AFTER HOURS

It all began at home, when a four-year-old Rahul tried to be like mimicked his dad who was supremely funny. The senior Subramaniam laughed, joked and ensured his two sons experienced the fun of laughter. Rahul Subramaniam tells me he was fascinated by his father and his funny bone. Call it genetic engineering of a higher order or the calling of life later, Rahul laughed, made others laugh, grew up to be the official funny man of Mahindra, joked on the stage, stammered for 240 perilous seconds on his debut, and tragically, the audience did not get the joke.

Rahul never gave up. He persisted. At his third gig in Bandra's Hive, Nike - the winged Goddess of victory - smiled finally alongside the audience. A grand ovation preceded a second prize.

Comics are a rare breed and history offers glorious examples. Rahul sums up his journey to Dubai and All India YouTube Comedy Hunt (a competition for funny video sketches) beautifully. "After sometime, comedy becomes a habit. The key is being yourself."

As he begins his entrepreneurial walk, After Hours joined him for a hearty laugh and some banter. Like all of us, Rahul likes Monsieur Clouseau of Pink Panther, but he would give an arm for Saturday Night Live and Key and Peele.

I tried figuring out the reason behind his love for comedy. "It's the most natural thing that came to me and I always wanted to be a comic. During conversations my mind works towards finding something witty. But, I have to hold back when it comes to corporate life…" With age, Rahul let go off self-consciousness and gradually began regaling friends, family and classmates. In his view, comedy gets tougher with age because other things become more important. As a child, he tells me, there was no self-judgment and others' views hardly mattered. It is essential to break-free from the judgmental trap and enjoy yourself.

That is a primer of passionate and dedicated people who love what they do every day, I tell myself, silently. He had his share of existential theories two years ago. "Kya karu, kya kar raha hoon… How long will this continue. There has to be some spark in life… something more that I enjoyed doing earlier, like the pranks I played. Comedy was the leading link to the uncomfortable puzzle in my mind," Rahul sums up.and be themselves. That is the pinnacle of achievement," he observes philosophically but truly.

The environment is quite hostile at Open Mics since there is hardly any audience. The few who prefer to drop by bear a boring environment and do not have fun. People prefer places where they are guaranteed of prepared jokes and a bang for their bucks.

No wonder, budding theatre artists and aspiring sportsmen practice at near-empty theatres and stadiums, I reminisce.

Where did hope germinate, I promptly quiz Rahul. It was a process of evolvement, he goes on candidly. Initially, there are people who don't laugh at your jokes. Self-doubt sets in, you get de-motivated and depressed for weeks because people's reaction made me question my ability as a comic."

Over time, experiences become one's best teacher. It is essential to motivate yourself and give it another shot. Rahul did that, unlike others who quit after failing initially. With some courage and after gulping fresh air, he tried his luck at Hive and Bandra Base, in Bandra. A second appearance at Hive turned out to be 'The Rahul Subramaniam moment'; he won the 2nd prize and that made a world of difference to his confidence. "The fact that I came back to Hive proved you see progress when confidence grows. And for that progress give yourself four chances."

That is Rahul's mantra to never back down, unless something substantial is achieved passionately and diligently quite similar to what Robert Bruce did centuries back after being vanquished at war.

Most of his jokes, for that matter, are prepared. On the spot wit and subsequent acts make up 15-20% of Rahul's overall repertoire.

By now I was eager to uncover more of his funny experiences and how did the next big thing happened. Rahul's real fantastic experience occurred across the Arabian Sea, at a comic festival in Dubai, where he was invited to perform by a famous local comic who had spotted him performing at Andrews, Bandra. It was also the first time he stepped out to perform abroad after having some sort of a fan-following within India.

Congratulations! That is some achievement while performing in a foreign territory; I convey my wishes to Rahul, amazed at the steady flight that dreams and doggedness take at time. At Dubai, a unique feeling, the fact that Rahul was an unknown powerhouse and an overpowering excitement were the key condiments for his successful performance.

By now, I had decided I won't let go off the unusual comic without getting to know of his inspirations. Primarily, because everyone loves comedy and comics. When you speak I have Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Carrey flash past my mind. So who inspired you over the years, I ask. "Not any. I watched lots of standup comedy videos after I started pursuing standup comedy. I didn't have any heroes initially. Seinfeld is someone I really look up to because of the stuff that he can do. Like his unique mind-blowing observations. There is another comic, an American called Bill Burr. Again I think that guy has mastered the art of being completely himself on stage. Steve Martin is another actor I really enjoy."