No introductions needed. Ruling the comedy scene through stand-up and sketches on his YouTube channel, Sanjay Manaktala has gone from being the amusing NRI with the accent to a serious name in comedy.
I was sitting in a hotel, bored after 8pm. I saw these pubs and clubs having comedy shows and thought that I was always able crack people up, so why not give it a try.”
Who would have thought that a career started out of boredom would get this far. As Sanjay elaborates, “I was working in an IT company and had to travel a lot. I was sitting in a hotel, bored after 8pm. I saw these pubs and clubs having comedy shows and thought that I was always able crack people up, so why not give it a try.” He might be a big name today, but when he started out, it was a different story. “I was very embarrassed to perform anywhere near where my friends could be. I feared they would rag and laugh at me. So, I drove about 200 km from my hometown to perform.” Practice makes perfect, and years of performing and learning has made Sanjay a household name when it comes to stand-up comedy today.
When your career path is an unpredictable one, you’ve got to work twice as hard. As Sanjay puts it, “You may have thousands of subscribers and likes on YouTube and Facebook, but that doesn’t guarantee money. You have to stay relevant and hungry. People won’t care if I stop making videos. They will just move to the next comic!” Apart from professional difficulties, being a stand-up comedian has required Sanjay to make sacrifices on a personal level too. Sanjay hid his comic career from his family for 4 years. He jokes about it today, saying, “Most others were hiding their girlfriends or eating non-veg, I was hiding comedy!” Being torn between your passion and a relationship is not a desirable place to be in. But, as is the case most often, the best things in life come from the toughest choices. Speaking of his experience, Sanjay says, “I was dating someone for two years and my comedy career picked up and I knew I had to choose one. It’s hard to manage both with equal dedication”.
Sanjay looks up to comedians like Louis CK and Bill Burr, as sources of inspiration. And when it comes to material for his sketches, life experiences provide the best fodder. “You have to write stuff that you care about. I usually get up in the morning and go like, ‘oh shit, Donald Trump is President. Let me write jokes about it!’ or Modi banning the notes. Or whatever I observe in day to day life.”
You may have thousands of subscribers and likes on YouTube and Facebook, but that doesn’t guarantee money. You have to stay relevant and hungry. People won’t care if I stop making videos. They will just move to the next comic!”
The real talent of a comedian is in modifying his act to suit the audience. Having performed for international audiences in U.S., Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong, Sanjay knows a thing or two about that. He says, “The jokes have to be varied but a good comedian will know how to frame the joke in a way that they are just as funny in another country as well.”
A comedy titled ‘My Beta Does Computer Things’ is a book that Sanjay is currently working on. Describing the theme of his book, he says, “It’s a mix of self-help meets autobiography meets comedy.”
You have to write stuff that you care about.
Sanjay prepares those wanting to get into comedy for the hardships involved, “It’s a very hard profession. Nothing in this life is a free lunch. Anything that seems easy is probably not so easy.”
Hard work and sacrifice form the foundation that Sanjay Manaktala has built his career on. The choices were difficult, but the outcome has been worth it. Be inspired to take a shot at your dream, you never know what you’re capable of unless you do it first.