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Pandemic just a glitch in the system: Comedian Atul Khatri

Pandemic just a glitch in the system: Comedian Atul Khatri
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A new digital platform seeks to recognize the best performers with comic excellence and talent, with Atul Khatri as the guest judge.

New Delhi: Comedy meeting technology, was perhaps the best love story that kept humour served during the grim times of the pandemic. A new digital platform seeks to recognize the best performers with comic excellence and talent, with Atul Khatri as the guest judge. But, what does the comedy-tech meet-cute mean for Atul Khatri?

The second edition of TechLOlogy Superstars’ – a digital hunt for next-gen performers with comic excellence by Taiwan Excellence, aims to add a dash of laughter by combining technology with comedy by creating a large talent hunt platform in India for aspiring comedians.

Ahead of the top 10 contestants performing at the grand finale on November 9, 2020, Khatri speaks to IANSlife in an exclusive. Excerpts:

Q: COVID-19 has practically shut all live forms of art and entertainment, including live comedy. What were your first thoughts when you heard about the lockdown?

A: Honestly, when I heard of the lockdown, I was very scared and anxious with a lot of uncertainty as to what is going to happen. Being a live artist, I remember I was in America and saw my entire tour got cancelled and had to come back without performing a single show.

I had an 18- city tour in USA with my new show called ‘Daddy Cool’. So obviously, a lot of loss and cuts. The year did not start very well, the lockdown didn’t start very well. I was getting into the lockdown with a big loss and I knew that we had to quickly adapt to the new normal which was the online format.

Q: Please share a bit about your time in lockdown. How big of a content inspiration is life in a pandemic?

A: I made very good use of this lockdown. As I already told you, I came back from America on the 14th of March, since everything got cancelled, having left for the states on the 10th. From 15th March onwards, I started with a property called the ‘Only Positive News’, where I was trying to spread positive news from whatever news source I was getting.

The idea was to spread positive news, since there was a lot of negativity and uncertainty spreading around that time. I did this for myself because, honestly, I require a routine. I am an old man, I want to wake up at 8:30 and start my day at 10. To form my own routine, I knew we were getting into a big lockdown and didn’t want to binge watch Netflix till 4 a.m. and wake up at two in the afternoon.

I like to wake up early, have a routine to my day, have my shower, shave and ‘Only Positive News’ did that for me. I have gained a lot of followers and had 90 episodes of only positive news and people really appreciated that. To be honest, it has been an anxious and worrying time.

So, I have not thought of any sets for my stand-up comedy because I already had a new one-hour special ‘Daddy Cool’. It is like a 1 and half hour show so did not write anything new. In terms of creating new content for stand-up comedy I haven’t done anything. Wherein in terms of new shows, it is ‘Only Positive News’. I believe I made good use of the lockdown.

Q: We’re living in an internet revolution, and the need for online/digital connectivity was felt even more deeply during the lockdown. What are your thoughts on this, with respect to comedy?

A: Yes, I feel it is very important. It gave us our wake up call. The lockdown happened on 18th March and I did my first zoom show on 2nd April. I was among the few comedians who started going online for their show. It was a completely new experience for us as we tried to adapt to do shows virtually on Zoom,etc.

Each one of us had to learn to do shows like this and it was very difficult for us at the start. But I’m glad I learnt how to do a show virtually. It’s very important for any performer of art to adapt very quickly. We are human beings, we are intelligent animals and have to adapt to the surrounding. We can’t just lay back and let the world take over because of the pandemic.

While shows have only just started as we speak, it took 8 months for things to start. I have a family to feed, a wife, a Tinder account. Yeh sabh sambhalna padta hai. So, I was very clear that I have to make money right from day 1.

Q: What’s the future of comedy now? How likely is a quick bounce-back and what are some here-to-stay trends from the pandemic?

A: I think the future of comedy is extremely positive. I think this pandemic is just a small glitch in the system. But if we look ahead, comedy makes people laugh. We are living in a stressful time people where want to laugh.I think the future of comedy definitely is bright specially in India. Shows have started in Bangalore, Goa and places where there are comedy clubs with social distancing.

As long we are not getting another lockdown, it will come back very quickly into it. The people and comedians will forget and get back on stage very soon. I think Zoom shows, virtual shows will also stay along because I realize it can give 60-80 percent experience of a live show, but obviously it won’t replace the feel of performing live.

We did shows for people across the world. I did shows for people sitting in Jakarta, Ghana, Singapore, America and Canada. I think it will be here to stay. Maybe, it will be a mixture of both. Obviously, live shows will have more preference since this art form requires a live audience. You cannot do it virtually. As I say that, for some time we will be doing both.

Q: You’re part of the jury for a hunt for comic excellence by Taiwan Excellence. What do you expect to see in young comic talent? What makes for ‘good comedy’ for you?

A: Well, I actually see that the theme for TechLOLogy superstar, by Taiwan Excellence is a very good initiative. There is a season 2 which they are doing and I am so glad that they are stuck to it, irrespective of the pandemic.

So that’s point one. Point two is I think, I expect to see good content, content that makes you laugh, simple content and we have given themes to participants where they talking about Indians and technology. Sticking to the theme, making people laugh going beyond the normal. One thing we comedians must realize that we are getting jokes from the internet, people have a lot of free time in making memes and jokes on WhatsApp.

The jokes have to rise above that and be very funny. Good comedy is very simple. Comedy that makes me laugh, that is good comedy for me. I am not looking for layered and smart jokes. Anything that makes me laugh. Honestly, I am a tough cookie when it comes to making me laugh. The comedy which everyone enjoys not just me. The audience, too, has to enjoy.

Q: A little about your upcoming plans.

A: So, let the pandemic get over. Let the vaccine come out. Till then I am doing my both zoom shows, virtual shows, private shows. I am doing a lot of brand work, social media influencing work and I think soon after this, our shows are starting with live shows and I will quickly get into that.

Hopefully, first of all, I want start with my tour of Daddy Cool which sort of did not start only. I was planning to do USA, Australia and all across the world. Perhaps the pandemic gets over and the vaccine comes out. May be in 6 months or 8 months. I am keeping my figure crossed. As I am very positive about this entire situation and we will come out of this. When we come out of this, we should come out as better human beings.

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