I am inspired by Johnny Lever sir, says comedian Amit Tandon

Popular stand-up comedian, Amit Tandon is the host of a new show Goodnight India on Sony Sab TV. Amit has made a unique space for himself in family comedy shows in Hindi

Amit Tandon
Amit Tandon
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Kumar Raviraj Sinha

Tell us about your journey?

I did my engineering and MBA, then worked in corporate sector and ran my own company. Comedy happened by accident rather than planned. I was 34, the first time I did standup and that too as a hobby, more like an after-work hours thing. I did it for 2-3 years, 2009 onwards, and then realized that you can make money in this when corporate shows started coming in and people started offering money to perform. After 4-5 years of doing that, a point came where I was doing many corporate shows and a few ticketed shows. The turning point was in 2016 when I started releasing my videos and then suddenly the videos went viral, ticket sales went through the roof and started performing in a lot of countries. In 2017 I did my first tour. That’s when I finally decided to close down my business and do this full time. In 2018 I moved to Mumbai with my family.

Was comedy your passion or you just did it because you started making a lot of money in it?

It was my passion, but it slowly became my profession and it is always fun when your passion becomes your profession. But I was very clear, that I can’t let my family suffer because of my passion, so, I couldn’t compromise my earning in any case. For 6-7 years I had to work twice as much, running the business during the day and doing comedy at night. Well, now it all turned out very well, as comedy is paying good dividends.

By whom did you get inspired to pursue comedy?

I was not inspired by anybody particular. I used to write in my college days, I was part of the theatre club and I used to host the annual college fest. When you are on stage and make people laugh, it’s a great feeling and you want to go back to it again and again. The second time I got on stage I was clear that I am doing this for me only. For the sake of naming one inspiration, I would say Johnny Lever sir because the first time I performed on stage, it was his set.

How did you feel and how was your experience when you performed your first show?

I was trembling with fear as I was getting on stage after a long time. I had a piece of paper in my hand and around 4-5 minutes to perform which seemed a lot at that situation. And at the time I was looking forward to getting off the stage, the only thing which was a saving grace for me was the host already told the audience that it was my first time on stage so please laugh and clap, and they did so for a few times which made me feel that I was funny, which I was not. I don’t think they enjoyed the first time I was on stage, there was laughter sometimes but I guess that was because of the liquor they consumed.

What are some of the best strategies to memorize monologues?

In the beginning, I used to write pointers on my hand. Now I don’t do that. Before doing a show, we do several trial shows and when you have done it for 5-7 times you start to remember the show. The reason is that I don’t follow a scripted format as it is not a play. What I am doing is, I am taking my observations and opinions on stage. Words could evolve, my thoughts need to be conveyed. When I write for a performance, for instance say a shopping mall, I think about all the annoy me about a shopping mall, that’s how I start. Once I have done that then I can think about how I can punch it up.

What is your philosophy towards work?

I don’t have any kind of philosophy because I am not a very disciplined person. I write whenever I am in need, I leave voice notes in phone then put them together. The only philosophy I would say that I have is keep your phone away because that’s when you will start getting thoughts.

Have you always wanted to become a comedian?

Being a comedian was not the part of my plan. I was good at it, but I always saw it as a hobby and not something you can make career out of it. But maybe because of the structure we have at our home we didn’t have the mental space to think about this as an alternative for your career.

What is the most memorable moment in your career so far?

I did a show in 2015, Multiple Sclerosis Society of India. I had no idea about my audience, there were patients and their caretakers. I performed for around 45-50 minutes. When I got off the stage, a couple came up to me and said our daughter wants to shake hands with you. I walked up to the girl, she was in a wheel chair and had zero control of herself. I held her hand with mine and asked questions to the couple, they said, “You made us laugh and we hardly laugh as we spent all the time taking care of our daughter”. After talking to other people there I got out of the room because I felt like crying. I got in my car, called my wife, and said after today if we ever complain for anything, hen shame on us. Because today I saw what actual challenges are. That show changed my perspective on life.

Has anything embarrassing ever happened to you on stage?

Absolutely, a lot of times. If you are a live performer in India, embarrassment is part of the job description. It happened a lot of times, especially in the beginning of my career because you don’t get space to perform and you end up performing in pubs and bars, where drinks are on, people are eating. There isn’t one incident, there are many of them.

Do you crack jokes in real time, or are you a quite serious person?

I am a serious person, but, at home I crack a lot of jokes just to annoy my kid.

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