I look for trouble: Naveen Richard on his new stand-up special, ‘Relatively Relatable’

Naveen Richard on his latest stand-up special, ‘Relatively Relatable’

Naveen Richard on his latest stand-up special, ‘Relatively Relatable’  

Try as he might, Naveen Richard cannot escape Hindi. As a South Indian born in Tamil Nadu and bred in Bengaluru, the comedian was forced to learn the language in school and even fared well when it came to scoring in the subject. Conversations, unfortunately, are a different matter altogether. “Hindi as a compulsory second language is not going to work. The words just don’t flow,” says the 29-year-old, who first shed light on his linguistic impediments in the web series Star Boyz (2016). In it, three South Indians in outer space miserably, albeit hilariously, fail to communicate in Jat (pronounced ‘Jaaat’ by the Boyz) with an alien of the Raj Kachori species.

Now the former lawyer revisits his shortcomings in a new comedy special, Relatively Relatable,that premièred on March 20. “I feel like I belong in Bengaluru and it has got the right mix of everybody,” says Richard about the location of his special. “I did not want to go too Bengaluru with my jokes or viewers would feel disconnected, but something like me not being able to speak in Hindi would land especially large there.”

Personal tones

The special comes after a year-and-a-half of meticulous writing and countless trial shows. With comedy specials aplenty floating about on streaming platforms, making his stand out was essential. “I cannot sit through a whole special and you have to be a huge comedy fan to sit through one,” laughs the comedian, adding that he has tried really hard to incorporate changes in the tone of comedy. Like a humorous journey, the set traverses observational jokes, silly stories and a surprise in the middle of the show. “It has not been done before and I hope it is taken well,” pauses Richard, then admitting after a beat, “It is weird and strange, something that will take away from the monotony of a long special.”

Guaranteed to be family-friendly, Relatively Relatable is chock-full of anecdotes — some bizarre and others downright outlandish. But Richard vehemently insists that they are all true incidents. Like when he was being harassed by a non-profit whose sales strategies for a sick baby were obviously too far out. Digging for the truth made him do some serious sleuthing, even resulting in a visit to their office with a face-to-face inquisition. “I had to do the joke in clear conscience; if it did not exist, I could write a great ending,” he says.

But as luck would have it, Richard has always attracted misadventures, and the NGO was a legitimate institution. “I felt terrible but now I am really involved in helping them get donations,” he chuckles, adding that they even invited him to be the chief guest for the inauguration of five new public toilets. A situation eerily similar to the plot of his show, Better Life Foundation. “I look for trouble and most people would run away from the things that I walk into. But I have survived so far,” he says. “[In the show] I say some pretty outlandish things like learning kung fu as a child, but I am not lying. There is very little that is made up.”

Keeping it light

In the last few years, the comic has transcended the stand-up stage and paved the way for scripted comedy when it comes to original Indian content. He has played a benign NGO founder on Better Life Foundation; a South Indian space adventurer; an angry profane librarian; and a host of crazy characters in his sketches — case in point an annoying child in the special Go Straight Take Left.

But in real life, Richard is the antithesis of what we have seen. “I relate to Rowan Atkinson who is quite dull in real life.” Though he admits that channelling whimsy and the silly comes naturally during the creative process. “I do not have to try too hard,” he says. That is Richard’s signature brand of humour: light-hearted, warm and fuzzy, just like he promises Relatively Relatablewill be. “I wanted to talk about things that would carry people away in a hot air balloon for a little while and make them forget everything,” he concludes.

Relatively Relatable is now on Amazon Prime Video.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 7:23:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/i-look-for-trouble-naveen-richard-on-his-new-stand-up-special-relatively-relatable/article31126557.ece

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