‘We need more women stand-ups’

Celebrity host and award winning comedian Nitinn R Miranni recently performed for the first time in Shillong as well as the North East and his ‘Shouldn’t Have Said That’ show was a sold-out. The performer spoke to Heather Cecilia Phanwar about his first show, the audience in India, lack of women stand-ups in the country, his experience in Shillong and much more. The 40-year old stand-up comedian lived in Dubai for almost all his life. Nitinn, who has been doing stand-up for 11 years, has tried his hand in almost every industry like real estate and Wizcraft. He emceed and hosted many shows. “Sometimes shows don’t go as planned and there are some gaps in between. Organisers used to tell me to entertain the crowd, and in that I tried to do comedy for two to three minutes. After the shows, people used to come up to me and tell me that they enjoyed even if it for a few minutes, that I should do full time,” he said. When asked about how he chose comedy, he said one day while he was at work, he just felt he should resign. “Growing up as an expat Indian I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do in life. Comedy was my calling. There was not much happening in Dubai in terms of comedy. I took a leap of faith and by the grace of God here I am. I realised that I genuinely like entertaining people and making them laugh,” the comedian said. Talking about his childhood he said that he was an introvert. But it was easy for him to tell jokes and he found a nice meaning to himself. It is “therapeutic” for him to entertain people. “We all lead a stressful life, especially in the corporate world. It is nice to be a reason for the people to be laughing.” Miranni said he does a lot of on-the-spot thing but usually has enough material ready before going up on stage. Also, he does a lot of research about the place where he is supposed to perform, studies about the people there and their mannerisms. His shows are usually dialogues and not monologues. For him it’s about creating moments. He has done shows all over the world now and impromptu comedy is what he does. He comes up with jokes on the spot. “It connects with the audience. Even the audience is very smart nowadays, they know the difference between an on-the-spot joke and a joke that has been written before. We get respect from the audience if the joke is impromptu,” he said. There were a couple of shows he did in the past where he ended up doing 30 minutes of on-the-spot impromptu comedy. When it comes to the audience Miranni, who tries to do five shows a month, said, he is very flexible in terms of the audience’s energy. “It’s like being a chef. If I’m a chef and if my audience doesn’t like sushi and I keep on giving them sushi, I’m not going to say you’re a bad audience. I need to find their taste buds in terms of comedy, what are they laughing at and what they enjoy more. I sort of go around that and figure out things,” the performer asserted. On Indian audience The Indian audience is finally getting up to comedy, Miranni feels. He is very happy to say that they know their comedy now. Four to five years back there was no scene for comedy but right now, especially in Shillong, he was very impressed by the intellect and the audience being able to get the nuances, the references that he did. He compared the Shillong audience to that in New York. “They are quite witted. When you say India, you do more of Hindi and all that stuff but I was excited to do my international stuff here as well. The voice inside my head speaks to me in English. However, I like doing Hindi comedy as well,” he said. On his jokes Miranni said he does political jokes but not much because “I think our politicians are doing stand-up comedy themselves”. “I prefer to stay away from it because I realised politics divide an audience, people are quite touchy about politics and you know groups, parties they take it too hard. They get offended easily and you will not know until you are half way through. Personally, I don’t understand politics and I don’t do it simple as that. I face a lot of threats all the time,” he informed. First joke Talking about his first show, Miranni said it was “really bad and nobody laughed”. “But then the second one I did impromptu comedy. That really got the audience on my side. The moment it happened on the spot it got me. A local act in my show is my responsibility as an artiste to support them. I would love to see more female stand-up comedians. That is the voice that is missing in the Indian society. I know women will be funnier than men. It will be nice to have equal representation.” His motto Miranni said his motto in comedy is not to offend the audience but to befriend them. One of the best testimonials he got and which he keeps very close to his heart was when he did a show in Kuwait and a local magazine wrote, “To watch him perform is like watching your best friend telling you a story.” That’s the vibe he wants to create. “But sometimes people do misbehave, they get offended.” Stand-up in India Comedy in India is definitely evolving and even the audience is evolving, according to Miranni. “They know what kind of comedy they like be it dry humour or dark comedy.” “Five years back, people didn’t know this and it’s nice to see this now. They know what they want to laugh at, they want political humour, satire and they know the difference, which is a very good