Ashish Shakya: Avoided the stage for months
Comedian Ashish Shakya reflects on his stage fright and learnings from #MeToo as he brings his special, Life is Good.
When heading to a quaint cafe in Bandra to catch up with stand-up comedian and the erstwhile AIB co-creator Ashish Shakya, we assumed our chat would be filled with more than a fair share of laughs. As we got talking about his latest Amazon Prime Video special, Life is Good, it was evident that Shakya — like his comedy — had matured with time. The comedian not only addressed his fear of getting back on stage, but also admitted to "learning" from the #MeToo India movement.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
Russell Peters revealed that he doesn't rely on full-fledged scripts for his acts. What about you?
I believe in prepping and tend to over-prepare. I started off as a writer, developing mostly comic scripts. So, I write down everything, memorise it and I keep saying [my set] out loud. The only other way is to test your material at open mics.
What is the driving factor behind Life Is Good?
It is the result of my last two-and-a-half years of writing. [In this special] I have mulled over how life is great at times, and mostly shitty otherwise. Happiness is transient, and comes and goes in small bursts. Nobody lives in a constant state of ecstasy unless they are doing ecstasy. Even Shah Rukh Khan or Bill Gates have bad days, and I am sure they cry over it. The difference is they do it in their 15 lakh square-foot mansion.
Almost a decade into stand-up comedy, how do you think you have evolved as an artiste?
When I started off, we had no idea how to do it. So, our initial jokes were written, rehearsed and then translated on stage. Having seen a fair amount of highs and lows, I am more resilient now.
What is your view on the competition in the field?
I had been away from stand-up comedy for two-three years. When I returned, I saw that new comedians who have entered the field have set the bar high. I realised that everyone is way better than what I remembered; that was intimidating. I was so nervous that it took me a while to even go on stage. I avoided it for months. Finally, for a month before I resumed, I started going to open mics as an audience to get myself familiar with the world.
Some members of AIB were accused in the #MeToo India in 2018. What has happened to the collective since then?
There is work happening under the brand name [of AIB], but our YouTube channel is no longer functioning.
How much of your credibility has been affected?
So much time has passed [since then] and the truth has been put out there. Our statement is out there. Of course, [when it happened] it was hard, and we felt a massive sense of loss. We all met up, fought and thought we would let it go, but we have all learned [from the episode]. Right now, we are not in a position to complain as individuals or as AIB because everyone is doing well and working on creating new content. At our core, that is what we are — writers, performers, entertainers and creators. As long as we get to do that, we are good.
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