Vijay Yadav is an Engineer, Entrepreneur, Teacher and a Stand-Up Comic. He can be seen sharing the stage with comedians such as Zakir Khan, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Varun Thakur, Jeeveshu Ahluwalia and more. He’s also an Organiser for Stand-Up Comedy Events.
Are You Born Funny?
Born in a middle-class family, with limited exposure to other career avenues, Vijay recalls his start was like most people - with Engineering.
But Vijay now fondly remarks, “Ab bas naam ka Engineer reh gaya hai yeh ladka”
After graduating, Vijay went on to study Design Engineering at an Institute, which he later joined as a Teacher. But wanting to explore the corporate world, Vijay started working with a German Design firm. However, disillusioned and dissatisfied, Vijay returned to teaching and expanded into owning and managing a franchisee of a CADD (Computer Aided Designing and Drafting) Centre. This lasted for nearly two years but as even this did not feel rewarding enough, Vijay decided to move on.
It began with wanting to be a writer. Vijay recounts attending a meet under the aegis of ‘Hello Meet’ (a startup his friend owned) where several writers were called upon to discuss their work. Vijay, inspired, was now determined to better himself as a writer. And as he started writing, he discovered where his true talent lay - in humour.
Never before had Vijay been so sure of something; ‘Comedy’ felt like a natural calling to him.
At the same time, Vijay came across AIB’s First Draft Writers’ Program which was a six-month internship for screenwriters. He decided to sit for its entrance but did not clear it. However, he got a chance to join Coalition - a program catering to different genres of Art, where he opted for comedy and got the chance to interact with like-minded people.
He adds that the first six months of performing were quite harrowing for him; he had to overcome stage fright, get used to being watched and noted by so many people constantly. But fortunately, an experienced Comedian came to his rescue - he showed him the benefits of participating in Open Mics. And gradually, Vijay’s fear started subsiding and he slowly realised how much he loved being on stage.
“When someone laughs at your jokes, it’s a great feeling. I never realised, ki ye cheez bhi ho sakti hai. Bahar ka sochne ka mauka hi nahi mila.”
How To Crack a Joke
Vijay says that making multiple career shifts were not all in vain as his teaching experience taught him how to connect with his students and later, significantly contributed to his comedic skills.
He feels that what is crucial to being successful in any field, is to recognise that voice from within- “Agar ander se nahi aa raha hai, phir faida hi kya hai.” You have to be absolutely convinced and know it in your gut that this is what you want to do. And then, the learning begins.
Vijay remarks that even if one is well-prepared for the show, it doesn’t guarantee
success. He recalls the time he was performing at a Corporate Event in a tier-two city, when he was faced with a not-so-regular crowd (mostly children). Realising that the material he had prepared was not appropriate for the audience present, he had to improvise.
“Anyone can take offence. When you’re trying to crack a joke on stage, there’s a fifty percent chance it simply won’t work. But you have to be willing to take that risk.”
The Next Joke
At the moment, Vijay’s focus is on observational comedy, where he derives inspiration from, and scouts for ideas through his surroundings. Traveling, for instance, really aids him in this process - he gets to interact with new people, explore new places, and that’s how the ideas begin to take shape in his mind.
Vijay emphasises on the importance of stage-time. But he acknowledges that even when one doesn’t get to perform, one can learn a lot through sitting in the audience, just watching the show. “I try to note down the audience’s and my own reactions during the show. And in this way, ten thoughts end up becoming fifteen.”
Initially, comedy did not bear expected returns for Vijay as it could not cover all his bills. But, nevertheless, Vijay continued with it, and is currently supplementing his income by working as an Organiser for comedy-centric shows.
This not only keeps him afloat, but also provides him with insights on the industry. He reckons, that at present there are not more than five hundred full-time comedians in India. So, if you are diligent, the prospects for you in the industry become brighter.
Vijay admits that it has definitely been challenging for him to move from a fixed-salaried life to this. But he says that after four to five years, the rewards are substantial.
Does Laughter Come Easy?
Brought up in a family with an Army background, there were a number of hurdles that came Vijay’s way due to this decision. The first was bracing the uncertainty that comes with Freelancing, and getting used to not having a stable source of income.
Since, most of the activities around his work, be it the Open Mics or live performances, took place late in the night, it bothered his parents and they took their time to come to terms with the demands of the industry. “Now, when they see me performing with prominent personalities and doing well for myself, they understand these requirements better. At the end of the day, comedy is a 24 hour job. Most of the Comedians are always working, whether it is on stage, or off it; observing or writing.”
Vijay notes that it takes nearly six months to test the waters, and only after that does one understand what an art truly conveys. However, you have to be persistent throughout the journey. What also helps, is having a mentor or a guide along the way. Someone who tells you the truth and shows you the mirror from time to time. Moreover, Vijay adds that comedy in that sense is self-correcting in essence - “There’s nothing ever wrong with the audience anywhere. It’s always the joke. If it tanks, then maybe I am the one who’s not able to connect with the audience.”
A Bigger Stage
For Vijay, the constant driving force is the dynamic nature of his work. Today one gets to write about one thing, and tomorrow, it all changes. This is what keeps the wheels turning.
As of now, Vijay has a number of shows in the pipeline, where he will be collaborating with other Comedians . He eventually wishes to perform Solo as well.
“I plan to upload two to three videos of my latest work soon as social media is the key to forge a connection with your viewers”.
Vijay says that as the stand-up comedy scene in India is relatively new, the audience will take its time to mature and turn receptive to different genres of humour. Moreso, since it is an individual art form, you are completely on your own. But if you can continue on this path, then the perks follow suit.
“You should not be disheartened by failures. I am just a newbie and I have a long way to go. But I just feel that had I accepted defeat at the earliest hint of failure, I would have lost this battle a long time ago. Thus, above all, it is essential to have the courage to take the leap and hope for best”.