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    Posted on 17 August 2012
    CULTURE & SOCIETY  
    COMEDY

    Mid-Life Crisis weighing you down? Try Stand-Up

    If there was ever a time to be a comedian in Delhi, it is now, Rasik Chopra tells Saim Saeed

    Rasik Chopra


    Quitting his job and coming back to India has had many unforeseen rewards for 34-year-old Rasik Chopra. While many young professionals working abroad have returned to pursue careers here, often in completely different fields, few have ventured into comedy, and fewer have come out smiling.

    “The truth was that I wasn’t settled, and wasn’t interested in finance,” said a visibly relaxed Rasik at his home at Jor Bagh. “Although, India being ‘pioneer country’ indeed made it conducive to come back.”

    And if there was ever a time to be a comedian in Delhi, it is now. Aspiring and professional comedians have been performing all over the city, and stand-up artists like Sanjay Rajoura and Papa CJ have popularised the profession. The city, to its credit, is loving it. Cafés, restaurants, bars and theatres all hold comedy nights, and it seems as if the audiences are in the mood for a laugh.

    Chopra himself did his rounds of the city, and thought there was room for his voice. But that wasn’t the intention with which he came back. An existential crisis and creeping visa worries finally compelled him to take a flight to Delhi last year. However, this is not one of those stories where he could finally do what his heart desired. He had next to no experience in comedy, and absolutely none when it came to stand-up.

    “I had always kept writing. I wrote plays, took on some screenwriting projects. Nothing serious, but I kept it up,” recalls Rasik. His first foray can be accredited to a writing class that he took at NYU, where to learnt to write for sitcoms. His assignment to write a script for an episode of Family Guy was particularly influential.

    After he arrived in Delhi last year, Rasik immersed himself in the comedy scene in Delhi, getting to know fellow comedians such as Sanjay Rajoura, and Vivek Mansukhani, his director, in the process. He scripted a series of funny Youtube videos that have gotten ten of thousands of hits, including a music video documenting his wedding to a horse.

    However, writing didn’t translate to stand-up, that came from the same sitcom writing class. “My professor encouraged me further. He said that whatever works as a line in a sitcom, works in stand-up.” He scripted “Family Jewels”, his latest show, in January this year, and cut it, edited it, and fine-tuned it in the following months, eventually performing it at the Habitat Centre to a full house. Twice.

    “I can’t be proud of the first time. If you have a good turnout for the first show, then that just indicates a good marketing. What reassured me was that enough people liked it the first time around to tell their friends about it.”

    His stand-up act draws from snippets from his life and the people around him. “I’ve managed to make money off my own therapeutic needs,” he quipped. It wasn’t easy, though. “I spent the first five minutes simply coming up with jokes for how nervous I was.” Consequently, he had to change his track as he became less nervous.

    “Most stand-up comedians try new material in front of small audiences, experimenting with what works, and what doesn’t. Vivek [Mansukhani] was my one-man audience, directing me, telling me what I should cut, edit and everything in between.”

    His parents, unsurprisingly, were skeptical of his decision to quit his job in finance, but have since been supportive, despite being the butt of a significant amount of his material.

    “I think what also made them comfortable was that they saw the worst case scenario. I was unemployed, I had come back from America, and I wanted to get into comedy, of all things. I had hit rock bottom, and they were comfortable that it this was as bad as it was going to be,” he explained.

    However, his own life as the focus of his comedy may not last very long. “For my next show, I want to see how far I can push the envelope,” he says, “Vivek had me edit out a few things out of ‘Family Jewels’ already. I want to see how far I can push an audience. That sounds exciting to me.”

    Rasik Chopra’s show, “Family Jewels” is at the Blue Frog at 9pm August 18th. Tickets are available on location and online at bookmyshow.com


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    Posted on 17 August 2012
 

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