Comedian Praveen Kumar on why he likes being ‘Mr Clean’

Swearing has become an inherent part of a stand-up comic’s material. Finding a comedian who seldom uses profanity is about as rare as finding a blue diamond.

Bengaluru-based Praveen Kumar’s closest attempt yet at swearing onstage is: “What’s the word that begins with an F and ends in K? Facebook!” The Kanchipuram native’s stand-up solos are marketed as ‘clean comedy’ shows, because “I feel uncomfortable swearing”. His bilingual (Tamil and English) stand-up show, Mr Family Man, which Kumar will perform in Chennai on Sunday, will be no different.

His discomfort with profanity has helped Kumar develop a signature brand of stand-up that does not depend on creating shock value. “I couldn’t shake the feeling that if my mother was in the audience, she would be uncomfortable,” he shares. “This way, the content appeals to a family audience, including children, and also helps position my brand as unique in the market.” This is also why his show is open to children above the age of seven.

The comedian, who is represented by Evam Standup Tamasha, borrows heavily from incidents and people in his own life. If he tells you on stage that a girl broke his heart by tying a rakhi on his wrist, chances are that it happened in much the same way he describes it. “Only the names are fake,” he laughs. Just like the title indicates, Mr Family Man — which has already been performed across 10 cities in the country — draws largely from daily interactions with his wife and daughter. The show’s premise? While being Superman might be easy, being a family man definitely is not.

Jokes through a screen

Kumar’s latest Tamil solo, 36 Vayadhinile, which he released in late December, has racked up 1.7 million views on YouTube, and the numbers are only growing. Earlier specials, like Orthodoxically me, come in at a close second, with at least a million views.

What does it take to become one of the most viewed and sought-after Indian stand-up comics on the Internet?

The comic admits to not knowing what worked in his favour, but is aware of the many advantages of the digital sphere. “I still don't know if it was the content or the fact that I performed it in Tamil that worked so beautifully for 36 Vayadhinile,” he confides. Kumar, like fellow comedians Vir Das and Kanan Gill, uploads short clips of five to seven minutes on YouTube (where he tackles a range of topics, from double decker buses to raising kids), so he can see what type of content works best.

Streaming aloud

YouTube fame has pushed him. The discussions, he says, are still nascent, but he has received positive responses for a more traditional medium: television. “I’ll be pitching ideas to leading Tamil channels for a weekly comedy programme with satirical news segments,” he reveals.

He does, however, admit that the Indian — especially Tamil — audience is sensitive when it comes to political content. “Comedians receive death threats for any sketch that is perceived as a slight on a politician or a party. I had to apologise to a Tamil politician recently because his party men were upset for an indirect reference I had made,” he says.

Still, he remains unfazed, because his worst critics are at home. “I perform all of my material for my wife and [eight-year-old] daughter before I go onstage. Even if they find it funny, they won't smile. This kind of criticism makes me write better.”

Mr Family Man takes place on February 3 at 7 pm, at the Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Mylapore. Tickets, starting at ₹250, are available on bookmyshow.com

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 12:36:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/comedian-praveen-kumar-on-going-viral-with-his-autobiographical-jokes/article26149373.ece

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