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Comedians Who TEDTalk: 11 Ideas To Inspire a Life of Creative Fulfillment

By Maanya Sachdeva 4 November 2020

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Things will be different in a post-COVID world. At the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, everything the world has known about job satisfaction, personal ambition or relationships has changed dramatically. Which leaves room for rebuilding and re-imagining (among other things) the work you do or your relationship with your higher purpose. To that end, discovering ideas that inspire you is probably a good place to start.

We scoured the internet for comedians who TEDx and noticed that many of them share an underlying theme: finding what you love even in the face of resistance or uncertainty. Here are 11 bite-sized ideas from some of India’s most famous comedians to inspire a life of creative fulfillment and job satisfaction—even when nothing seems like it was before.

Abish Mathew — One for the Kitchen One for the Soul (2015)

  • Abish Mathew’s dream is extremely specific; to host The Tonight Show. This is because he believes that success lies in being specific about your dreams and, when you do that, you’re compelled to make your own path.
  • “If you keep doing one thing for long enough, you become good at it. Or people drop their standards and then you become good at it,” Mathew confirms. Then, he ventures, you need to ask yourself where the money comes from, but don’t think too hard. “Money will always follow if you’re good at something that nobody else does,” he says. “There is no market for that skill but because you’re good at it, you will create a market for that skill.” Sometimes, just knowing that makes all the difference.

Aditi Mittal — The Serious Business of Comedy (2015)

  • Comparing childbirth and storytelling, Mittal likens the act of bringing another human being into the world with introducing a new idea. Both, she says, stem from the need to propagate yourself. “What I do through comedy is just that, it’s a self-preservation instinct… It’s important to me to preserve or perpetuate what I think or what I stand for.”

Amit Tandon — Peer Pressure: The Slowest Suicide (2015)

  • Amit Tandon discusses the ways in which peer pressure impacts most of the big and small decisions people take throughout their lives. He says, “95% of the things we do today are purely because of peer pressure. And this starts killing us very early.” Once you can recognise the pervasiveness of peer pressure, you can choose differently; Tandon urges the audience to “never take decisions in your life based on peer pressure.”
  • No matter what job you’re doing or which industry you’re working in, you can stand out by doing 10% more than the job description demands. “Half the promotions will come because of that 10% and not the 100% of the work that you do, because that 10% makes you stand out,” he suggests.

Anshu Mor — Making of a Comedian (2017)

  • Recounting one of his first experiences of performing at Canvas Laugh Club, Mor remembers being intimidated by a younger audience that had clearly come out to watch Daniel Fernandes perform. In a moment of nervousness, he decided to change his delivery style so it might appeal to the Daniel Fernandes fans in attendance that night. Needless to say, he bombed. When he went back to performing the jokes the way he’d intended to, he had great show after great show, and an important lesson manifested: “Just being myself was so important to the craft that I was getting into.”

Anubhav Singh Bassi — Putting Everyday Life on Trial (2020)

  • The lawyer-turned-standup-comedian Anubhav Singh Bassi reminds viewers that comparing yourself to others almost always causes dissatisfaction. “Jab ek baar college se nikloge na, tumhe har dusre bande ki job acchi lag rahi hogi. (Once you’re out of college, every other person’s job will look good to you.),” he states. After all, appearances can be deceptive, he says, as those with particularly terrible jobs work overtime to project professional satisfaction and a sense of importance.
  • On finding what makes you happy, he recommends a simple test. “Agar voh kaam karne mein tum junoon nahi laga paa rahe ho aur raat ko sone se pehle tumhe sukoon nahi mil raha toh voh kaam chod do. (If you have no passion for your job and you aren’t content when you go to sleep at night, leave that job.)”

Kunal Rao — What Would You Do? (2016)

  • The problem, Kunal Rao begins, is that we’re not just told what to do but also how to do it. “Nobody stops to ask you how you would do it,” Rao laments, talking about everything from travelling, studying for exams, wearing your shoes. As a result, the comedian says, that we have low self-esteem. In this 9-minute talk, Rao encourages listeners to stop and re-imagine the ways in which you’ve been told to do things and find out how you would do them instead.

Vaibhav Sethia — Choosing to Do What You Love (2016)

  • Everyone tells you to do what you love but how do you know what you love? Vaibhav Sethia believes that love is creating something that keeps evolving. “When I’m writing a joke, I’m creating a joke every day and I see it evolve in front of a room of people, then if it doesn’t work, I go work on it. And it’s an instant reaction. It gives me the happiness and motivation to go further, it challenges me every day, every second,” he illustrates with an example.

Zakir Khan — Construction of a Joke (2015)

  • Zakir Khan’s ‘Construction of a Joke’ focuses on his experience dealing with the insecurities that eventually went on to shape him and his work. He says he does not agree with the theory that ignoring naysayers or bullies is the best way to deal with them. He continues, “Main uske against hoon. Mere yeh maan na hain ki ruk, sun, dhyaan de, ladh. (I am against that. I believe that it’s important to stop, listen, focus and fight.)”

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