mid-day Lunchbox: Talking to their heart's content
Comedian Sapan Verma and YouTube star Prajakta Koli dissect what it's like to be two of India's biggest content creators
They have met only a couple of times before. But when comedian Sapan Verma and YouTube star Prajakta Koli greet each other for this edition of Lunchbox, you'd be fooled into thinking that they are lifelong friends. The duo shares a genuine sense of warmth. There is instant camaraderie. And they immediately kick up a conversation as easily as a footballer scores a goal when there is an open net.
Verma, 30, is one of the biggest names in the thriving Indian stand-up circuit. He's also the co-founder of East India Comedy, one of the industry's first collectives of funnymen. He's working on a show for an online streaming platform right now, for which, as you'll find out later, he manages to get a new recruit while having lunch. Koli, meanwhile, is one of the country's biggest YouTube celebrities, with over four million subscribers to her channel, Mostly Sane.
Watch video: Prajakta Kohli and Sapan Verma’s hilarious trip down the memory lane
The 26-year-old, who says she's in her "post-early 20s", picked up the tricks of her trade in her first job as a radio jockey intern. Verma, too, benefited from dabbling in a variety of professions — including that of an advertising copywriter and working in events management — before deciding on comedy as his calling. They discuss all that and also Verma's misadventures in the kitchen, while digging into scrumptious dishes at Sancho's, Bandra's Mexican eatery. Edited excerpts.
Sapan (to Prajakta): Did you enjoy your job in radio?
Prajakta: Well, I was an intern for a year, meaning I was at the bottom of the food chain. But I learnt a lot, which I realise now. First of all, I learnt editing, and if as a content creator you can edit your own stuff, you're sorted. I also learnt a lot about the audience's attention span. That is one thing that radio really taught me. I understood that I need to crunch my content and get to the point in time. Plus, I did a lot of voice modulation, kyunki muft ki intern baithi hai, toh saare voiceovers usi se karao!
Sapan: I was also discussing with somebody that I've learnt something from every internship I've done. For example, thanks to copywriting, since you have to write in a really concise manner, I learnt how to deliver my stand-up punch lines in the same way. So, everything teaches you something that has helped you get where you are.
Prajakta: For me, I grew up always knowing what I wanted. I mapped it to every point. Maine kahaan, 'Haan arts, phir internship, phir radio jockey.' And everything happened and I became a radio jockey, and said, 'I s*ck at this job. I can't do it.' That's when I started YouTubing. So, for someone like me, I knew exactly what I wanted till the age of 21 and then went completely blind.
Sapan: Well, I can understand from what you're saying that being a radio jockey must have been a horrible thing. But it landed you in such a great place, right?
Prajakta: It did, and the new thing that I learnt is that I should be okay with not knowing what the future is looking like.
Sapan: Yes, 100 per cent.
Shunashir: That's true. But tell me, do you guys enjoy cooking?
Sapan: Dude, I'm not kidding, I learnt how to make chai last month.
Prajakta: And how long have you been married? Two years?
Sapan: The thing is, my wife was unwell one day and she said, 'Make chai.' So I said, 'Okay, you direct me,' and from the bedroom she was like, 'Add this, add that.' And then I felt so bad that I have now decided that I'll learn cooking. I can make Maggi though, and boil eggs!
Prajakta: I am a big fan of the Bengali way of making chai, by the way. Sudeep [her manager] got me hooked on to it.
Sapan: My wife's Bengali, just saying.
Shunashir (to the primarily vegetarian Sapan): Oh, your life is sorted then. I can see you eating fish and mutton really soon.
Sapan: No, that's the problem, she's a hardcore vegetarian. She's one of those people who started with eating non-veg, but then went to a butcher's shop at a young age and saw everything, and was like, 'I can't do it.'
Shunashir: She's a one-of-a-kind Bengali then.
Sapan: Yes, she's one of a kind.
The food — lobster cups, esquites and Ensenada fish tacos, with churros for dessert later — arrives.
Prajakta: You know, I have never really done stand-up comedy and I really want to try.
Sapan: Trust me, I know that you will do it soon. I just know.
Prajakta: I've tried it once, and failed really bad. It was at Comic Con [in Mumbai] and my set was after Sahil Shah's. Now, I was really happy with what I'd written. But when I went up on stage, I just felt that the audience was like, 'You're going to disappoint us.' And two minutes in to it, I said, 'Guys, let's all agree that this is bombing. So let's do a Q&A instead!' It was only after that that we had a fun time.
Sapan: But see, you had the confidence to decide on the spot, which normally comes with a lot of time. I'm telling you, you'll do stand-up one day soon. The reason is that I am working on a show with Amazon, which is coming out in October, where we invite people from different fields to do stand-up. And yours is one name we have already discussed.
Shunashir: So, this is basically a job interview, then.
Sapan: Yes, basically.
Prajakta: Is it? Am I doing okay?
Sapan: Of course.
Shunashir: Well, both of you have mid-day to thank for this.
Sapan and Prajakta (in unison): Thank you, mid-day!
A global YouTuber/comedian you admire.
Sapan: Ricky Gervais for breaking out of just stand-up comedy to creating some of the best TV shows.
Prajakta: She's not a YouTuber, but I watch Ellen DeGeneres's channel the most.
One food item you could eat every day.
Sapan: Masala dosa. If I'm bored, I can drop the masala and just have plain dosa. [He is also a fan of a tiny place called Narayan Dosa in Charni Road].
Prajakta: Daal khichdi and fried chicken made by my mamma. It's soul food!
The millennial abbreviation you use the most.
Sapan: STFU. This is an answer, and not an instruction.
Prajakta: Perf, all the time.
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