Mumbai-based comedian Pranav Punjabi on the comedy scene in India

The team of Mumbai Live got in touch with Pranav Punjabi, a Mumbai-based comedian who shares his thoughts on comedy, life and his upcoming podcast.

Mumbai-based comedian Pranav Punjabi on the comedy scene in India

With stand-up comedy still being in its developing stage in India as a result of it being a relatively modern art form, in the recent past, several comedians have found themselves at wit’s end due to the constant pressure of hurting religious sentiments.

The team of Mumbai Live got in touch with Pranav Punjabi, a Mumbai-based comedian, currently stuck in the UK amidst the pandemic curating content for his audiences.

1. Tell us a little about the time when you got interested in comedy and started writing your own material.

I was always the class clown. In grade 9 I realized that I have that comic factor inside of me. I used to crack jokes inside the class on other friends, teachers and each time I managed to get people laughing around me, I always felt special. I remember it was Teacher’s day when I went on stage for the first time. I hosted the entire program, did a few jokes, played games and had a good time. Since then, people around started noticing that “Oh, Pranav Punjabi is this chap who hosted teacher’s day’.  Strangely, I never felt that stage fear and that’s where it all started.

After passing out of school (2015), my friends and I, we participated in an online funny video creating contest called Comedy Hunt by AIB. We got rejected and everyone got back to their normal life. No one picked my phone calls, ignored me when I called them more creating more content. Then, I spent almost a month in my room learning editing camera work. In the next year, I went on to create more than 100 videos and get more than 10,000 followers on Instagram.

Writing material for stand-up was new to me when I performed at my first open mic in Chembur (where I lived). That’s when I realized that writing material for stand-up is a very tricky job. However, again, the thrill I got from people laughing at my jokes made me want to just keep writing and performing. I have learnt a lot about comedy in general, since the time I have started writing content. For example, what makes a joke funny, when to pause, when to mimic, etc. That has also helped me to become funny in general life around my friends (they’ll never admit this hahaha).

2. What was it like to perform alongside the likes of Atul Khatri and Kunal Kamra? What would you say was the one thing you learnt from them?

The aura of Atul sir is something that gets me into the mode. The show where I learnt the most from him was in Ahmedabad. To be honest, I felt that I didn’t do very well that evening and he was up next. Later that evening, when we went to have dinner I had a conversation with him where he taught me small details on how to go about things. I was 17 or 18 at that time and getting advice from such an experienced professional felt really good. The next show, I followed his advice and did really well.

Kunal, from how much I have seen him on-screen and backstage, is a very calm easy-going person on the other hand. I remember opening for him in Mumbai where he so casually showed up, walked on stage, did his job, KILLED IT, and got back. It’s nice to be under a balanced mix of people.

3. Tell us a little about your podcast and what is the idea behind it. Why do you think people would want to listen to human stories at a time when the country is going through several internal issues?

Since the time I have started living in the UK. I have learned to live life around a very diverse mix of people. That made me realize, our stories are so different. I have wanted to start the podcast for a very long time now and when I saw the surroundings from a creator’s perspective, I felt like this is the perfect time to talk about these things in front of the world. So, ‘What’s Your Story – Pranav Punjabi’ is an upcoming podcast on Spotify, Apple Music and Youtube. The podcast is based on inspirational stories of people coming together from different walks of life, discussing their experiences and celebrating diversity.

To be honest, internal issues are everywhere. Today if one will get solved, tomorrow another one will arise. As a Mumbaikar, it is my USP to grow and move on from things quickly. People want regular content. Some need Bollywood masala, some need entertainment, some need infotainment, but people, in general, want regular content either to gain more knowledge or just take their mind off things. My aim is to also speak about current issues and pass on as much knowledge as I can. But in general, we have reached a point where you cannot deprive people of content.

4. With regards to comedy and the recent events in India in view of the arrest of Munawar Faruqui, do you think it is dangerous to speak or say anything during an act which is anti-establishment?

Yes, absolutely. I do not want to be a part of controversies which is why I avoid doing as much political content as possible. I pick up on the things from daily life and maybe that’s what I’m all about. Some comics do great political content, some specialize in something else. I have done political humour on stage and it works like a charm. But I don’t want to get into the consequences which is why I keep it to a minimum.

5. Name some of the comedians who have inspired you.

I have worked alongside great people and learnt a lot. But the only thing that inspires me is audience response. I am very eager to know what people are talking about on my latest video, a mini second after a joke on stage I want to check the response. When I lived back in India, each time I met people who watched my videos, be it on the street, in cafes or in daily life, when they spoke about how the liked what I did, I noticed that literally every time I used to get so motivated to work and to keep continuing. I value audience response and feedback the most.

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