Ashish Shakya: In corporate shows people don't give a sh*t
Ashish Shakya is a humour columnist for the Hindustan Times. Co-writer on 'The Week That Wasn't with Cyrus Broacha' on CNN-IBN. Stand-up comic. A beer enthusiast and too lazy to type out full sentences.
1. How did Ashish Shakya from the adarsh Engineering beta go on to become a comedian?
I was never the adarsh engineering beta. Adarsh engineering beta goes to class, listens to his professors, comes back home, does all his assignments and does not speak to girls because he can't. I hated engineering but I wasn't completely sure if I wanted to quit. I didn't want to be a 12th pass. It's a bit scary, especially if you have done nothing else your whole life. I wanted to be a graduate at least. So I decide to stick around.
2. How were you in college? Were you a nerd or were you a last bencher?
I was a last bencher through and through in college. The only thing that I liked about college was that I got to drink a lot. That is the only reason I kept my sanity or I would have just shot myself. I was always the 80s - 90s kid in school. During engineering, the 90s went to like 40s. Then my parents told me I was adopted. But as long as they give you money it's alright. I wasn't flunking out in college. It's very easy to beat the system. If you have half a decent brain, you can get past it. It's not that difficult, just mind numbingly boring. After I got out of college, I thought if I can face all that and come out then I can face anything in life.
3. Were you always the funny guy?
I was always a slightly weird kid, more imaginative than the modern day average kid. I wasn't hilarious but within my friend circle I have always been cracking jokes and being stupid. In school, I wasn't the karate or football champion or the most popular guy but I hung out with the fun guys.
4. Do you remember your first stand-up act? How did that go?
It was about 4 years ago at Blue Frog Amateur Nights run by Vir Das. The format was that you get 2 minutes and the winner gets to open the next show. It looked difficult the first time I watched as the audience. I had been writing humour for a while so it was just a question of taking a step forward and telling the jokes on stage instead of in my head. I was s**t. People laughed at everything I said but obviously the jokes were bad, my delivery was bad but that night I was second best. I tried again and the next time I won it.
5. When people don't get your jokes what do you do?
Sometimes people don't get a joke or they won't laugh as loudly as you expect them to. You just move on. You just make a joke about it like "read the f***ing newspaper". Most audiences get my stuff; they are very smart and well read. Because it is still new in India, audiences are very enthusiastic. In corporate shows, people don't give a s**t sometimes; they are there for the free company sponsored booze and look at hot girls so they don't care about the person talking on the stage. I've performed at corporate events where there was dead silence for 15-20 minutes. I got off the stage, felt ashamed, put the cash I got in my blouse and walked away.
6. Do you think that the Indians can laugh at themselves?
It's a socio economic thing. It all depends on what Indians you are talking about. Indians are still very touchy in general. People who have had an English medium education, people who enjoy a certain kind of entertainment, who watch English movies and western comedy are fairly relaxed. Once in a while someone in the audience may get offended, especially if I'm talking about religion or politics.
7. Women love a guy with a sense of humour. How popular are you among women?
It's not like being a rockstar or a musician. Those guys get way more action. As a standup comedian, you won't, by default, get female attention. I know all women say "I want a guy who can make me laugh". But what they really mean is "I want a rich, handsome, well settled smart guy who will make me laugh". That is the difference.
8. Dating advice to all the college Romeos?
Don't use sh**ty pickup lines like 'Hey baby! Was your dad a terrorist 'cause you're such a bomb' or 'I lost my phone number, can I have yours?' That will never work. Indian men have no idea of subtleties and how to approach women - we are so bad at it. You'll see those super macho types with sunglasses at night or those geek engineer types who will look at her and then go back and j**k off to her later. Talk to the girl. She is an actual human being as opposed to something that you want to get into. Just be yourself, unless you are an a**hole; then don't be yourself. Don't come off too strong. Make a girl laugh- that always helps. But if you can't then don't try. If nothing happens, then you have the Indian caste system and the arranged marriage system which was designed to get Indian men laid.