Rohan Desai may have done his first stand-up only seven months ago, but he’s clearly standing tall. The Patna-born comic is already on his way to the finals of a comedy festival competition here in Melbourne
RohanDesai doesn’t like to call himself a stand-up comedian.
“I’m just an open mic-er,” he says.
The 25-year-old graphic designer, who lives near Delhi, won the Melbourne International RAW Comedy Festival competition to find India’s best new comedy talent in February, despite only having started performing stand-up seven months ago.
Having never left India before, Desai is now packing his suitcase for Melbourne where, as part of his prize, he will perform a routine in front of 2000 people at the RAW Comedy finals.
Born in Surat, Gujarat, Desai never believed he would get the chance to follow his dream to break into comedy.
“Stand-up comedy was something that I always thought I could do but never thought I would get the opportunity in India,” he says.
“When I found out about The Comedy Store in Mumbai that had open mics I decided to give it a go. I have always been a very shy person so I thought if nothing else, it would help me open up a little,” he adds.
“I was quite nervous the first time I went on stage but it went well and it felt like something that I would like to continue doing. The feeling of making people laugh is quite addictive,”says Desai.
He admits his parents were apprehensive about his hobby. “They didn’t see the point of my doing something like this but didn’t interfere or ask me to stop because they could sense this was something I was interested in,” he says.
Desaisayshe is still finding his feet as a comic.
“I don’t really have a specific style to speak of. This is something I still need to figure out and will probably take a long, long time. I am too new to stand-up comedy to start worrying about these things. I just need to focus on writing and getting on stage as much as possible right now,” he says.
“Stand-up comedy is an art form. And like any other art form, it is something you can only learn when u keep doing it,” he adds.
But Desaisays he has no plans to give up his day job any time soon and is just enjoying the ride. “I don’t really care what happens. I am not in it for the money, fame would be nice but I’m alright without it too as long as I am constantly improving,” he says.
India’s English speaking stand-up scene is still in its infancy but Desai believes it is growing rapidly.
“I definitely think it is becoming more popular India for two main reasons.First, because of the dissatisfaction with the quality of humor on Indian television. And second, it allows you to talk about things that are usually not discussed in India — sex, religion, politics,” he says.
Australian comics Justin Hamilton and Kate McLennan traveled to stand-up venues in Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi at the start of the year to judge the entrants in the comedy competition.
They also held workshops with the budding comics to help develop their writing and performing skills.
Hamilton told the Australia Network he was surprised at the level of professionalism and skill he saw in India’s young comics.
“They have quite clearly watched people all over the world… and what they have done is they have watched them on YouTube or they have watched DVDs and so the way they carry themselves on stage is much more professional than their experience should be,” he says.
And Desaisays the local crowd in India was equally impressed by the Australians. “Seeing the judges of RAW Comedy India Justin Hamilton and Kate McLennan perform was also quite an eye opener. I wasn’t sure how their routine would go down in front of an Indian audience but they were hilarious, the crowd loved it,” he says.
Indian Entertainment Sydney