Standup comedy as an art form that has seen a humongous rise in India during the last decade, a big credit of which goes to youtube- the platform that has made publishing easy for all content creators- including stand up comedians.
But unlike other content creators, performing on stage live in front of 100 people is still a different ball game altogether. What makes stand up comedy even more difficult compared to other kind of stage performances is that you get instant feedback from the audience. If your jokes aren’t funny, there is a deadly silence in the room which might ruin the flow of your performance, convincing you to never come back to stage.
Today, it is easier for anyone to try their hands at standup comedy thanks to so many open mic events, but only a handful end up creating a career in the profession.
We bring you the story of 8 super successful stand up comedians who left their “safe” corporate jobs to pursue a highly risky career in stand up comedy. Lets get started:
1. Kanan Gill
Born in Bareilly, Kanan as a kid was a part of a band as a lead singer where he wrote funny songs. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in computer science from Bangalore following which he worked for three years as a Software Engineer in Exeter Group Inc.
On the side, Kanan’s hustle with his ambitions was on. He participated in a multiple comedy competitions including the “Punchline Bangalore” which he subsequently won, along with winning another show called “Comedy Store” in Mumbai. Post this, he decided to quit his not so thrilling IT job and give a shot to a full time career in comedy.
He along with fellow comedian Biswa Kalyanrath started Pretentious Movie Reviews on YouTube where they together would review 90’s Bollywood movies in a comic way. Today, Kanan has worked on Comedy Central show The Living Room and launched Keep It Real in 2017 on Amazon Prime. In 2020, Netflix released his special Yours Sincerely on their platform.
2. Biswa Kalyan Rath
Originally from Odisha, Biswa today is a known name in the stand up comedy circuit. He completed his degree in Biotechnology from IIT Khargpur in 2012 after which he worked in graphic design, advertising and software. He met fellow comedian Kanan Gill at an open mic event in 2013, where they instantly connected with each other. Biswa came up with the concept of Pretentious Movie Reviews which he and Kanan started on YouTube that quickly gained a huge fan following.
This gave Biswa the confidence to quit his job at Oracle in 2014 to pursue comedy full time. His first standup gig happened when he took the stage for the first time along with Kanan in Gurgaon the same year. Biswa started his own show called Biswa In Your Face in 2015 and toured across the country. He turned a script writer with Laakhon Mein Ek, a lovely web series available on Amazon Prime.
3. Neeti Palta
Born in New Delhi, Neeti Palta had an entirely different life before pursuing comedy. She completed her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications from the reputed Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communications, Pune. She worked for J. Walter Thompson for 12 whole years as an Art Director. She won the RAW Comedy competition in November 2012. Around the same time, Youtube was expanding its footprint globally and she began posting her videos on YouTube. This helped her gain a good fan base allowing her to quit an established corporate career and pursue comedy full time. Today, she has appeared in plenty of comedy web and TV series like Comicstaan and Almost Sanskari.
4. Rahul Subramanium
Rahul completed his MBA in marketing from IMT Ghaziabad post which he worked as a marketing manager at Mahindra Rise. He realized that the job wasn’t that much fun. So, he started to look for something to do after work that could make him feel good about himself. He watched a few stand up shows and this is where he felt that he might be able to do it too. So he started performing on stage. Though the beginnings were rough, he picked up pace and found some fame.
In 2015, he started a YouTube channel “Random Chikibum” with Kumar Varun that received a good response from the viewers. Later, Rahul went out to start his comedy special Kal Mein Udega on Amazon Prime. He also starred in AIB’s Honest Engineering Campus Placements.
Today, Rahul is a known name in the Indian comedy circuit loved for his jokes on corporate life, building uncles.
5. Jaspreet Singh
Jaspreet is a regular at the Gurugram Canvas Laugh Club. Jaspreet since childhood loved performing on stage.
He was working at Sapient tech and was not having the best of the times at the job when a friend (looking at his witty humour) advised him to try standup comedy. The professional stand up scene was new to him and even making people by cracking jokes on stage seemed impossible. He watched a lot of standup videos and convinced himself that this was something he could pursue. In March 2015, he performed his first gig at AntiSocial, Gurugram that gave him a lot of confidence. He continued to perform on the weekends while keeping the job at Sapient.
In 2017, he launched his Youtube channel. In 2018, he received a wow audience response for his solo act at the canvas laugh club that propelled him to quit his job and pursue comedy full time.
6. Kumar Varun
Kumar earned an engineering degree, following which he pursued an MBA at Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Delhi. He worked as a Brand Manager at Mahindra Rise where he bumped into fellow comedian Rahul Subramanium and they both started Random Chikibum.
In 2015, The duo stumbled upon a Facebook ad about The Comedy Hunt- India’s first web comedy competition of its kind that the duo won. Two years later, Kumar had found some fame and had started getting recognition in the Indian comedy circuit that finally led him to quit his job at Mahindra.
Since then, Kumar has collaborated with popular media brands and has played many memorable characters on youtube and other platforms including the role of Kranti in Chacha Vidhayak Hai Hamare- a web series with Zakir Khan which was released in 2018 on Amazon prime.
7. Anubhav Singh Baasi
Bassi was born in Meerut, UP and had never thought of being a full time stand up comedian.
Choosing law as a profession, he pursued a 5 year integrated arts and law degree from Lucknow National Law University and practiced law in Court. Realizing that law was not for him, he attempted the UPSC entrance exams(failed twice), tried his hands at running a food business with friends which also turned out to be a failure.
By 2017, Bassi had lost hope and fell into depression. But there was one thing Bassi was trying his hands at on the sides- Comedy. He used to perform at stand up mic events in Delhi and try his jokes- some bombed, some didnt. In April 2019, he released his first video Cheating on youtube which went viral garnering millions of views.
Today, he is a comedy sensation- with his just 3 youtube videos being watched over 100 million times.
8. Jeevenshu Ahluwalia
Originally from Delhi, Jeeveshu completed his Bachelor’s in Commerce post which, he worked odd jobs including as an usher at PVR Cinemas, another time in door-to-door marketing. He also worked as an attendant at the Pizza Hut.
In the pursuit of stability and growth, he joined a call center where he went on to work for 16 years. After making a lot of money in the call center business, he finally retired from his position of the director and started his journey as a standup comedian. In 2014, he won the Radio Mirchi's Comedy Ka King and eventually gained popularity as a stand-up comedian thanks to the rise of youtube and increasing standup comedy venues in the country.
It is worth nothing that Jeevanshu has worked in plenty of TV commercials and also played a small role in Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha sharing screen with Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor.
We hope you enjoyed this article! Let us know your favourite comedian in the comments below, and share this article with your friends!
Anushka Chandra, Content Writer, Skyshot Media