Your comedy show on television is a huge hit. Did you ever imagine it would be so successful?
I believed in our show. But we never thought it would become so successful. I want to make a special mention of Dharamji .I wanted him to come on my first episode of Comedy Nights With Kapil. But his PR team turned us down.Dharamji was traveling and his schedule was tight. But I wanted my show to begin with Dharamji. My father, who is no more, admired him greatly.In fact everyone from Punjab hero-worships him. So I went to meet him personally. I just said one thing to him. I said, I had decided if I ever have my show I’d start with Dharamji.He took not even a minute to agree to come on my show.He came on the show, and blessed it saying it will run for years. So my show is blessed.
How do you cope with people in real life who expect you to be funny all the time?
I meet all sorts, yes.People are a bit confused about how to behave with me.When they meet stars they know exactly how to behave. With me they are confused because they’ve seen me being funny all the time.So they immediately take off with me, wanting me to entertain them.Some also do me a big favour by asking me to act out the previous night’s episode for them on the spot as they were unable to see it.
Is that difficult?
Ajeeb ajeeb reactions milte hain.At times I’m awake all night. Then in the morning when I am waiting to catch a flight they expect me to be as funny as they see me being on television. When I don’t live up to their expectations they are disappointed. I am sure when people meet Sachin Tendulkar on the airport they don’t expect him to hit a sixer in the lounge. But I am supposed to carry my vocation everywhere.I love it!
You mean there is no vacation for your vocation..How much of your time per week goes into your show Comedy Nights With Kapil?
Oh, practically all my time. First we develop ideas,then we build them into scripts dialogues, etc. Comedy is a very serious business.I started out doing comedy as means of livelihood. Now it’s become a responsibility. Pataa nahinkyon. I have to deliver the laughs every week. People wait for them. Their expectation of laughter is a result of their love for me.Even when I am off camera I try to become what people expect out of me.
How do you keep the comedy so free of vulgarity?
Initially when I began on Laughter ChallengeI decided to stay clean with my comedy. There are some comic artistes who aren’t able to raise laughter legitimately. They go below the belt. It’s easy to raise laughs by talking dirty. But I feel if the government allows dirty talk liberally even that would cease to be funny.When people say mine is the first comedy show they can watch with their children I feel very happy.When the Punjabi comic actor Rana Ranbir told me he watches my show with his daughter it was like the Oscar for me.
Why so many jokes about people’s paunches?
Ha ha. I need to lose weight myself.So I make make digs at other people’s weight. Maybe my jibes would help them to lose weight.And please tell me,if my jibe about someone’s stomach has 1.5 crore people in splits then what’s wrong with it?There is such a clamour to be part of the audience on my shows . I sometimes feel we should ticket the entry on my show and give the money to charity.
Tell me about yourself?
I wanted to be a singer . I never knew I’d end up as a stand-up comedian.I used to sing in school . Then in college I took to doing serious theatre(acting) for about 12 years. Yeh comedy toh bass ho gaya. Hamare Punjab mein do terah ke log hote hain. Chahe to kuch nahin karte yaa seedhe pradhan-mantri ban jaate hain.
How did you acquire a taste for stand-up comedy?
Through observation.I come from Amritsar where people have a lot of time to snoop into their neighbours’ lives.‘Yeh Ambale wali bua iss hafte bhi aa gayipichle hafte bhi aye thi…’ These are the kinds of observations I grew up with. My mother has a sharp sense of humour.
Tell me, are you as humorous in real life as you are on stage?
Jee bilkul. I was always light-hearted. My journey as a professional comic actor began on a regional channel . I got a good response from Punjab for it. Then I tried to get into Laughter Challenge. But they rejected me. I auditioned again. Ironically the same judges who had rejected me ultimately declared me the winner on Laughter Challenge. That’s how my journey began.I have gone through many phases in my life and career. I’ve even served as a drama teacher in girls’ colleges. That was a seasonal job.And I kept wondering, would I be coaching girls how to act all my life?What about the artiste in me? That’s when I gravitated towards television.
How do you rate yourself now ?
I’ve seen a lot of improvement in my work. But an artiste is always learning. And I’ll remain a student all my life. If I start believing I know everything it would be the end of my journey.Ek artiste ki bhookh kabhi khatm nahin hoti.
Why do you need so many Bollywood stars on your show?
So many stars go on other shows to promote their films. On reality shows they go watch the performances give their comments and come away. On my show they are very much part of the main proceedings. Also, on the talk shows stars are asked very serious questions. Koffee With Karan, for example, is watched by an elite audience .On my show there is all -round laughter every two minutes.Because we play an ordinary middleclass family on the show the audience identifies with our excitement when a star visits.
Kapil,what is your next level?
I want to act in films and write films because I am a writer.But I don’t want to think about what I’ll do next. Because if it doesn’t happen I’ll be saddened.I just want to keep working.I always wanted to do my own music album.Music is my greatest stress-busters. Now I have the offer for an album. But I don’t have the time. I’ll do that soon. One life, and so much to do.
How do you deal with the sudden fan following?
I love it. Ladies have started showing a lot of interest in me. Kids love me too. My show is watched by the old and young alike. What else can I hope for?
Has the sudden surge of popularity made you vain?
Not at all! I don’t know why people change with success. The junta has made you, why get arrogant with them?A comic actor is always rooted to reality. You must have noticed comedians never come from affluent backgrounds. They are always from humble backgrounds.Birlas and Tatas don’t foster comic talent.I’ve seen it all. I’ve faced the jostle of local trains and now I travel business class. I can laugh at life’s adversities.I’d be foolish to turn arrogant and put on shades in a dark room.
What about a relationship,a girlfriend a wife?
I am single right now. My mother is very keen that I get married. But I don’t want to bring a wife home and then make her sit at home while I work round the clock.Waqt bhi toh honi chahiye.There is also the fear of what marriage will bring in my life.Pataa nahin shaadi ke baad kya hoga.