It’s always exciting to be on TV, especially when it’s Comedy Central, says an elated Naveen Richard. “It’s what I end up watching a lot with family and friends. It’s one thing being on YouTube since anyone can. But not everyone can be on TV.”
The stand-up comic is one among a range of comedians who are featured in Comedy Central India’s laughter riot show Challenge Accepted. The homegrown social experiment show, that has humour specialists Deep Chhabria, Utsav Chakraborty, Cyril D’Abs and Dhruv Deshpande starring with Naveen and hosted by Cyrus Sahukar, promises to take comedy to a whole new level with it’s new format. The programme will showcase an exciting dare-based fight to the finish between the five contestants competing for a grand prize. The rule of the game is simple: Be a sport and accept every challenge. However, the dares will be accompanied by hilarious embarrassing situations for the contestants, making it difficult for them to complete the challenge. Each unaware contestant is challenged to face various awkward situations and obstacles thrown by host Cyrus Sahukar.
Elaborating on the format, Naveen points out that though it’s been done before, it’s the first time in a setting like this. “Everybody loves a good prank and everybody loves reality TV. You put the two together and it’s a classic recipe.”
While usually working with a set plan, this show throws open the floor to a number of unexpected challenges.
“In one way, it’s great because you just have to follow instructions. But, the challenges are something you don’t prepare for. You’re thrown there in front of the camera and no one, except you, knows what you’re feeling. The best part is when you’re just being yourself.”
Recalling his journey to becoming a laughing riot, Naveen says: “As a kid, I used to like making people laugh. Deep down I knew this was what I wanted to be. But the opportunity never comes by itself. So I ended up graduating from law college. I would have made a fine lawyer but I think I make a better comedian. I started doing theatre in college, toured the country with a play, experimented with stand up and soon I was doing small acts where I could take home some money to sustain myself. By the time I got out of college, I was able to pay my bills. That was enough to give my parents the confidence to say go ahead and do what you want.”
Good time to be a comic? Naveen points out that a lot of people are getting into it since it’s such a boom now. “But it doesn’t always work out for everyone. There’s more to it than just fun. You have to be dedicated and believe in making something out of this craft.” His advice to aspiring comics: “Don’t do it just for the money. It will come if you’re good. Do it if you feel it is part of your calling. Don’t give up even if you fail. It takes time.”
When asked how far he would push himself to get a laugh, the humour expert says he would do anything as long as he’s comfortable. “I have gone to the extent of putting on a dress for a sketch of an old lady on YouTube. Unless I find it funny or original, I won’t do it. I have pushed the envelope several times in terms of stage acts, pretend fights with people in the audience and more.”
When people watch him, Naveen hopes they realise there is comedy in not just the big things they see on TV or movies, but even in the smallest things. “Little things like buying a toothbrush cracks me up. You don’t have to depend on big obvious references to laugh. Find something to laugh about even when you’re stuck in traffic. Nothing makes life easier than a good laugh.”
On the funniest thing that’s ever happened to him, Naveen shares a tiny tid-bit from a true story he narrates during his acts. “I got detained in the airport once for going a whole year in advance to a show. Someone booked the ticket one year in advance for me and I went the same date and month to the airport but a year earlier since I didn’t notice the year. I was detained as a terror suspect.”
Challenge Accepted airs every Saturday at 8.30 p.m. on Comedy Central.