Guest AuthorPapa CJ

16 gags from 16 years in stand-up comedy

By | Papa CJ | Comedian • Executive Coach • Author • Oxford MBA • HBR Writer • • WIT of the Week newsletter on LinkedIn, & • I uplift others & help them be the best version of themselves

To bring a smile on your face at the start of the new year, I’m sharing 16 of my gags from 16 years in stand-up comedy with you. In my 2000 plus shows in over 25 countries, I’ve had the privilege of performing on Broadway and at a full house at the Sydney Opera House. My audiences have ranged from large stadiums with thousands of people in them to a hospital room with one person who was unable to find a reason to laugh anymore. I hope that reading this piece gives you a reason to laugh. I wish your families and you good health and joy in the new year.

(Note: These gags, listed by the years in which I cracked them, also trace what was happening in the world and my life at the time. From 2005-2007 I did 700 gigs in the UK, in 2008 I was on the US TV show Last Comic Standing and from 2009 onwards I started performing more actively in India and touring internationally.)

2004I come from the land of the Kama Sutra. I can f*** you in more ways than you can count. (Performed to a British audience. I always tried to stand-up for India in my international shows.)

2005: In England you drive on the left of the road. In Calcutta, we drive on what is left of the road.

2006: An Englishman said to me, “Oh you’re from India? I know what Indians are like. I’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire.” I replied, “Oh you’re from England. I know what the English are like. I’ve seen Mr Bean.” 

2007: In the West you show sex in your movies. In India we show men and women running around flowers and trees. Yet we’ve hit a population of 1.3 billion, apparently through crosspollination. 

2008: I did a show for an investment bank in London. They were doing a charity fundraiser to raise money for villages in India. I thought that was quite silly because a week before that I was in a village in India, and they were doing a charity event to raise money for investment banks in London. (gag during global financial crisis)

2009: I was on a TV show in the US called Last Comic Standing. I remember how excited all the American comedians were about the fact that 10 million people watched the programme. Until I told one of them, “Dude. I come from India. If I open my bathroom window 10 million people show up live.”

2010: As someone who lives in Delhi I don’t understand the language in Mumbai. We call it bread, they call it pav. We call it pyaaz, they call it kanda. We call it a servant quarter they call it a 2BHK (two bedroom apartment).

2011: Tiger Woods has just become the brand ambassador of India’s ‘Save the tiger’ campaign. All they are doing is putting a photograph of his in every single jungle with a message for the tiger – If you can screw as much as this tiger your survival is guaranteed. 

2012: They have a hospital in Chennai called Agarwal Hospital. Because it was built by an eye doctor, they made the entrance to the hospital in the shape of a massive eye. Thank God he wasn’t a gynaecologist. 

2013: A beautiful woman walked up to me after a show and said, “Papa CJ, people tell me I’m quite witty. I must try my wit out on you sometime.” I replied, “Well, people tell me I’m quite cocky.”

2014: I have recently become a member of the divorce club. There are two kinds of membership – the one time payment and the monthly subscription. And there is still a stigma against divorcees in our country. People don’t realise that it can happen to anyone. Over time small things can change. Like what you call your spouse. First it is their name, then a nickname, then baby, then my jaan, then the defendant. 

2015: I was flying from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and at the airport I lost my boarding pass. When I went back to the check in counter and requested for a duplicate, the lady at the desk started admonishing me for losing it. I said, “Excuse me. You work for Malaysian Airlines. You lost an entire plane.”

2016: If there is a pig on the street, in Singapore that becomes headline news. In Germany it becomes a sausage. In America it becomes the president of the United States of America. (Trump reference)

2017: I grew up in a middle class family. Ours was a house where tomato ketchup never finished. It just became magically thinner over time. (From my show, and eventually book of the same name, ‘Naked’)

2018: This is a hashtag generation. In our time, there were no tags. Just hash.

2019: I did a show that was hosted by a Pakistani stand-up comedian. He warmed up the audience and invited me on to stage. In that second I realised I had been a part of history. It was the first time I had seen a Pakistani, invite an Indian, to occupy a piece of land that he was occupying before. 

2020: When I started doing stand-up comedy, I was debating between doing a bartending course and getting into stand-up comedy. But the bartending course that I looked at only taught us how to mix the drinks. They didn’t teach us how to juggle the glasses. I thought to myself, if I can’t juggle the glasses, I’m never going to get laid. That’s why I got into stand-up comedy. And that was 16 years ago. And in the last 16 years I can’t tell you how many times…how many times I wish I had taken that bartending course.

I know there are 17 gags above but hey, gotta surpass expectations right? 😉

A family-friendly version of above piece was published by Hindustan Times Brunch on 27th December 2020. You can read that here.

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