Comedian, musician, filmmaker and painter; all-rounder artiste Kenny Sebastian, is quite a remarkably easy person to speak to!
First tryst with the Stage
“I’ve been on stage for much longer than comedy. In school I had proper stage fright. So I took the conscious decision of working towards being comfortable on stage. In class 10, I started giving speeches. In college I took part in everything. Did theatre, started doing music; started an acoustic blues two piece band, created original compositions. We have an EP online. Got into comedy only at 19. Stage fright was a thing of the past by then.
First paid, professional gig
“It was when I was 17. I was freelancing through school and college, and was making really good money even without being a comedian. Comedy has nothing to do with making money for me.”
How do you make money in Comedy then?
“Trial and error. You need to learn how to deal with clients, how to market yourself, how to make sure you are doing what your client wants while being true to yourself. You just have to have good business sense. I’ve been a freelancer for all my life. Freelancing keeps you on top of your game all the time.
Tanmay Bhatt is a huge influence. Seeing how AIB works was amazing. They are so successful and yet work four times harder than any upcoming comic. It’s just being super professional and ethical and pushing your boundaries. I also read management and marketing books. I’ve done corporate training, songwriting classes and filmmaking for brands. I know how to talk to clients. You have to be the creator as well as your own PR person.”
Stand-Up Comedy – something you acquire or are born with?
“I do feel that some people are born with the funny bone. But being consistently funny is something you develop over time. Comedians may not be that funny in day to day life, but are hilarious when put on stage. There are techniques and rules that you follow. ‘Funny’ is a very generic term. People who can be funny in a friends circle are born that way, but professional comedians who can kill it on stage in front of strangers after nights of touring and traveling – that’s a whole another thing. That only comes with experience and age and developing your skills as an entertainer.”
Do people claim to get offended at your shows?
“Oh my God, so many times. At a comedy show the comedian is someone who is constantly making himself available to you, so you get the balls to stand up and say that you’re offended. I used to get worked up initially and defend myself, and a lot of people saw that as me getting aggressive. But now I’ve just learnt to tune them out.
But I’ve also been lucky at my shows, I’m very proud of my intelligent and empathetic audience. Anytime there has been a disturbance at my show it’s been because they were drunk. A few years ago, I used to get lectured from knuckleheads. I’d give them a comeback, then they’d shut up. If they interrupt again, we escort them out. Most of the time, they react after the show, they go online; that’s okay, they can do anything online.”
“Personal stories. I’ve been making relatable jokes so far, but now I want to tell stories about myself. I want to follow the footsteps of Louis CK and Dave Chappell – amazingly well written stories which are funny and emotionally engaging.”
It’s brave to share your personal stories.
“We are being brave from the moment we step on stage – what comes out of our mouth is secondary. A lot of people say it’s very scary to be on stage and make people laugh, but to be honest, we love doing it. Obviously there is a lot of social rejection in theatre and stand up is more stressful than regular workplace stress. But again, the rewards are very high.”
Future of Stand-Up Comedy in India
“Just getting bigger and better. Indian youth are so fed up of curated and censored content. Tolerance for bullshit is going down. Stand- up is a brutally honest and uncensored medium. Stand up shows do not go through a filter of executives in a company who want to make profit. Audiences, who are young, intelligent, aware and non-judgmental, want us to go more in your face and more honest.”
What would you like to #GetMore of?
“MORE TIME! I just turned 26, and I’m going through my quarter life crisis. I feel this immense sense of running out of time. I just want to get more done, and if you are blessed enough to have a family who are taken care of and if you can afford to experiment with your life, you gotta do it right now. You really do get just one life and you need to do whatever you want with it. I see 16 year olds kill it at open mics, and it makes me wish I’d started even younger. I would’ve reached this point three years ago, and I could have been making films by now…”