Published: 18th September 2017
Atul Khatri tells you why stand-up comedy isn't that funny when you are not on the audience side
Atul Khatri, who goes by the handle Horny Sindhi, talks about why he left East India Company and about the shelf life of a comedian
We landed at the HyLife Brewing Company an hour before stand-up comedian Atul Khatri was to go on stage, thinking we were early. But as we walk into the open air venue, we see him on stage, fresh off a commercial shoot with Ranbir Kapoor and busy doing a customary stage check; you know, the typical light and sound check — giving detailed instructions on how and when he’d like the lights to work. It was only later, when we got to catch up with the comedian that he tell us, "Stand-up comedy is hard work. Don't come here thinking it's all cool and you'll get many fans — it doesn't work like that." Now, here is an artist who clearly practises what he preaches.
The 49-year-old Khatri decided to pursue stand-up comedy just a mere six years ago. He was even with the East India Company (check out their video EIC: The Modi Song, he’s the first from the left) for three years, but quit in July after its founder, Sorabh Pant left in April. "EIC was getting more into branded content, ADs and Bollywood, but both Sorabh and I wanted to purse stand-up, so we broke off," he explains. Since then, he has been flying solo and is enjoying the ride. He has done other ADs before, but his recent one with Ranbir Kapoor takes the cake.
Stand-up comedy is hard work. Don't come here thinking it's all cool and you'll get many fans — it doesn't work like that
Atul Khatri, stand-up comedian
With most stand-up comedians, we would presume that their family and friends might be embarrassed when people laugh at their expense, but Khatri says, "My wife is very clear about this — as long as I bring in the money, it's fine."
Who did that: Atul Khatri blames smartphones for short attention spans (including his), he also credits them for selling out show
Our favourite is his Justin Bieber Concert act, where he rants about how taking his two daughters and wife to the concert burnt a huge hole in his pocket. "But I actually went through that trauma of the concert," he quips, but pragmatically adds, "As they say, the comedy comes from truth." And from the newspapers too, apparently. "So much fodder! There is enough material for a show, thanks to our politicians and politicians like Trump," he adds.
But how long will the jokes last? Does he think there is a shelf life when it comes to stand-up comedians? "This is a difficult line and as long as you keep working on your craft, you will be fine. You are as good as your last show," he stresses.
While he blames smartphones for short attention spans (including his), he also credits them for selling out shows. And it is the applause he receives at the end of the show that keeps the fire in his belly alive. "At the same time, when the show bombs, that keeps me going too," says the Mumbai-based comedian. And as we notice the 250-seater space starting to fill up, he tells us, "Look, people have already started coming in for an 8:30 show, so I better entertain them and make it worth their time.”