Making sense of the times: Varun Grover on his multi-city stand-up tour : The Tribune India

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Making sense of the times: Varun Grover on his multi-city stand-up tour

The stand-up comedian-lyricist-writer gets set for his multi-city tour that includes Chandigarh

Making sense of the times: Varun Grover on his multi-city stand-up tour

LIKE all the 1990s’ kids, Varun Grover had very little to choose from. And today’s ‘smart’ world with its staggering options seems to him a wee bit perplexing.



Sarika Sharma

LIKE all the 1990s’ kids, Varun Grover had very little to choose from. And today’s ‘smart’ world with its staggering options seems to him a wee bit perplexing. Add to that the political atmosphere where making a joke can land one in trouble. Grover’s own way of dealing with it is ‘Nothing Makes Sense’, his first-ever solo stand-up comedy tour, which visits various cities of the country in September.

“Right from the way social media works to various websites constantly asking us to prove whether we are humans or robots, these are very confusing times,” says Grover. Engulfed in déjà vu of his growing-up years, he says those were simple times, with simple choices. “Now everything — from ordering coffee to browsing the Internet to the party to vote for, there are so many options and so many questions.” This dilemma forms the crux of his show.

However, with colleagues being harassed and people ready to take offence, does the political climate offer space conducive for humour? “Politics in the country is very aggressive right now and a joke could be termed an act against the government. So, how does a comedian survive?” asks Grover, who has been vocal about his displeasures with these changing times.

He says comic writers, including him, are more careful about not offending certain sections. What works for him is the tone of his jokes. “I have been vocal but I have also been polite. I am an ‘equal opportunity humourist’. I don’t want to be seen inclined to one particular ideology or politics. I am for individual, liberal politics — the politics of progress, peace and secularism. I do not indulge in individual insults or strong language.”

At the end of the day, he feels that rather than sending home his audience angry or insulted or armed with tools to insult someone, people must leave happy. What also works for him is that he makes his stories personal. Even if the joke is political, he would want to tell it through his own experiences, rooted in his family and friend circle.

If social media has made comedians easy prey, in a burgeoning market for humour, Grover says it is the biggest facilitator too. “It has put the entire world on the same page when it comes to information. Now if I make a joke about the ‘I Love Malad’ signs in my locality in Mumbai, people in Chandigarh will get it,” says Grover.

Also an award-winning song and film writer, he finds comedy the most empowering of the parts he plays. “What I am thinking, writing and performing in front of people get instant feedback. That is a very different kind of thrill and different sense of achievement. I get to talk about the world around me and there is no restriction of story or characters. There is no transmission lost!”

A Punjabi, he was born in Himachal Pradesh’s Sundernagar and mostly grew up in Uttar Pradesh, but expect a lot of Punjabi content in the show. He is glad that it comes in the backdrop of an amazing OTT series like ‘Kohrra’, featuring Punjab. “I talk about the inherent contradiction in Punjabis. We have faced so much trauma but we are bad at processing it and either bury it or push it aside — drowning it in loud music or deep-fried food. Punjabis try to showcase themselves as outwardly but are emotional inside. I try to dig into that trope and try to decode why it is so. In Chandigarh, I can actually speak a bit of Punjabi and people will understand!” says he, who last performed here in the pre-Covid times with his comedy group, Aisi Taisi Democracy.


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