Prime recently released your comedy special ‘Mr Family Man’. What was the experience like and what message did you want to leave your audience members with?
PK: It was an amazing experience and a dream come true. I previously tried to pitch my earlier special called 36 Vayadhinile, however for some reason it didn’t work out. I put it out on YouTube and it did really well. It currently has over 3.7 million views.
So that gave me confidence to pitch ‘Mr Family Man’ and this time it worked. There were 80 people who worked on the special for two days, apart from the director and the cameraman. It was an extremely memorable and happy moment for me shooting the show.
My message to my audience is to keep working hard. If you fail at something now, there will definitely be something better waiting for you later on.
Use failure as a stepping-stone. I know this might sound like a typical clichéd statement, but this really happened in my life.
YSW: You once said ‘Being superman might be easy, but being a family man is the most difficult thing ever.’ What did you mean?
PK: I empathise with Indian family men and this is because they don’t get their due credit. We are doing a lot of work, and women might be doing a lot more work, but we are too, and this needs to be credited.
Family men go through a lot of stress in their daily lives and problems which they need to find solutions to on a day-to-day basis. These things are not given as much credit as they deserve. This was the idea for the show on Amazon Prime, and something I believe in too.
YSW: You have often mentioned that your wife and daughter are your biggest critics. What advice have they given you?
PK: Whenever I write a joke and before I go for an open mic, I usually perform in front of my wife and daughter. Even when a joke is funny, they try to control their laughter as they are trying to be good critics. They do give me a lot of inputs.
In one of my shows, the entire bit about Soch clothes shopping, was inspired by my wife's inputs. She told me about the trial room queue and how men and salesmen act in a store.
This helped me a lot when it came to framing the story, and this particular segment is currently trending on YouTube right now.
YSW: When it comes to comedy, what do you think the world needs to see more of?
PK: There is no limit to comedy and that is the beauty of it. Comedy is subjective. I might like one form of comedy or you might like another form of it. I feel that an audience needs to be more inclusive. If you don’t like a particular form of humour, it doesn’t make it bad.
Everyone is trying hard, and has a unique style.
I might not like somebody’s style, but it doesn’t make him or her a bad comedian. So, I feel people need to be more open-minded rather than writing hateful and negative comments in the YouTube comment section. This is something I would like to see changed, amongst viewers.
YSW: What is your advice to other aspiring comedians, motivators, and influencers out there?
PK: My advice for aspiring comedians and others is that you should pursue your passion while doing your day job. Don’t prematurely quit your day job.
Evaluate your income pattern to see how much you are earning. If it is two thirds of what you are getting in your day job, then go for it.
It is difficult and you have to be patient, and juggle with two jobs, and your family life might take a hit. But if you do this seriously for the first two or three years, you will be successful.
YSW: Are you looking to do any collaborations with other comedians in the space?
PK: As of now, collaboration in stand up might be challenging as everyone has his or her unique style. I probably might collaborate with someone for a web series or podcast. I don’t know yet, but I am completely open to it.
YSW: What are your future plans? Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
PK: Yes! I am working on my next special, and it will be unique because this one will feature one huge story through the entire show, instead of several short stories,
It will be challenging for me, but I am ready to accept the challenge, as I want to give something new and fresh to the audience.
YSW: What do you like to do most during the weekends?
PK: I love to watch television with my wife. We have watched tons and tons of web series for the past two years and we continue to do so.
I also like to go to the movie theatres with my family and watch movies over the weekends. I hope to resume this once the lockdown is over.