Flying solo: Rohan Joshi on getting back on stage


Stand-up comic Rohan Joshi on getting back on stage, lessons from AIB and conversations around mental health

Stand-up comedy in India was still in its embryonic stage when Rohan Joshi started his career, at the beginning of this decade. It was only when he started the All India Bakchod (AIB) YouTube channel in 2013 — with Tanmay Bhat, Gursimranjeet Singh Khamba and Ashish Shakya — at a time when smartphones and high-speed internet were proliferating, that things really took off.

While AIB swiftly gained a large audience for its sketches and spoofs, Joshi built his brand of comedy as well. So, when things went South a year ago, with Bhat and Khamba facing allegations of sexual misconduct, he went back to doing solo performances. The comic speaks about his return to the stage, AIB’s future and more.

Edited excerpts:

You are back to doing stand-up comedy. Do you see this as a ‘back-to-square-one’ situation?

Yeah, a little bit. When I got back on stage at the start of 2019, I was a little rusty. But after five to eight shows, I felt like I was getting the muscles back.

How has the stand-up scene changed in India since you first started?

It has changed tremendously, just in terms of the sheer number. You have people of all ages from all over the country. You have different voices in terms of ethnicity, gender, life experiences. I would call this stage of [Indian stand-up comedy] as the end of the beginning. We are going to move to the next stage where we will see more diverse narratives.

Did you have to reinvent yourself?

I didn’t have to. I have to get a little creative in terms of what I can and cannot say, keeping in mind the laws and extra constitutional authorities. I am always comfortable saying what I have to say. I don’t feel like I shouldn’t say something because someone will be angry. At the same time, I don’t have a brand of comedy that provokes just for the sake of provoking.

Let’s talk about AIB. How difficult was it for you and your partners to disband it?

It is difficult to give up something that you love and spent 10 years building.

Are there plans of a revival?

Wait and watch.

What did you learn from the whole situation?

That you can’t take anything in your career for granted. Before you can build the whole thing, you can be wiped out. It is a capricious world.

After #MeToo, are you more conscious when you write jokes about women?

I wasn’t saying anything wrong about women earlier either. But, over the last 10 years, as the conversation on social media about women has grown, we have all been learning. I am not just talking about comedians. We have all changed. So, I think it has got to do with that than a particular incident that changed the way I write my jokes.

Can you talk about the challenges of dealing with mental issues in a profession where you have to make people laugh?

It’s got nothing to do with the profession. When I am on stage, I am a professional.

It has nothing to do with the profession. When I am on stage, I am a professional. I have a great level of privilege and I am lucky to have friends and family to have conversations with. But the harder part is to make the larger society see that it is a real issue. It is not something that should be swept under the carpet. It is one of the ticking time-bombs for our society, moving forward.

Rohan Joshi will be performing today in Bengaluru at Taj West End for Black Dog Easy Evenings

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 4:24:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/flying-solo-rohan-joshi-on-getting-back-on-stage/article30058850.ece

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