Q&A with Vikram Sathaye, stand-up comic and author
Stand-up comic Vikram Sathaye toured, dined and lived with the Indian cricket team without playing the game for almost 10 years. His observations about the Indian cricket players is out in a book named, How Sachin Destroyed My Life. In a candid chat, Sathaye speaks about his inspiration behind the book
Q. How was the experience of writing the book. Was it different then performing on a stage?
A. Writing was a little difficult for me because as a stand-up comic you just keep on talking. But in writing you need to be disciplined because written words are different than spoken words. When I started, I thought of writing it in the typical English reading space. But then somebody gave me a good advice. He said, ‘Your strength is to say things spontaneously, try and get that flavour while writing humorously.’ With that perspective, it (writing) became relatively easier. Discipline is way too high in writing. I was thinking about this book for the last two years, but the last six months were the active writing part.
Q. You take clues from sports, politics, Bollywood, current affairs, etc. Which field do you feel has the most capacity for comedy?
A. India is about cricket and Bollywood, so even if I want to take examples of other fields the reader or the audience relates primarily to these two. But nowadays politics has become the first choice as our Twitter and Facebook pages are flooding with jokes related to politicians. It is a good thing that people are now more attuned to politics. But, it can never be in competition with cricket and Bollywood.
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Q. Tell us about your journey in becoming a stand-up comic and writing this book. Did you face a lot of struggle in your career?
A. Fortunately life has been good to me. I had no struggle in the journey. I did a typical middle class engineering and MBA. I was in a marketing team of some top shows. In 2003, Mandira Bedi and I were sent to add spice to the cricket World Cup. When we came back, both of us realised our careers in cricket. I quit my job in 2004. Now, I have done 1,200 shows as an English stand-up comic. I used to perform in corporate and cricket (events) as no other platforms were available then. That is how the journey happened. Because of my cricket jokes I started touring with the Indian teams, and this book captures the mood of players off-stage. Time spent with Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar; what happens on tour, the people outside the world of cricket who are important for cricket — I tried to capture these things, but the tone is humorous.
Q. You picked up the style of cricketers, their batting, bowling and fielding and mimicked them, which got huge appreciation from cricket lovers as well as players. Is this the secret behind the success of the book?
A. Mimicking is ‘tadka’. It will give that spark, but in stand-up comedy, you should also have jokes and observations. If you don’t have jokes around Sachin, and if you just go on imitating him, trust me (you) will not last more than six months. Reading and observations are key factors in the field. Mimicking takes you only a certain distance, material takes you further.
Q. You had breakfast with Sachin Tendulkar after your first performance. How will you describe it?
A. When I first met Sachin Tendulkar I found him as a normal guy, but with great success. I always say that time spent with Sachin can be only compared to Satsang. I am lucky to be one of the few people who are close to him.
Q. Nowadays women are also becoming famous in stand-up comedy. What is the scope for them?
A. I think women can do better comedy because they always have more things to share. Women can offer more insightful comedy if they decide to. In our society, women never got the opportunity to come forward and crack jokes, but we can see it changing, generation after generation. Now women are also taking part in stand-up comedy shows which is a good thing. Women have tremendous observation power and they read a lot. Besides, audiences are also accepting women comedians. I think, this change in society has helped us find women with a good sense of humour.
Q. Who are your favourite writers, comedians and players?
A. In India, I like Raju Shrivastav as a comedian and globally I like Jerry Seinfeld. I like to read non-fiction. So, Ramchandra Guha, Malcolm Gladwell are two of my favourite authors. And among the players, I like Virender Sehwag as he has his own theories of success.