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Born Standing Up

'Gill, Tandonness and the Art of Lesbianics' is the curiously named comedy routine performed by Vasu Primlani, Amit Tandon and Kanan Gill. No surprise that this show is being presented by Bangalore’s own favourite comic son, the irrepressible Ajit Saldanha. Explocity asked everyone a bunch of questions and got a bouquet of funny answers.

Ajit Saldhana
(Needs no introduction)

What’s the concept behind this 'hardcore' show, by your own admission?
Look, the show is a lot more than a take on Sunny Leone, so don't get the idea that we’re all about hardcore. Having said that, I think pornography is kind of passé today, or maybe pornographers have limited imaginations. So we’re trying to come up with a fresh look at old body parts.

No holds barred?
Stand-up is by definition cheekily offensive, so that is the theme. All holds permitted in WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) will be used, especially the stranglehold on the audience. I hope.

Are Bangalore audiences cool? Will they get it?
This city rocks. They are well-read, knowing and nuanced. You don’t have to use drum rolls to make your point. Bangaloreans get it.

Ok, now to you. How did you become a stand-up comedian?
I was walking down Brigade Road one day, and a woman I barely knew said, "You have a funny face." So I handed her over to 'Complaints.' (Basically I gave her my mom's number) I consider myself a work-in-progress, I’m not yet a full-fledged stand up.

If not comedy, then what?
I’d work at it. Or tie myself into knots in a Bikram Yoga class.

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Vasu Primlani

Vasu Ritu Primlani lives in the USand is fairly well known. She’s been on national and international TV.  BBC and CBS to name a few. Her work is based on gender politics, the experiences of an immigrant bumping into the culture and the laws of the United States and all the little nuances that make her life unique She makes the point that George Bush is very much like her mother. She produced India’s first all-female comedy show.

How did you get into comedy?
I’ve always loved jokes ever since my father tried to kill me with a butter knife.  One of my friends (Vidur Kapur) is a famous comic in theUS, and he walked me through the process.

Tell us about the all-woman show
Three sets of chromosomes, we were XXX x 2.  It was wonderful. Everyone loved it. The audience, the organisers. They said it was the best comedy show they had been to.

What is the difference between Western comedy and Indian comedy?
The content and cultural references.  Also gender lines are very strongly defined inIndia. Not so much in theUS.  So gender polarisation jokes are passé in theUS.

Do you think Indians get offended by jokes too easily?
A little. Not too much, though. Also, the audience that makes it to comedy shows is generally very liberal. Our bouncers have standing instructions to keep ‘khap panchayats’ out.  We do make jokes about them, and they will be offended. Hmm. Maybe we should let them in.

Do you think you’re making a difference lightening up environmental issues through comedy?
I’d like to think so. Though no one has yet come up to me and given up his car for his bicycle. At least it keeps the dialogue going, and keeps environmental messaging friendly.

Amy Poehler says that men are really good at making fun of other people but women are really good at making fun of themselves, what’s your take?
Oh we make fun of others.  It might be a male dominated field (especially inIndia), but our jokes are longer. And come quicker.

What about serious issues? How does a woman comic address those?
It’s been interesting. For the most part I even get people to laugh at rape jokes (which is very difficult to pull off given the sensitivities. There are male comics who can’t relate to women at all. Guys minus their social skills. That gets in the way of comedy.

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 Amit Tandon

Amit is known as, ‘The married guy,’ in the stand-up comedy circuit. After two kids and one marriage (not necessarily in that order) he figured if life is a joke, why not make a career out of it? A master at sharing amusing observational and hugely relatable anecdotes, he jokes about everything personally painful to him – from marriage to politics to road traffic and women in general.

So you think there's laughter in pain?
I talk about pain in life. So, when you talk about pain in the butt / backside, both pain and the backside can relate to it. Since I talk about relationships, my listeners are either the pain or the butt. In either case, they enjoy it because they think, “Hey, he is talking about me.” I have two kids, one wife and a pair of parents. So, I talk about all the three.

Who makes you roll on the aisles?
A lot of comics have made me laugh, whether it is English, Hindi or Punjabi. I don’t have an inspiration, but I admire Chris Rock for his energy, Louis CK for his depth and Raju Srivastav for his observations.

What’s the hardest thing about being a comedian?
The toughest challenge for a comedian is to win back a room. If you have lost the attention of the audience once, getting them back to listening to you is the toughest challenge.

How do you walk the line between risqué and offensive?
It is tough. And you will end up offending some people once in a while. Once, I did a set about Bengali movies and a Bengali film director came up and said, "You know, this is not how Bengali movies are." I told him, "I talked about my wife and dad as well and, you know, they are also not really like that!" As long as I don't insult someone on stage, I am happy.

How do you get new material?
Mostly, I pick up a topic that I find something irritating. Or people behaving weirdly. Then I just keep ranting about it, which usually gives me some funny lines. Then I convert them into punches by using the right words, the framing. Sometimes, I just tell a story and try to make it funny.

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Kanan Gill

Kanan Gill is a writer, musician, stand-up comedian, software engineer, fitness enthusiast and a slightly creepy guy. After winning the Punch Line Bangalore competition (a stand up comic contest), Kanan can now be seen stumbling across stages all over town. When he’s not on stage, entertaining the audience, he can be found hiding in that tree behind your house.

What’s it like to be a stand-up comic? 
You need low self esteem, deep cynicism and a desire to degrade yourself for money.

How do you get new material?
The human capacity for doing dumb things. I drink deep from the wellspring of stupidity. Sometimes, it's pointing out things everyone is thinking about. It's pointing out something that no one has noticed. Or sometimes, it's just pointing at a subject and laughing so long and so hard that it becomes funny enough to talk about.

What do you feel about Bangalore audiences?
Most Bangalore audiences are a bit uptight, with well-oiled moustaches, monocles and top hats. That being said, a general sampling of people is already exposed to the subjects you talk about. There's no humour lost in cultural translation.

Hardest thing about being a stand-up comic?
Opening people's minds enough to get them to joke and laugh about something that makes them uncomfortable. And revolving doors. Holy shit, revolving doors are a nightmare. When are you supposed to get out? They just keep going. Who invented this circular hell chamber of entrance?

Gill, Tandonness and the Art of Lesbianics is being performed at various venues in the city from May 15 through May 18. Go to www.explocity.com for details