Acclaimed English stand-up comedian Papa CJ will release his autobiography by the end of the year. The book, for which he has signed a deal with Amazon, will bring hilarious anecdotes from his personal life and tales from over 2,000 shows across five continents.
His critically acclaimed show “Naked”, which uses the vehicle of his life to illustrate the trials and tribulations of the human experience, was the trigger that led publishers to approach him to document his memoirs, Papa CJ smilingly informs.
Papa CJ started stand-up comedy in 2004 after his visit to the annual Fringe festival in Edinburgh. Since then, amongst various places, he has performed at the Sydney Opera House and also at gun-point in South Africa, he quips.
Papa CJ further shared his views about the challenges faced by stand-up comedy. Though he feels that, of late, the industry has caught up well in all formats and languages — Live, TV, English, Hindi and even regional — he admits of the “battle of perception” stand-ups have to constantly weather.
“Sadly, the perception about stand-ups is that it is all about abusing and vulgarity,” he admits candidly, while also pointing out that much of the blame lies within the fraternity of comics in India. “We blindly ape people from other places without realising that their body of work is voluminous and has come with decades of experience,” he opines.
Having won “Asia’s Best Stand-up Comedian” award by Top 10 magazine in Kuala Lumpur, Papa CJ, who loves calling himself the “ambassador of happiness”, says more than making people laugh, it is the joy of enhancing the happiness quotient in others that is now driving him.
Like others, he is haunted by the spectre of silence from the crowds at a performance. “It’s an everyday challenge and calls for evolution which ultimately makes the stand-up comedian connect in the first 30 seconds with the audience. If it happens you cruise through and if you don’t, kiss your show good bye,” Papa CJ told IANS, throwing up his hands in the air.
“Comedy is an incredible journey of self-discovery; everyone has to find his or her view — and the audience finds you thereafter.” For a man who has staged sell-out shows across five continents and taped a “Showtime USA” stand-up comedy special with Russell Peters in Amsterdam, he says his hallmark remains his “authenticity”.
For him, he muses, happiness comes from pleasure, challenges and meaning and as “I looked for these three must ingredients, I found that, to add meaning to my life, the best way is to be part of the people who need happiness in the rough weather they are facing in life”.
During an event at a Singapore hospital, he saw someone do “Laughter Yoga” and soon started doing the same for people who were unwell and critically ill. In this, laughter is mixed with breathing exercises and the results are phenomenal, he says, adding that laughter brought with it positive physical, psychological and physiological changes. “Such exercises start with fake loungers and end up with genuine laughter and happiness,” he says.
Asked about the best compliments that have come his way, his response comes with a tinge of emotion and excitement.
“Well, there have been two very clear ones that I can recall. One was an 86-year-old hugging me after a show in Kolkata and telling me how she has never laughed so much in the last 30 years,” he says. And a second one at a Singapore festival where the father of a 25-year-old who was in a coma after a road crash, had pain in his eyes and laughter on his face!
Come May and he is planning to bring more smiles to “those in dire need” wherein he will go and perform at the houses of the terminally ill at no cost, just travel expenses paid. So much empathy for pain from a man who lives, sleeps and talks only laughter is indeed both inspiring and infectious.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )
By Mohit Dubey