All in Good Humour—Sitting Down with Vipul Goyal
An engineer-turned-comedian, Vipul Goyal has established himself as one of the top comics in India. Apart from performing stand-up, he has also written and acted in a popular TVF web-series, Humorously Yours. On 1st March, he delighted Manipal audiences with his witty and original humour at a show hosted by the Cultural Coordination Committee, MAHE at the KMC Greens. The show was envisioned as a pre-Utsav event, leading up to this year’s edition of Utsav, the annual cultural festival of MAHE. After the show, The MIT Post had the opportunity to sit down with him and talk about his wealth of experience as a comedian and his favourite jokes.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your transition from engineering to comedy? At what point did you consider taking up comedy as a serious option?
I passed out from IIT Bombay and did a job for one year. Then, I was fired from this job during the recession. I used to dabble in comedy in college, so I thought at that point, maybe I should give it a try. Since I was from IIT Bombay, I had the assurance that even if I don’t do anything for two years I can get a job back. I was secure that way. People ask me why I did this after getting a degree from IIT. I say if an IITian can’t do it, then who can? If my degree gives me the security to get a job after two years, then at least I should try out what I want to do. I tried stand-up comedy for 2-3 years but nothing significant happened. I started in 2010, then I slowly started to get noticed on YouTube. I did a web-series two years ago—Humorously Yours. The last four years have been very good for me. I think in any job, the first four years are your formative years. You have to work more on your craft and art. You should focus on improving that first so that when you achieve fame, you are ready for it. I would not be able to satisfactorily entertain an audience of a thousand people today if I was not qualified enough craft-wise. You have to develop that craft for at least four or five years by constantly doing shows, and then you slowly begin to improve.
In MIT, there are a lot of students who are very interested in arts like music, dance, and comedy as well. Is there any kind of advice that you would like to give them in terms of the risks that they might have to take?
I’d say, eventually, risk has to be taken, and it has to be taken before marriage. The only window you have is after college and before marriage. If you consider it after marriage, you’ll have to convince your wife to be on board as well. If you have a baby or take a home loan, then you might as well forget about it. What I would suggest is, don’t be at such an extreme where you leave your job and sit at home. Since comedy shows are mostly at night, you can do your job and perform at shows at night. You can develop your craft that way for three years at least. At the end of that period, make an Excel sheet of the money you make from your job and from comedy. If you think the income is comparable, leave your job. It’s simple mathematics. Many times people think that they’ll leave their job and just focus on the craft, but that doesn’t work out well. You want to work on your craft because you’re frustrated at work and you channelise your frustration into the art. If you leave your job, your stand-up becomes your job. But then you start running away from that as well. You start to find another escape route. Any passion is limited to three years and as soon as commerce gets involved, it becomes a job. Comedy is a job too, I have to sit and think of jokes every day. It is not a very rosy picture. There is hard work here as well, my livelihood depends on this. In any job that you do, you have to keep working hard at it, there’s no escaping that. However, the plus side is here, I have fun doing my job. You should try to keep that fun alive.
Your Wikipedia page says “Vipul Goyal is a pioneer of clean comedy”. Could you comment on this characterisation of yourself?
When I started, I used to keep the comedy very clean. I felt that the public may think these people (stand-up comedians) do only vulgar comedy. However, in the last four years, there has been a kind of acceptance in the audience. Now we have college shows, corporate shows, and auditorium shows. So there you can deviate from the clean humour a little. In a college, if we get permission from the faculty we can change the kind of jokes we do. Corporates may tell us to stick to clean jokes because their dealers are also present, or they may say that the show has to be only for thirty minutes. In that case, we don’t do those things. The auditorium, on the other hand, is my home. You have bought tickets to see me perform at my home, so my rules apply there. If you don’t like it, you are free to leave. If I come to your house, I am giving you a service and that’s why I will try to obey your rules.
Is there any point where you’ve held back because you are afraid of offending the audience?
In my auditorium shows, no. But in a college or corporate show, if someone gives me instructions, I try to obey them. In any case, my content is not that offensive. Generally, if the audience is offended, it is at strong political comments. Also, the people who do get offended don’t come to the show. They are the ones who watch it on YouTube. Only those people who are my fans attend my live shows. Since they are spending five hundred rupees to see me perform, they have already seen me on YouTube. They come because they liked what they saw there. It’s just like when you read multiple reviews before you go to watch a movie in the theatres. Normally, the ones who buy tickets aren’t the ones getting affected, they buy the tickets because they like my jokes.
How was your experience of working on Humorously Yours, especially since it borrows so much from your personal life?
It is kind of my biopic. Eighty per cent of the stories in it are all true, we’ve just dramatised them a little. Season Two of the show is also ready. We have completed shooting it, and it will be released by April. I’m just waiting for that release, I’m very excited about it. Especially because Humorously Yours was my big break. I was not very popular before that. It brought me into the A-league. I was working hard, but then I began to be noticed as “that guy from Humorously Yours”. I also got the brand of TVF. I got TVF’s fan base of three million at that time because of the show.
Are there any particular things you are excited about in Season Two? What can we expect from it?
It is very good, I am very happy with Season Two and my performance. The best part is that the finale of Season Two is in a college show. We perform at a college show so you get to see what is happening in the college—a lot of humorous incidents with the professors and students. If you are in a college audience, you will relate to it a lot. I’m very excited that we’ll be featuring a college show in the season.
What are your favourite jokes?
Most comedians enjoy their recent jokes the most. One of my recent jokes is about the Desh ka Yuva. It’s only five months old, so I really enjoy doing that. It’s a lot of fun especially in colleges because I’m making jokes at the expense of the youth for the entertainment of the youth. People keeping talking about the youth of the country but as a 35-year old, I wonder, who is this youth? They are a burden to the country. They survive on credit cards and keep taking loans. So I wonder why are we giving the youth so much importance? We 30-somethings should get some importance as well! The older generation lives on a pension and the younger ones live on credit. We are the ones who are running the economy. We are the ones who have to run the entire GDP, and here, the youth are the ones being given importance.
Apart from web-series or stand-up comedy, is there any other form of performing arts that you are interested in exploring?
Right now, I enjoy stand-up and live shows, but after Humorously Yours 2, if I get more acting opportunities, I would like to explore the acting aspect. Since I am a writer at Humorously Yours as well, I waste eight months on the writing. Rasika Dugal, who plays my wife, is not a writer. She can come for five days, do the shoot and leave. If I find some kind of acting role where I can shoot for five days and get acclaim for it, I would like to do that. I would want to focus on acting if after this I get any acting assignment like maybe a movie or ad audition.
Do you think your experience in theatre has helped your work as a comedian in any way?
Yes, definitely. Humorously Yours worked out because of my experience in theatre. People were able to connect to my character because I acted well. The stand-up in Humorously Yours is only for a short duration, and you can’t really learn acting through stand-up. If you do theatre, then your expressions will be better even when you are performing stand-up on stage. Stand-up is essentially a performing art—it’s writing and performance combined. Once you’ve done the writing, you need a good performance to sell that writing, which is where theatrics comes into play. If you’re a good actor it will always help you. Theatre helps in real life as well since you often have to act a lot in real life too.
Translated from Hindi.
Featured Image Credits: jaipurbeat.com