thing. The only thing that pricks is that now in India everything is too much. Now everybody is a comedian. We spend a lot effort doing what we do,” he added. According to the artiste, WhatsApp jokes and all should be slowed down because “when we get a joke it’s like oh another joke but that’s not what humour is supposed to do to you”. When asked about the audience in India, Miranni pointed out that it has potential but it has a different path altogether. Culture is as old as stand-up comedy “but I think there is a lot of confusion with what stand-up comedy is and I really hope it reaches a good place in India”. “It had already but I think the more people start supporting live comedy the more it will be. Comedy feeds your soul. Support the art,” said Miranni, who has done US, Middle East and India tours. Supporting live shows “People should understand and support live comedy. What is happening right now is that people are getting lazy and they watch everything on YouTube,” the comedian rued. “Live comedy is an experience it is one of the greatest experiences you can have and it’s a favour to you. When you attend a live show, you cannot touch your phone. It’s like a meditation class for an hour or so where you come and just laugh amongst people. You’re laughing with a guy who’s a Muslim, a CEO of a company, with a person who is going through something in life. You’re in a holy space where people from all walks of life are sitting together and just laughing. It unites people. On a philosophical level, it is a nice place to be in. People should support themselves by coming to stand-up live comedy. They think they are doing the artiste a favour but believe me when you walk out of a show, it’s therapy for you. Looking now at the pace of things… There are people at 24 who are getting heart attacks so the stress level is really high all over the world, especially in India. So whatever chance you get attend it. I would call a live comedy show a meditation class. You come, you laugh, you get your blood rushing and then you leave,” said Miranni, whose idol is Jim Carrey. The stand-up comedian also loves the performances of Kevin Hart and Trevor Noah. In fact, he has opened for Noah a couple of times and will be doing it again in Abu Dhabi. He has also opened for Eddie Griffin and Marlon Wayans. Show in Shillong When the show was being planned, Miranni had spoken to one of the organisers and asked him if he was sure to do it. He had said he wanted to give it a shot. “The show was decided in one week. Usually you need time to fix a particular show but 80 per cent of the tickets were sold out in two days. Sometimes as an artist you become a producer as well and think if I go there the show won’t work but I realised as an artiste you just come and perform. I’m glad to do it. I’ve been to odd places to do stand-up comedy and it has been an amazing experience,” Miranni said, adding that the audience here was fun. ‘I had an amazing time’ ‘Shouldn’t Have Said That’, organised by Rockski EMG, was one of the best stand-up comedy shows that Shillong has experienced in recent time. The show started with a local act, stand-up comedian Dulal Saikia from Guwahati. Saikia started off pretty well and instantly connected with the crowd. He captured the audience even if it was only for 15 minutes. Miranni is one of a kind. With his black coat and black ripped jeans, he looked like a movie star. His punchline for every joke was spot on and the crowd really connected with him. From the beginning of the show till the end, there was not a time that the crowd lost interest. From one joke to the other, Miranni proved his entertainment skills. Through his local references, it showed that he studied about Shillong before his show. The impromptu acts were the best. From Bun-chai (Banshai), the traffic reference in Shillong where he said “it (the road) is more of a parking lot” and “instead of Rapido there should be another company by the name Walkido”, to “Shil-long being far away” (according to Miranni maybe that’s why Shillong got its name), Miranni left everyone in splits. Charlene Ropmay, who was among the audience, said, “It was my first live comedy show and it was worth every second. I had such an amazing time, one of the happiest experiences of my life. Thanks to Nitinn, his laughter therapy was top notch.” “Dude made me laugh since the time he showed up on stage. He was terrific! And yes! It was true when he mentioned that Shillong traffic is more of a parking lot now,” Pyntngen Kongwang, who was laughing even after the show. The crowd was in awe at his take on different accents. From Thai, Japanese, British to Chinese, the stand-up nailed it. His impersonation of Enrique Iglesias in a music video was effortless. His witty one-liners made an instant impact. What made him different from other performers was his interaction with the audience. His impromptu acts got the crowd going. An audience member said these are the kind of shows Shillong needs. “More stand-ups should be popularised. It really is a breath of fresh air and you laugh to your heart’s content. Miranni, I lost my virginity of being in a stand-up comedy for the first time in your show,” was her message. Bakynsai Thabah summarised Miranni’s performance in two sentences — “Talent personified and brutally funny. It’s a gut busting piece of stand-up comedy.”

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