Comedian Amit Tandon Shares his Journey Behind the Curtains
Amit Tandon, is well-known as the Indian comedian that keeps everyone laughing. A comedian by profession but a relatable soul by heart. Amit has no issue standing on stage and sharing his life experiences with others. Experiences we can all relate too and also laugh about. We wanted to know more about his life beyond the stage and the industry. As a South Asian artist, there are many challenges having a big platform but Amit was able to share his journey with us. Here is what he had to say.
Well-known for being such a relatable stand-up comedian with an eastern heart! What or who inspired you to pursue comedy?
I think it was largely my boredom with my existing business and the kind of feedback that you get on stage. I got into this purely as a hobby. But once you start getting on stage, the responses, the laughter that you get is almost like a drug so you want to go back on stage again. So my inspiration purely was the response of the audience and how bored I was of my own business.
How has being in the entertainment industry changed your life?
The entertainment industry has made my life more exciting. I’m traveling to new places and meeting new people every day and I’m getting paid to follow my passion. There’s nothing better than that. I think it’s made me a happier person. The sheer exposure that I’m getting by acquainting with a variety of people on account of me performing across the world. I’ve performed in over 16-17 countries. In pubs, bars, auditoriums, hospitals, prison, ships, temples as well, so the diversity of locations I’ve done my shows in and the people I’ve performed for has been an amazing journey for me.
Who is your comedic role model and why?
If I have to name one person, it will have to be Johnny Lever sir. Although to be honest, I don’t look at just one person as a role model. I’ve learned a lot from many people but Johnny Lever sir was the first Indian stand-up comedian in the industry. His level of energy hasn’t gone down in these 30 years of him being around. The other person I really look up to is Vir Das purely for the amount of hard-work that he puts in. Papa CJ, I’ve seen the kind of interactions and the effort that he puts in setting up a show. So from different people I’ve learned different things.
Being an Indian comedian, what are some of the stereotypes you have faced in the industry?
Not too many stereotypes but yes. People today want to listen to every point of view. They’ll come for your show; they want to hear a different voice. So there’s not been much of stereotyping. In fact, when you go to a foreign country say America, Europe, Its fun making them conscious of racism and making them a little guilty about their actions. Like we tell them we (Indians) all sound the same and they get all defensive. So I have a lot of fun with that.
In every industry, there are challenges that many talented individuals have to overcome towards success. What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them thus far?
I strongly believe that talent is just one part of any industry. Talent won’t take you too far. What will take you far is your attitude, your persistence, the hard-work that you put in. The challenges that I faced were:
1) My own ego.
I was running my own business. I was 35 when I got into comedy and you know, I was employing 50 people at that time so I was the MD/CEO whatever you may say. In the beginning, I would get on stage in pubs and bars and I would get rejected in the first 5 minutes by 22 year olds who used to come there to enjoy their drinks. For me, my big challenge was initially my ego, where I kind of had to erase the first half of my day from my mind and then work towards the second half, competing with 22-23 year olds working with them as a colleague, rather than thinking of myself as somebody who runs a company and all that.
2) Obviously rejection.
You get a lot of rejection in the first 4-5 years, a lot of times you will not be funny on stage so you will have to go back and think what happened today. Sometimes people are just not interested in listening to jokes so those are the other challenges. Essentially it all comes down to persistence where you have to get up next day and say, “Okay let’s forget about yesterday’s rejection and get on stage again.
If you had the chance, what is one thing you would change about the Entertainment industry?
It’s tough to say but, if there was a way to stay more grounded as you grow, that’s what I would change. The attitude of people towards you that’s something I would love to change. Especially in India, in performing arts, unless you reach a certain level, you’re looked down upon. Performing artists are not looked at with a lot of respect. Like when a woman gets on stage, as soon as she gets up there, she’s judged. Even the names that we have for our artists are ‘Kanjar’, ‘Bhaand’ because it’s not considered as an honorable profession.
Congratulations on your comedians of the world debut! Middle Class Karma was so relatable and had the audience laughing throughout the entire episode. I love how you use your own experience to relate to your audience.
Being a Desi Comedian, how do you gain sufficient content outside of your demographic to relate to other audience members?
Thank you so much! As a Desi comedian, I think what happens is, you know as I’ve traveled across the world, although I largely perform for the Indian audience, when I do shows in English, I’ve realized that the overall relationships remain the same. The dynamic of the relationships remain the same, whether it’s a husband and wife, or father-son, father-daughter.
So the challenges remain the same, even if you look at global cinema. The challenges of parents of teenagers are the same- the struggle to be relevant to their kids. They’re always confused as to whether we are too cool or too strict. So a lot of these things are common threads across the globe, they don’t change with countries and that has kind of worked for me.
Now even in India, I’ve started releasing my videos with English subtitles and I’ve been getting a lot of response from non-Hindi speaking people that “This is completely relatable and this is what we’re going through as well”.
Being a male entertainer in such a vastly based industry, as well as an industry that labels many of us as minorities. What barriers do you work towards breaking by using your platform regarding South Asian stereotypes and labels?
The stereotypes don’t come up very often; it happens maybe once in a while but yes, when you’re performing outside India, the best thing is to acknowledge that stereotype. A lot of times you will come to find that you’re making fun of those stereotypes yourself instead of someone else bringing it up and that works very well on stage.
It’s because when you get on stage and you use that stereotype saying this is what people perceive Indians as, even though I’m a comedian, I can still repair your computer, and when you start with jokes like that, it gives you a connect with the people. So, even the stereotypes work in favor of you.
Having such a public platform, how do you embrace your platform as a comedian to help others?
I wasn’t doing this consciously but it started happening a few times, the shows that you end up doing for charity, especially when you’re performing for patients. I’ve performed for people who have multiple sclerosis society in hospitals, cancer patients. And then you get messages from people that “I was going through a very bad time in my life but your videos kept me going”. A lot of times, I’ve had couples come up to me saying “We watch your videos and laugh at each other and that’s how we end our day so thank you”.
So that’s largely the difference we, as comedians have been able to make in terms of helping others and once in a while you would end up doing a show, I’ve performed on the borders, in Kashmir I’ve performed at different army camps and all. So those are the things we can do as comedians.
What have you learned at this age that you wish you had known when you were younger?
I think, one thing that I’ve learned is that it’s a complete waste of time trying to emulate somebody else. Don’t try to be like someone else. Try to be the best version of yourself and be proud of it.
What advice would you give a struggling comedian wanting to gain the platform you have built for yourself?
I’ll just say one thing, keep on trying, and keep on writing, getting on stage. Bring your own voice to the stage; don’t try to be another version of an existing comedian. Bring your own story on stage. That will help you relate with people. Don’t perform on the basis of what’s trendy or a hot topic, go on stage with what’s going on in your mind.
Amit Tandon is surely more than just a comedian behind the microphone. He is articulate in his stand-up and shares his experiences so well! We love a relatable talent. It is refreshing to see a comedian use their platform for the good of others and adding to a world of laughter!