I've been a comedy writer since my college days. Writing jokes, travelling, meeting new people and having a blast was what my diary read like. It does sound like fun but there is a lot of work involved. Eventually, I started writing for some hilarious people like Vir Das, Anu Menon, Ranvir Shorey, Suresh Menon, Vinay Pathak and others. That made me realise there was hope for comedy writing.
In India, existing comedians have gotten popular but, as far as breaking through, there are barely five to six English comedians who have made it in the last two years across the country. There is a lot of interest among young kids but, it is the people who are 25 and above who really pursue it seriously.
Performing comedy is not as simple as it seems, it involves a lot of training. We do conduct workshops at NCPA, in colleges and a couple of them at corporates as well. But most of the training is all on the job. Which is why, many don't make money for a year. It is more like you are interning. But the one training I do recommend is having some kind of job: whether it's a writing job, a production job, journalism or whatever you're qualified to do. If nothing else it helps you get disciplined - so, you won't just be sitting idle for two weeks after doing two good shows.
The field obviously has scope but only if you are willing to work hard. You can't be lazy. You have to keep writing or producing videos or doing something creative. For example at East India Comedy- we've written specials for five different shows in the last year. We wrote shows like Men Are From Bars, The Ghanta Awards and, a new special called India Vs The World.
How much you are paid depends on what kind of shows you are doing and the quality. If you are mostly doing public shows, you'll probably make about Rs 40,000 – 50,000 per month. If you are a writer and comedian doing public shows, then that amount can double. If you are writing, doing public shows, corporate shows and more, then, the sky is the limit.
Aspiring comedians should work hard as the audience will always want fresh content so, you got to keep writing and performing. Watch a lot of comedy, put in the yards, do the marketing, do the networking. Get on every single stage you can. You may be in a cool job but, that doesn't mean you can spend your time slacking, be professional. The only difference between this job and another is that you work when other people are relaxing. That's all!
-As told to Patricia Mascarenhas