Tanmay Bhat is the comedian equivalent of the kid you knew growing up who could build an entire suit of armor out of plastic milk cartons. His enterprising spirit has served him well – while the Indian comedy scene is expanding, and comics are enjoying more and more venues in which to practice their craft with every passing year, sometimes they still have to make their own opportunities. And sometimes, there are growing pains.
Tanmay learned this lesson the hard way when he and fellow comedian Gursimran Khamba founded the country’s first (and only) comedy podcast, All India Bakchod (Bakchod translates as “senseless fucker”). Quickly hitting #1 on iTunes India, it was even more quickly removed for obscenity.
“Sometimes comics are saying stuff onstage just because they want to and because they can. They can’t say it anywhere else.” – Tanmay Bhat
Tanmay has done more with limited resources and abundant censorship obstacles in the four years since he first started performing at comedy clubs than many American comedians accomplish in a decade. Shortly after 2009, he joined the powerhouse comedy writing team Weirdass Comedy and was the opening act for renowned Indian comedian VirDas’ sell-out show, Walking On Broken Das. He was one of the first four comedians to be featured at the Comedy Store Mumbai’s first all-Indian comedian line up, titled “Local Heroes,” and soon thereafter he performed alongside comics from the UK in a “Best In Stand Up” event. He is now a Comedy Store regular, and was recently named a “Top 10 Comic” by the Times of India. His intense, rapid-fire delivery would be impressive even for a native English speaker, and his energy never seems to flag.
Tanmay is currently developing an Indian counterpart to Comedy Central’s celebrity roasts. Bakchodi beware.
Q&A with Tanmay
What was your worst-ever heckle?
When I was doing a short set with some comics from Canada and two comics from Australia, a member in the audience just kept laughing at all the odd moments. And it became increasingly annoying when the laughter would unnecessarily pierce through some joke set-up silence I was working hard to build. I looked at the man and said “Sir, we’ve got two Australians in the room itching to beat an Indian up, I know who I’m going to nominate” (at that time, Indian students were getting beaten up in Australia and it was huge on the news).
What was your favorite moment or experience shooting “Stand Up Planet”?
Easily the best part was just hanging out with Hasan and just talking to him about his life as a comic. It’s such a young scene in India, any first-hand knowledge of what life’s like in the USA is fascinating.
How did your friends and family react when you told them you wanted to be a stand-up comic?
My father tells people I’m a pilot. My mother still doesn’t know.
Best part about being a comedian? Worst part?
Best part? I feel like I’m unemployed and somehow the bills get paid. Worst part? Worst? Trying to explain to people what it is that I really do. But really, it’s a really tiny inconvenience to face while enjoying a largely satisfying career choice.