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The Rising Stars of Comedy—Sitting Down With Rahul Dua and Nishant Suri

Comedians Rahul Dua and Nishant Suri, of Comicstaan fame, featured on the Proshow lineup for Revels’20. A former investment banker at Citibank, Dua took to stand-up comedy because of a dislike for his banking environment and a love for the art form. Suri was an engineer in India’s silicon valley before a realisation, three years into his job, found himself making the unexpected career change to stand-up. The two comics seek content that their audiences relate to, adding their own comedic flair while maintaining an honest outlook in their sets. We, at The MIT Post, had the opportunity to interview them.

How did the show here compare to other shows that you’ve done on this tour?

Suri: Other ones were a little better (laughs). See, most college shows are all similar. More or less the same. People (in colleges) laugh less at the jokes and more at other things. When I said I was in a relationship, they started screaming “whoo!” The joke hadn’t even arrived yet, and they were happy with just that—the fact that one gets a girl after college. But it was all good, yeah.

How open were your parents and other adults in your life to your decision to shift to stand-up comedy?

Dua: Mine were supportive from day one—they were of the mind that he’s doing what he wants to do, how he wants to do it. They were in a shock for sure, when I left a Citibank job for performing open mics. They were okay with me doing it parallelly when I was doing it with another job that I joined, but it took me some time to convince them that listen, I want to do this properly. Even after Comicstaan, I remember this one statement, when my uncle came to me and told me—it’s fine if you do whatever this is for one to one and a half years, but after that what are you going to do about a job? I said, one minute, one minute, this is not happening. This is going to be a full-time thing for me from now on. But now they’re pretty much on board with my plans. Recently I did a show at home at Ludhiana, so they were there, their friends were there, so now they’re fine with it.

Suri: My parents were also very supportive of Rahul starting stand-up. (laughs) But my parents were also very supportive of my decision. They were like, yeah whatever makes you happy, please quit and come home. I shifted back home because I left my job, so it didn’t make sense to continue giving rent. And that was one of the reasons why I decided to do this because I had everything going for me, I had financial stability, I had very supportive parents and a lot of people in this profession do not have supportive families. So when I didn’t have that obstacle I was like what is stopping me, I can do this definitely. There’s a risk, but it’s smaller for me than it is for other people.

Dua performing his set at Comicstaan

Speaking of Comicstaan, it was a completely new format—so what were your expectations when you signed up for that show? Was there any hesitation?

Dua: There was no expectation, zero.

Suri: An opportunity came my way, and I thought I should do it because opportunities were anyway very limited, so I thought I should do it, and I did. And it was a success. And honestly, we had no idea that it would explode and become such a big thing. We had absolutely no idea. We were just there. There were ten people, all of us shared a very healthy camaraderie amongst each other.

Dua: All the time? Did we share a good camaraderie all the time?

Suri: Yeah! All the time, we shared a good camaraderie, on record. So it exceeded our expectations basically.

Dua: There were six months even after the finale before the show came out, and we were all expecting the worst. We thought it would not work out and become a complete failure. No one would watch it. We had no idea.

Duos in the comic world are not that common, so do you prefer working together or individually, and how is the experience different in both cases?

Dua: It’s a matter of opportunity. We had the chance to form a duo. It was a conscious decision.

Suri: Neither of us had a proper one hour each, and we thought this is a good way of touring and we knew that people really liked the fake rivalry between us and that Dua-Suri chemistry. So we thought, okay fine, then we’ll tour it like that. And the best part of that is, see stand-up is a very lonely profession. Because when you’re touring, you’re touring alone. You reach a new city in the morning, check into your hotel, and then there’s a question of what will you do? At least when you’re two people, there’s something to do.

Does the fact that you are flatmates come into the kind of jokes you do as well? Does that affect the process in any way?

Suri: No no, we don’t talk at all (laughs), he sits in his room, and I sit in mine. It doesn’t come into the process at all.

Suri entertaining the audience with his humour at Comicstaan

Why do you think so many engineers these days pursue comedy as their actual career?

Suri: Because we have too many engineers. It’s just statistics—because we have so many people who do engineering first and then discover their passions. It’s just that. Kanan Gill, Biswa, they’re all engineers, I think it’s just a matter of having a large number of engineers so obviously a percentage of them would get into this profession as well.

Do you get stories from your college days and make jokes about that? Does that work out at college fests?

Dua: You can see the response to the show. It was college stories, and it worked.

Suri: It used to be more for me earlier, but now it’s been a while since my college days, been ten years now, so it gets difficult to say it with the same authenticity.

Dua: Actually, you can get a funny story from anywhere. Could be from college days, a flight journey, anything can happen. If from the back of my mind I get a story from my college days, then I’ll make it work, not like I’ll try to stop it, but it’s a little limited these days.

In recent times, there have been a lot of comedians taking up certain political stances and getting the word out to people through humour. What is your opinion on that?

Dua: I’m speaking for myself here. I don’t want to bash the establishment unnecessarily. Till the time I don’t believe in something, I don’t say it. Like for example, with the entire CAA-NRC issue, I’ve read a lot about it, but I still believe I haven’t read enough, not as much as these people who are having debates on it. This is why I haven’t said anything on it yet on Twitter or any other such medium. I’ve expressed solidarity, and I’ve said that whatever is happening is wrong, this isn’t the way to handle the situation. But I don’t think I know enough about the issue to form an educated opinion on it.  If I have complete knowledge about an issue, then I will speak on it. I don’t have any hesitation in that situation because something that has to be said should be said.

This interview has been translated from Hindi. 

Image Credits: Rahul Dua and Nishant Suri