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Wedded to comedy

Last updated on February 26, 2019

Amit Tandon, commonly known as ‘The married guy’, gives us an insight into the comedy scene in and around India

Around six years ago, Amit Tandon stepped into the world of standup comedy — and never stepped out. An alumnus of IIT Delhi, he worked in several global organisations and ran a leading recruitment consulting firm in Delhi for 10 years after graduation before he decided to explore his old hobby — comedy. Married for 16 years now, he is known as ‘The Married Guy’ for his refreshing and relatable observations on couples and life after marriage.

Performed in almost 20 countries, Amit is now over 1,200 shows old. He is one of the three Indian stand-up comedians, among 47 others from across the world, who’s  featured in Netflix’s global series — ‘Comedians of the World’. All set to perform in Delhi with his show ‘Not Getting Wiser ‘, he talks to Patriot about his journey, the challenges he faced, and the maturity of Indian audiences.

What were the uncertainties you faced in the initial years  and what motivated you to go ahead with this career?

When I started, I was not looking at building a career in the stand-up scene. So it was not like everything was dependent on stand-up comedy for me. There were challenges though that I faced in the beginning. I had stage fright as I had not been on stage for about 12-13 years.

Secondly, you do not understand what people will find funny. So, a lot of times, something would be very funny in my head but people wouldn’t feel the same way, like our sense of humour wouldn’t match or the timing won’t be  right. However, I moved beyond these challenges by consistently practicing and not giving up.

Tell us a little bit about what is in store for the audience with your upcoming show ‘Not Getting Wiser’?

In ‘Not Getting Wiser’, the audience can expect to hear about relatable childhood stories. It’s about my experience as a father and as a child as well. It’s largely going to be about my wife and my experience with parenthood.

Your humour is known as universal. What do you keep in mind while coming up with your show to maintain this standard?

My content is universal because of my personal background. Being a middle-class guy who grew up in a regular Indian household in a tier 2 city, the stories that I take to the stage are  from my own house. So somehow, those stories resonate with the people since they’re the larger group of people.

Then, I talk about relationships as a parent and a husband — that’s another angle people relate to. What I try to ensure while writing my content is that it shouldn’t be slapstick — as in it shouldn’t be a joke you’ll find everywhere on a daily basis in  Whatsapp. So one must write a joke which somebody can take back home.

Since you have performed in several countries, what is the one striking contrast between the audience of India and other countries?

One difference, if I have to talk  in terms of my audience, is that even outside India it’s largely NRIs who attend my shows. But the difference I feel is that, overseas nostalgia works much better because they miss home more than we miss our old times. When you narrate  a story about India to them and describe something that happened 20 years ago, the kind of response that you get outside India is way more than what you’ll get in India.

How far has the Indian audience come in terms of accepting and appreciating different content?

See, the Indian audience is not just one section, I look at it in terms of cities. There’s people from tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3. Tier 1 audience has been exposed to live entertainment and comedy way more than the others. When you perform in a Tier 3 city, a lot of people come to just see you. They have seen your videos and now they want to see you in person. Another thing is that in these cities, you’ve got to keep your jokes simple and elaborate a little more. Tier 1 people are more content-specific and more evolved purely because of the years of exposure. You can leave a joke in the middle and they’ll get the rest of it. It is a lot more fun for me as a comedian — to let people complete the jokes in their thoughts rather than doing it for them.

With international audiences outside India, if you go to the developed markets, stand-up comedy has been around for 45-50 years and they want more than just comedy, probably a social message or a strong observation.

Thus comedians abroad express stronger opinion with  their shows. And they’re able to do that because the audience is accepting and allows them more time to make their point. They can do a 3-minute monologue straight without a joke, making their point.

In India, you can’t have a 3-minute set with no punch. Right now, I don’t think the audience is completely ready for that.  You have to slide in punches even if you’re trying to make a point.

You have performed in more than 1,200 shows in almost a decade. Which has been your most memorable one and why?

I think the most memorable show for me was five years ago. I performed for a group of patients with multiple sclerosis. Basically, they don’t have control over their limbs, facial muscles (some of them). Making them laugh was such an enriching experience for me. You somehow feel like you’re fulfilling a purpose and also feel blessed to be given the opportunity to add some value and happiness to the lives of others. I don’t think I’ll ever be thankful enough for that show.

What were your major take away from Comedians of the World?

One big learning from my experience in Comedians of The World (COTW) was the level of production you need for a platform like Netflix. Fortunately, I was part of COTW and wasn’t producing my first solo directly because I had no idea about the quality needed for something like this.

Secondly, in terms of content, I learnt about the kind of preparation you need for a project like that. Also, we sometimes believe that our issues are very local and Indian, but they’re actually universal. We released COTW with subtitles in different languages and I’ve received messages from people who are neither Indian, nor Hindi speaking. But thanks to the subtitles, they got the humour, and the problems somehow resonated with everybody.

What are your thoughts on the new age comedians and their content? Are there any that has particularly caught your attention?

The new age comedians are really good. It’s great to see so many new voices coming in. There’s so many stories coming out. We see people not just from Delhi or Mumbai but from Rajkot, Chandigarh, and Amritsar, coming in and performing on stage which is very exciting. Among them, I like Gaurav Kapoor, Pratyush Chaubey (who is originally from Benaras) or Manpreet Singh who performs in Punjabi.  Since I’m also a Punjabi, I love what Singh does.