Pursue art only if you make 2x your salary: stand-up comedian and investor Appurv Gupta

Stand-up comedian and angel investor Appurv Gupta spills the beans on pursuing art as a career and more.

Pursue art only if you make 2x your salary: stand-up comedian and investor Appurv Gupta

Friday January 27, 2023,

6 min Read


Not a thing is pretentious about Appurv Gupta—the globally renowned stand-up comedian and angel investor. On being asked ‘why Hinglish?’ during an interaction with YS Life, he had a genuine, no-nonsense response ready. 

“Not Hinglish,” he corrected. “I do full-time Hindi shows. I studied in a government school, and I was not as fluent in English.”

Appurv made a name for himself in 2012—a time when stand-up comedy was still budding in the country and was limited to the likes of AIB and TVF. But even after a decade, he continues to be relevant in the Indian standup comedy scene. 

So far, Appurv has performed more than 2,200 shows across India, Dubai, USA, Australia, Nepal and Thailand. His videos on social media have garnered over 350 million views, and he was listed in Forbes India’s Celebrity 100 Nominees list in 2015. 

Some of his noteworthy shows include Kaafi Wild Hai, Relationship or Relationshit, and Best of GuptaJi. At present, Appurv is touring for his show Genuinely, and has already performed in more than 60 shows across India and Nepal. 

A chance comedian

Appurv’s story is similar to that of many Indian millennials. Born to a middle-class family, the Delhi boy prepared to crack the IIT. Though he couldn’t get through to an IIT, he still pursued engineering to fulfil his parents' dreams. 

Disinterested in the course, Appurv tried his luck in many forms of art—jazz dancing, playing the keyboard piano, and public speaking, while continuing with his degree. He started exploring public speaking with Toastmasters International and soon realised, “The peak form of public speaking is stand-up comedy.” 

In 2011, Appurv decided to explore stand-up comedy. He recalls the rush of performing in front of an audience and the instant gratification that came with it. “The laughter and the applause…I got addicted to that.”
Appurv during a performance

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Appurv during a performance

Far away from all things related to engineering, Appurv continues to consider himself “an engineer at heart.”

“I apply the same fundamental principles in stand-up as well,” he says. After spending a decade in comedy, Appurv still believes that he is “not a naturally funny guy”.

However, “making people laugh is something that can be done, if one puts enough effort. I continue using the problem-solving skills that I acquired during my engineering days in my role as a stand-up comedian”, he explains. 

Appurv jokes about the usual day-to-day things like dating apps, engineers, and hotels, and seeks inspiration in the most mundane things—from maggi to tea and even biryani!

Business of comedy

The long-asked question, especially in the Indian context, has been if one can sustain with art. Appurv says, “Pursue art full-time only if it helps you make 2x of your current or expected salary.” This, he insists, is owing to the uncertainty of commissions or projects, or as in his case, the number of shows that come with pursuing art as a career. “Not all seasons are the same. It is smarter to take a ‘calculated decision’ than just a decision,” he insists. 

And what about being honest with your art, and yourself? 

“I do two kinds of shows—one for the soul, and another for the stomach. Every time you cannot be with your audience,” Appurv says. 
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For his specials (Kaafi Wild Hai, Relationship or Relationshit, and more recently, Genuinely), Appurv is unapologetically himself. He draws inspiration from his own life experiences. In Genuinely, Appurv takes his audience on a hilarious ride through his own journey over the last seven to eight years. 

However, these shows don’t always ‘feed’ him. For the latter, he indulges in corporate shows. Appurv has performed for a marquee list of clients—Mercedes EO Noida, Cure.fit, Dell, PMG Group, Exxon Mobil, DineOut, Tata Power, Godrej Real Estate, and Asian Paints, among others.

“The moment I take up corporate shows, I have to customise my sets to suit the client’s demands. It’s almost like performing after putting on a layer or wearing a mask—my script has to be in line with the brief provided,” Appurv explains. 

Appurv thought he was fulfilling his parents’ dream when he was pursuing engineering. Looking back, his opinion has evolved. “Every artist must have a professional degree. Having something to fall back on adds to the confidence,” he advises aspiring artists. 

Jack of all trades

Comedy is not Appurv’s only expertise. The 31-year-old makes financial education-focused YouTube videos. “I read and researched a lot about it. I knew it had to be done to be able to make more money out of money,” he tells YS Life. And that’s exactly what Appurv wants to educate the mass about—help people make money using their existing money. 

In fact. Appurv has made some strategic investments in the Indian startup ecosystem. His investment philosophy is simple—put money into innovations that push the boundaries technologically and solve present day-to-day problems. He has invested in smart specs company Nimo Planet, social network O’hi, content commerce startup HYPD, language learning platform Clapingo, creator management company CultureX, and the Central Club of Comedy, among others. 

But what does he enjoys the most—standup comedy, financial education, or being an angel investor?

“Standup comedy is my first love,” he answers without thinking. “Irrespective of how my day has been, I forget everything once I get on the stage.” 

However, he believes that most of his learning comes from being an investor. A deliberate investor in early-stage startups, Appurv believes a lot has to be learnt from struggling entrepreneurs. “We are like startups…As humans, we sell ourselves.” 

Appurv also brings some of his learnings from the stage to board meetings. As a standup comedian, he is quick at understanding human behaviour and this helps him select the right people he wants to invest in. 

Road ahead 

Almost a decade later, Appurv believes he still has a long way to go—as a standup comedian, and an investor. “The goalpost keeps evolving every three to four years,” he says. The standup comedian believes that being hungry (for the next goal in life) works in the favour of artists. “I continue to be hungry to achieve more, but I am not restless anymore,” he adds. 

Talking about his ‘idol’, Appurv mentions having been deeply influenced by American comedian George Carlin. He believes that if one really wants to pursue art, they should be able to do it until the end, much like Carlin. “After the initial phase, art is beyond the monetary benefits,” Appurv explains. 

Speaking about his future plans, Appurv doesn’t reveal much but spills that he can be soon expected to appear on the silver screen. He is currently working on another special and is planning to expand his investment portfolio as well. 

“You are born with talent, but skills have to be developed. I am not as talented but I really work hard to achieve the things that I have today,” Appurv logs off. 

(The story was updated to add extra information)


Edited by Kanishk Singh