Comic potential

06 Feb 2020 / 10:21 H.

YOU may have seen his viral dashcam video recently. The setting was late at night at a McDonald’s Drive-Thru. Gajen Nad was asked to park his car at the side while waiting for his order. While his dinner was being prepared, he saw two youngsters hanging out in front of a fire hydrant.

The camera recorded the young girl finishing her drink and casually throwing the empty cup on the ground. When his food arrived, Gajen left his car, walked over to the couple, picked up the discarded litter and told them: “Next time, please throw your garbage into the bin.”

His action and calm demeanour garnered positive reactions all over the internet. So we asked him: “Why did you do it?”

He explained: “I want to spread the message. One thing about Malaysians is we always complain, but never take action. And my message is: you can make a difference.

“Since the video went viral, a lot of people are saying things like: ‘I wish I had that courage.’ And it sparked some discussion. My followers asked smart questions like: ‘What do you think is the root cause of behaviour like this (littering)?’”

To him, the solution is education through practical training, like a classroom trip to clean up a park, and to instil the habit of keeping our country clean.

Gajen may be a superhero by night, but by day, he is a stand-up comedian and one of only a few full-time stand-up comics in Malaysia. The secret, he says, is not only to have good jokes, but to be financially literate as well.

Gajen explained: “Becoming a full-time stand-up comedian is scary to a lot of people. They wonder how to get a loan without a 9-to-5 job, and if they can survive at all.

“They don’t know their risk management and don’t have an investment portfolio and [financial knowledge].”

So that’s the money side, but what makes a good joke? His philosophy is that the quality of a joke is based on the writing.

This is especially challenging for Gajen since his work is clean (containing no vulgarity), and free of comments on sex, politics, and religion.

He said: “In comedy, the further you get away from the line (clean comedy), the higher the chance of it being funny. I make clean jokes as a challenge. There are only a handful of comedians in the US that work clean.

“Comedians like Jim Gaffigan changed my perspective of comedy, and is one of the reasons I work with clean jokes.

“A lot of people think that stand-up comedians are supposed to be loud or obnoxious, but in reality, the comedy comes from our perspective of things.

“During my first two years of doing stand-up, from 2012 to 2014, I had a weird way of making jokes. I came up with the punchline first, and worked backwards. Nowadays, I use more observation. I take notes on my phone and work on potential jokes.”

These budding jokes are then tested and cultivated at open mic events. Tickets for these events tend to be cheaper, but that is where stand-up comedians try out their material.

“Even the most experienced comedians have to test their jokes at a cheaper show like an open mic [night], or what is called a ‘trial show’. These are the places where they test out their jokes that are still ‘under construction’,” explained Gajen.

In short, the process goes like this: you write a joke, you test it out at an open mic, then you do a review.

“Repeat the process over and over again until it is polished, and you are confident of bringing it to a weekend show or a headliner show,” Gajen said. “If it’s clean, you can even take it up to corporate [events] or bigger shows.”

For him, doing comedy is a satisfying challenge. The path he took to become a stand-up comedian was not easy, and he likes it that way.

He said: “I don’t like to limit myself. As a challenge to myself, I sometimes put up a post on Instagram where anyone can give me a subject, and I will try to write a joke about it. This will push my comedy prowess.

“It works because comedy doesn’t come from the topic, but from the perspective. A good comedian can make any topic funny.”

The personality and presentation of the stand-up comedian plays a part too. Gajen used to tell his jokes in a deadpan style, with no expression. It created a contrast that enhanced a joke and made it more effective.

“In the US and UK, it is a common way of delivering jokes. But, recently I try to be more energetic because the energy on stage is proportional to the energy from the audience,” he explained.

If you’d like to follow Gajen Nad for yourself, look for him on Facebook and Instagram @gajen.nad.

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