Our ambitions hop from one to the other when young and it was no different for Alexander Babu, who first wanted to become a tabla player, then a singer, until he discovered his funny genes, which he says comes from his mother. Born in Andavoorani, Ramnad, Alexander gave up his highly paid job in America and decided to get back to India to go after his true calling – becoming a stand-up comedian! By SOPHIA CHRISTIE PRABAKAR
When did you realize gland-up comedy is what you wanted to do?
I happened to catch a stand-up comedy show in IIT madras, by the current sensation SA Aravind, rendering a unique, effortless and original performance. I was highly impressed and that was when I realized what I wanted to be! Being from the vernacular medium, I wanted to work on my English to make myself confident enough to deliver my jokes in the language. I thus, got trained for it and learnt the nitty-gritty’s of the field as well.
Which was your first show’ How was the experience?
My first show was a ten minute spot. I got an opportunity to perform in a pub for which I auditioned in front of SA himself and KK, two of the best stand-up comedians! The performance was a hit, which also boosted my confidence. And eventually I learnt how to properly channel my talent.
How do people respond to topics based on ethnicity or religion? Have anyone been offended and reacted?
Majority take it with a pinch of salt because they know it’s meant to be a joke. However, there have been incidents where a few have heckled, which also happens when I lose connect with the audience. Problems also arise when there is a disconnect due to language barrier at times. However, it is necessary to have presence of mind, and try and balance the act.
Have you faced any threats?
There was quite a commotion when I released two online videos, one a satire on Ganesha and one on Christianity. There were threats and ultimatums, but I understood that trolling always happens, and I respond to them politely. For me, it is more about breaking barriers and bringing communities together, which I also look at as an artist’s responsibility.
Have you regretted any rendition?
I have never regretted for the material I have chosen to speak on, but yes, there have been times when I wasn’t happy about the way I presented. However, I have always been open to rectifying my mistakes.
What kind of preparation goes into the show?
Material wise, it’s very open – what comes from within, based on the kind of audience, their background, the number, their mood, length of the programme, etc. I think about how to start the show, what to say and focus. I also ensure I keep my personal emotions aside while performing.
What would you call yourself – almost successful, successful or very successful?
It’s a very dangerous question (laughs). As a middle class person, I would say I’m successful, but there’s nothing called a finish line, there’s still a long way to go.
Incidents that have made you – cry a lot, laugh a lot and feel insecure.
Actually, I cry a lot. I am easily moved by things. I laugh out loud almost every day, watching all the cute and funny things my kids do. I feel insecure when I think of the things I started out to accomplish, but haven’t done yet. However, I look at failures as a part of growth.
Who is your favourite comedian?
SA! The kind of rigour he puts into making a material so polished, so original, the kind of energy he brings in every minute on stage, is very inspiring!
Ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
More than setting milestones, the goal is to be happy always, which in turn makes one a better instrument. Money and everything else is a by-product.