Having the last laugh

Anjali Jhangiani
Saturday, 25 August 2018

After winning Amazon Prime’s comedy reality show Comicstaan , Nishant Suri talks about how he’s ready to entertain his fans with a lot of fresh material

Doesn’t he look familiar? If you’ve been looking at Nishant Suri trying to figure out where you’ve seen him before, he’ll admit he looks like a younger version of Saddam Hussein. But though he might have the face of a dictator, he’s always been the class clown. “You know how you sign each other’s shirts and leave cute little messages wishing your batchmates all the best on the last day of school? My class in Delhi Public School, Delhi was called the superability section because everyone got above 90 per cent. Everyone wrote messages like ‘I hope you win the Nobel Prize’, ‘I hope you do a PhD’, and what not on each other’s shirts, but on my shirt people wrote stuff like, ‘I hope to see you in a talk show’. I was kind of offended at that time, like they didn’t think I was intelligent enough to do a PhD, or something more academic?” he says, adding, “My friends thought I’m funny, but there wasn’t much awareness of stand-up comedy in India when we were that young. Pursuing stand-up comedy as a profession never crossed my mind then. In college too, everyone encouraged me to pursue comedy.”

Born in Kashmir and brought up all over India, Suri believes that his experiences contribute to his stand-up scripts. “My father was in the army so I’ve lived in all four corners of the country, and I think that has a lot of effect on what I do on stage. Because I don’t feel attached to any one place, I don’t talk about stuff like being a Punjabi or any of that regional stuff. I prefer talking about the experiences I’m going through rather than my observations of the world around me. I want to try and get some emotions in the material I perform on stage, and if I can make the audiences feel what I’m feeling, then I consider it a success,” says the wedding photographer-turned-comedian with a dual degree in Mechanical Engineering and Economics from BITS Pilani, Goa.

Fresh out of college, Suri took up a corporate job. He quit after three years to get into wedding photography and indulged in stand-up comedy on the side. 

“I stopped doing photography professionally last year. Though I enjoyed that too, I mostly did it for the money. It was a good source of income. But now I’m dedicated to my career as a comedian,” he says. 

His parents were glad when he made this decision. “My mum loves to watch me on stage. She used to come for my shows till I had to tell her to please stop (laughs). But she flew down from Delhi for the finale of Comicstaan to support me,” he says, adding that the show helped him become more comfortable and confident on stage. 

Still finding his voice in the national comedy circuit, he claims that he wants his audiences to see him as someone who is sincere about his art. “It takes time for a comedian to discover what connects them to audiences. It happens organically. Comedy is a huge part of who I am, and I hope my audiences see my sincerity in my work,” says Suri, who is inspired by the likes of Biswa Kalyan Rath and Kanan Gill, who were also a part of the show. 

Suri bagged Rs 10 lakh as prize money seven months ago when the show was shot. “I’ve spent it all. I spent the last seven months working on new material, so some of that money was used for sustenance. I didn’t do many shows because I didn’t want to. Then I went travelling and splurged some more money there. The rest I invested, and lost some on cryptocurrency,” he says.

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