Atul Khatri burst onto the comedy scene five years ago with open mics, and is now touring all over the country with his stand-up routines and shows with East India Comedy. Stage Culture gives you a glimpse into his journey.
Do you remember your first experience on Stage?
“Oh yes, absolutely. 3rd February 2012 – I remember the day like it was just yesterday. My first time on stage with stand-up comedy was at an open mic, and my legs were shivering. My throat went dry. I was sweating despite it being an air conditioned room. However, I managed to hold my ground. I think I may have forgotten some of my material on stage. This was at a pub in Worli (Mumbai).
Every time I get on stage, even just last night, despite having done stand-up comedy for five years, I still get the similar fear. It’s not as bad though. Anxiety’s there for any stage performer, and it’s a good thing. It really should be there. We are performing for an audience, and we can’t take them for granted.
The anxiety lasts right up till you get your first laugh. It keeps you on your toes. You are constantly reminded that you are not bigger than the audience, but the audience is bigger than you.”
How has your journey as a seasoned newcomer been?
“My age has worked for me in both positive and negative ways. More positive than negative. Probably the only negative is that I don’t have the energy to go to after-parties with the youngsters. It feels good though, it feels like I’m back to college again. The average age of the people I’m around is 25-26. It feels great to be hanging out with people around my daughter’s age. It’s damn cool. I’m learning a lot of things from them.
Being older, I have more to talk about, more to offer. I’ve lived through a lot, and experience adds up. Also, my white hair makes the audience take me a little more seriously than the rest.”
How did you get your first paid, professional gig?
“I was doing a bunch of open mic nights, and got a call from an event organizer one day asking me to do 25 minutes of material at an event. At the end of the show, he approached me and said he’ll come pay me the next day. I was taken aback for a moment, and asked, ‘for what?’ I was so surprised that I’d get paid for this! The first corporate gig that I got a call for, I didn’t even know how much I should charge. I just asked them what they could pay me.
But of course, that was five years ago. The scene has picked up since then. Now comedy is viewed as a more professional thing, and I get to declare my rates depending on the audience.”
How is it working with East India Comedy?
“It’s been a fantastic experience, been great fun. The seven of us work very well together. We have a lot of diversity with our experience and writing styles. It makes our work more varied and way more fun. The best part about EIC All-Star (the tour that’s currently going on) is that you get to hear seven different voices, seven different opinions on one stage.”
How do you feel about the future of stand-up comedy in India?
“Oh, the future is bright. India’s a growing market, with only about a hundred professional stand up comedians. Stand-up comedy needs to move beyond the metro cities though. It’s a new art form. People are excited by it, and are looking to explore. It can only go upwards.”
What would you like to #GetMore of?
“As a comedian, I would like to get more money, more laughs, and more audiences for my shows. As a person, I would just like to get more happiness. That’s what’s important.”
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