Risks, realities and rewards of stand-up comedy with Papa CJ
If you are a fan of stand-up comedy, you will definitely be aware of this one man who took Indian comedy scene global- Papa CJ. He was the first Indian to represent the country in platforms like the Just for Laughs festival of Canada in 2009. His shows both in the national and international circuit have always been complete sold out.
Papa CJ whose Naked show, where he bares his soul and also his skin, has consistently been a hit with the public all over the world. But how does he really make people laugh everytime without offending them? He responds, “It is all about intent and context. So if you are in a room with me I can convey my intent and you can understand the context. Now the second that clip gets recorded and put on the internet or sent to TV, people who are not in that room see that clip and they don’t get that context and they don’t understand your intent, that’s when offence happens.”
Freedom of speech is often a contested in comedy all around the world. Papa CJ articulates that a comedian takes a call on if he wants to say whatever he wants to say or respect the ideologies of its audience. “For me, I won’t joke about Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa because I personally respect them. The second thing is you keep in mind the context of the audience you are in.”
He added, “The other thing is you can talk about the ideal world and talk about this is how it should be, freedom of expression and blah blah, but you also have to keep in mind the real world. For example, if I go to Singapore and joke about Lee Kuan Yew, you will be in trouble. Now you can decide if your freedom of speech is more important or your personal safety. Keep in mind whether your safety is more important or the point you are trying to make.
He shares one of the anecdotes from one of his shows for the same series where in Chennai he was performing, “I got down in my boxers and started dancing and while was dancing, a 50-year-old lady spanked me really hard. And then in between the show she left and came back in 5 minutes and I felt that was really weird. When later I bumped into her and asked her the reason, she said, ‘it was a sentimental show, I was laughing, I was crying, and in flow I spanked you so hard that my contact lens popped out and I moved only to find it’.”
His conclusion from the incident? If you think India is conservative then there is a lady in Chennai who will “spank your ass so hard that her eyes fall out.”
All comedians are risk-takers as it is not a very established profession in India and is still coming up. To this, Papa CJ expressed that he works in the happiness industry and he finds happiness in making people laugh. Papa CJ does a lot of shows for free in hospitals and for him the highest point in career has been when he was performing in a hospital in Singapore and he entertained a patient who was in pain, but he was laughing for a good 45 mins. “That was a high point for me.”