Dubai-based standup comedian Nitin Mirani has a natural knack to gradually beckon the audience into his vibe and before they know it, the audience is left in splits. In conversation with Utsavi Jha, he revealed that he plays upon his strength to interact with them and shares his hilarious observations. We invited him to ease the tension at our 4th edition of Exhibit 100 Hottest Startups, and the comedian underpromised but over-delivered.
Exhibit: How did you stumble across stand-up comedy as a career choice? What has the journey been like?
Nitin Mirani: The journey has been that of a typical NRI living in Dubai, figuring out what I want to do with my life. That led me to work all kinds of jobs in numerous industries such as Real Estate, Music, Credit Cards, Events, Fashion choreography, TV Production, etc. But somehow through all of this, I always felt a magnetic pull towards the stage. I was a shy kid growing up but one stage play in school really gave me a sense of accomplishment. As an emcee, I did many shows and regularly had the client telling me to do something to fill up unexpected gaps in between the show-flow. That’s when I started doing comedy on stage and before I know it people would compliment me on the 2 minute filler I did and would recommend that I do more. But I took a leap of faith one day when I was sitting in my office and due to some company changes, the work load had gone down to almost zero and my boss asked me not to worry and “just take the monthly salary for doing nothing”. I went back to my cabin and typed my resignation and sent it to everyone and walked out. I remember driving back and suddenly thinking to myself, ‘What the hell have you done?’. But I also realised that comedy was not my career but my calling. 10 years later, here we are today. I always say, ‘I’m not selling jokes, I’m buying laughter.’
Exhibit: Can you describe your style of comedy?
My comedy is more of a dialogue than a monologue. I now talk about every experience I have and share a lot with my audiences. It’s amazing to see that the more personal my comedy gets the more generic it becomes.
Exhibit: Who are some of your favourite comedians/influences?
I have had many, but Jim Carrey & Chaplin are personalities that I worship not as comics but even as people who took risks even in all their glory.
Exhibit: What draws you to comedy?
Comedy has now become a voice that can cause change and heal. I’m so happy to see that an army of comedians all over the globe are finally understating the power of a tool called comedy and are addressing topics such as depression, anxiety, mental illness and helping people to cope and speak out.
Exhibit: What gets you going to write new jokes? Do you follow any process?
I’m still figuring my process as it’s really about being in the right or even the wrong frame of mind that sort of fuels thoughts and topics and experiences that turn into a comedy set. So far, I have found myself suddenly getting ideas between 1 am 2 a.m. so I always have a notepad on stand by.
Exhibit: One Nitin Mirani signature that never fails.
I have found that my audience interaction always does the trick as the audience loves a comedian who can come up with humour on the spot. It creates a moment that can never be recreated.
Exhibit: As a performer, I’m sure you feed off the audience’s energy. What do you do when you don’t get the desired response? How to do you take it?
It’s very important to understand your audience. I always consider myself a chef and if I find out that the audience is allergic to fish, I cannot serve them sushi and complain that they are being unreasonable. My set is always a sandwich of what I want to say and what the audience wants to hear. Having said that, I have done shows where I just wasn’t able to understand the vibe, that’s when I rely on my improvisation skills and that somehow always does the trick.
Exhibit: How was your experience performing at Exhibit 100 Hottest Startups 2018?
Honestly, I don’t think anyone needed cheering up and a few laughs more than the audience at the event. I do remember walking up on stage and suddenly sensing a lot of stress and anxiety around the room. But I pretty much started with improvisation and getting to know the members of the audience and was pleasantly surprised that by the end of it many of the audience members thanked me and said, ‘It was just what we needed before our pitch and that they were more relaxed and confident after.’
Exhibit: How big a user is Nitin Mirani of technology and social media?
I would credit a lot of my success to technology and social media. On a personal note, I’m a bit of an old soul and don’t get too excited about the new apps and gadgets but at the same time knowing about them is part of what I do.
Exhibit: Is internet helping stand-up comedians nowadays?
The Internet has not only helped comedians but audiences as well. The world is out stage thanks to the Internet. Our content and videos and thoughts are able to reach people from all walks of life and create a genuine connect.
Exhibit: Are political and social restrictions, especially in a country like India, making it hard to make jokes?
It is good to have certain restrictions in comedy as it stimulates your mind to come up with options/versions of the same joke and many a times, the 2nd version is much funnier. Having started my comedy journey in the Middle East, I actually have 2 versions of every joke. However, unnecessary restrictions and censorship in India are also on a all time high. The funny thing about offence is that no one is giving it but everyone is taking it. People need to understand the intent behind the thought. Understanding what the comedian is actually saying is what India needs and only then will they be able to ACT upon instead of RE-ACTING upon.
Exhibit: What should a comedian have in order to be a success?
A genuine urge to make people laugh is a must but I would also say. ‘Don’t be in a hurry as the prize is the process’. Also, stand up comedy is like a gym workout; the more you hit the gym, the fitter you will be. So hit as many open mics/stages as you can.
Exhibit: Is there something like a comedian’s block?
Absolutely, and it lasts for a long time. I have had one, which lasted almost 8-9 months, but nothing a small break cannot fix.
Exhibit: What’s next for Nitin Mirani in 2018?
I’m excited that the first run of my special called ‘NRI’ (Not Really Indian). It did well in Kolkata so I’m looking forward to a world tour with my special starting with India, Middle East & The US. Other than that, a Bollywood film is also on its way followed by world domination one laugh at a time.
- Must have gadget that’s not your phone or laptop: A Portable Battery pack is the need of the hour.
- Most unique gadget you have come across: I’m loving the new Google home speaker given to me by the cool people at Google India #makegoogledoit.
- 3 gadgets you always carry with you: My phones, My Mac and Enough wires to start an Internet café wherever I go.
- Most used apps: Facebook, Instagram, VivaVideo, Waze, and X.E.com
- One gadget on your tech bucket list: Being a major Iron Man fan, I want to get a prototype for the suit by 2020.
- Your favourite joke: Is something that keeps changing everyday.