If my comedy had to offend someone, let it be my family: Praveen Kumar
Comedian Praveen Kumar, who seems to have a knack for finding humour in difficult places, talks about his Amazon Prime stand-up special, Mr Family Man
The coronavirus pandemic and the inevitable lockdown, has halted many a plan, of which comedian Praveen Kumar’s is one. "After 17 years of living in Bangalore, I was planning to move to Chennai, since I’ll be doing only shows in Tamil hereafter. Appadiye adichu okaara vechitaanga," says Praveen who shows a knack for finding humour in difficult places. This incidentally is the concept behind Amazon Prime Video's first full Tamil stand-up special, Mr Family Man.
"This is my fifth special, and first for an OTT platform. I don't know how the reception has been so far. Unlike in YouTube where we can see views and likes, we don't get such data from OTT platforms," adds the comedian who has been "getting appreciation from a lot of people".
In keeping with the title, the special begins with a video clip of your daughter.
Relatability is important. I thought making her say, "Enga appa enna paththi neraya solluvaru, nambidatheenga" would be quite relevant. For our live shows, we usually play this as an audio clip.
You draw your humour from everyday life. How do you decide what’s worth making a joke of, and what isn’t?
I have found that speaking about tragedies is funnier. The formula I believe in is Tragedy + Time = Comedy. The issues that we once felt sad about, become funny with time. Like when your crush tied a rakhi.
Your material also has a lot of self-deprecating humour.
If we cannot laugh at ourselves, we cannot laugh at anything else. When a comedian performs on stage, it’s important to address the first thing the audience will likely notice about them. It makes the audience feel relaxed. It can be your physical appearance, accent or maybe even your name -- the relatability begins right there. It’s usually my starting point.
A segment in your show is full of wordplay and puns, but even you seem to recognise that these jokes may be thought silly.
(Laughs) Mokka jokes are the best. My older videos on YouTube had a lot of such jokes. Crazy Mohan was great at this brand of humour, which to me is quite superior. He is a huge inspiration. Meesai Aanaalum Manaivi and Chocolate Krishna are among my favourite stage performances.
But people look down at such jokes today. That's why I wanted to do a small segment on it. It’s also in a way self-deprecating.
Your content seems well distanced from anything that may be thought taboo or controversial.
My previous show was a no-holds-barred one with many political jokes too. There was a line about a political leader and the very next day after the video was uploaded, I got three calls from the party. One of them, an advocate, said that they were going to file a case against me which I said I was ready to face. What he said next was the shocking part. He said they would not win the case but that they would make me run from pillar to post. He lectured me on how great his leader was and asked if I would be able to go to jail like this politician had done several times. Naa yen da jail-ku poga poren was all I could think of (laughs). I decided then that if I was going to offend someone, I would rather it be my family.
Does this decision not hinder your creative freedom?
I was affected, yes, but the priority is to write jokes peacefully. On the flip side, I used it as a challenge to make content without attacking individuals and I think it also helps you become a better comedian. More importantly, adutha show panna uyiroda irukkalaam. If the question is creativity or life, it's a no-brainer (laughs).
Why did you decide to switch to Tamil?
A lot of friends, back in 2017, suggested that I do shows in Tamil, as that's the language I think in. I realised that if I did it, I’d be the first to do so. I used to travel twice to Chennai for open mics to test waters and thankfully, it worked out. That said, doing it in Tamil will make my show cater to a restricted audience. I disappointed a lot of non-Tamil people who have been following me for seven years. But it's a conscious decision. I had to lose 10 people in order to gain 100. The overseas market loves regional content. Even to get a US visa, preference is given to those performing in Tamil as they have many others who already do this in English. I was told to use two words during the visa interview: Heritage and culture. It worked (smiles).