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Next Big Thing: Govind Menon on his Cat, Local Trains & A Web Series He Thought We’d All Forgotten About

By Jaanvi Advani 20 September 2019

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“I just didn’t explore other options. Probably should have <laughs>.”
Govind Menon started doing comedy because he was doing the “most useless educational course” there is, Mass Media. Always looking for a way to pass the time, he gave standup a shot at college festivals. After graduation, he started working under Aakash Mehta at The Hive to program comedy shows, where he also performed his four minutes every now and then. “This was one of the perks of working there…If you can call it that <laughs> because there was no money involved.”

Now a familiar name on line-ups across the city, Menon’s come a long way from doing it for a laugh to making it his full-time profession (and now counting on the laughs).

1. What words have people used to describe your comedy?

Well, stupid. Someone did say that. And pointless. There are no jokes on politics. Nothing that’ll change anyone’s opinions about anything. Basically, it’s just me fucking up in different areas of my life.

2. What do you love about the scene right now?

The number of shows. When I was with The Hive, there was one show a week. Actually we had two open mics on the same day—one at Canvas and the other at Hive. So we had like four shows a month. I couldn’t work my material, couldn’t write more. Now there are like 10 shows a day! You think you’re in a proper scene when you can go from one show to another. It feels like you’re in a professional job.

3. How many minutes do you have right now?

Right now, I have half an hour. I keep cutting down. I used to have 45 minutes but I keep removing material that I’m either bored of or has stopped working.

4. A recent bit you saw that blew your mind?

There’s this bit by Nate Bargatze on horses. It’s a story he does on how he saw a dead horse. I like the guy and the way he performs. I’m trying to do a story right now and I like people who can do stories properly.

5. Your current favourite Indian comedian?

Kanan Gill.

6. An Indian comedy bit on YouTube you’ve watched at least five times?

Kanan [Gill]’s special on Amazon. Not five times, but a lot of times, yeah.

7. An international comedian you think is underrated?

A lot of Andrew Schulz. I actually enjoy this one bit called When A Girl Loves Giving Head <chuckles> I’m so sorry, I haven’t named it. (Can you use that?)

8. An Indian comedian you think is underrated?

Well, ME! Other than me, I can say Andy Reghu. But other than me.

9. An international comedian you think is underrated?

Again, I’m a huge fan of Nate Bargatze. So him, again. And Mark Normand, I think he’s really underrated.

11. Do you have any rituals before you go up on stage?

I used to listen to a voice recording of whatever bit I was going to perform. But then I realised that just made me not feel good because I hate my voice. <Interviewer empathises while transcribing this> Right now there’s no rituals. I smoke a cigarette to calm myself down. But that’s about it.

12. Who do you test your jokes on?

It depends on the joke. If I’m really not confident of a joke, I slip it into conversations with non-comedian friends. Comedians are the worst critics. I don’t test my jokes on them. The only time that happens is if I want to test a joke really bad, but I don’t have any non-comedians around me. And if they say no, I know it’ll work on stage. It’s always happened. I don’t know if it’s jealousy?

13. What songs do you have on loop right now?

Baby Boy by Childish Gambino.

13. What’s the first joke you performed that got you a laugh?

Umm, well, does a giggle count? There’s a joke about CID. It’s about how in every episode they’re surprised that there’s been a murder. I mean, it’s your job and you’ve been doing it for 16 years, why are you still surprised? This used to get some laughs, then it stopped. It’s the first one that worked.

14. What mode of transport do you use to get to a show? Ok, actually we know it’s the train. Is that where you come up with your content?

Hahaha. Yeah, a lot of it because I spend a lot of time on the train. Like two hours going and coming from shows. That’s a lot of time and nothing to do. If not written content, Instagram stories. Something. (I take an Uber after 1.30 am when the trains stop running, if you must know.)

15. Have you ever performed a show while you were high?

A lot of times actually. I mean, not drunk. I don’t perform well when I’m drunk so I stopped doing that. But the other illegal substances <laughs> not substances, just weed. I mean it’s okay, I guess.

16. What’s the weirdest place you’ve performed at so far?

I’ve performed at a 14-year-old’s birthday party. These were all kids from Dhirubai Ambani. They lived at Napeansea Road, the richest of the rich. I had a joke on a Gujarati commercial. I was like wow, there’s no way they’ll know what I’m saying. Their social media looks nothing like mine. I was supposed to do half an hour but I ended up doing about 50 minutes. After a point, I just started making fun of the cool kids. I knew that’d get laughs because they couldn’t make fun of the cool kids, right? Because they’re cool kids. But I can.

The same producer who gave me this show called up the next week and said, “Hey, there’s a 12-year-old celebrating now…” but that just wasn’t my audience, I did it only for the money.

17. What social media platform are you most active on?

Instagram. I used to not be active on Twitter but then my tweets started getting some attention, so now that too. But mostly Instagram.

18. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far about being a comedian?

Well, Biswa [Kalyan Rath] and Aziz [Ansari] said the same thing. Ansari took us out for butter chicken rolls after his secret set (yeah, that happened). He just said, “Put shit out on YouTube.” Even Biswa said that, he used to do it back in Bangalore. Something will work. And I hope so too. I’ve put out four videos. I hope the next one works. <laughs>

19. One thing Indian comedians should stop making jokes about?

Nothing, nothing at all. They should just stop making bad jokes There shouldn’t be a filter, that’s the whole point of comedy. I mean you can’t do jokes on everything. Please don’t put this [in your article]. <nervous laughter> You should be able to everything in comedy.

20. Tell us about your cat, Mangesh and why he’s jumping out of windows?

THRICE! He did that thrice! I don’t know why he does this. The first time he was just small so he fell down, which is fine.

The second time my neighbour’s kid wanted to see him. So the kid came in and my cat didn’t wanna see him. But the kid was persistent, he kept going near the cat. And the cat was like, “Eh, fuck you. I don’t wanna see you.” And then he jumped. I don’t know why he thought this was his only option. To jump! From the fifth floor! And I had to go get him. The kid was traumatised, he’d never seen this level of rejection. He’s five.

The third time, I genuinely don’t know why he jumped. I don’t know. And he’s really fat. I feed him a lot. Just give him food when he asked for it. Turns out, you’re not supposed to do that. So he doesn’t get hurt. The first time he got a little hurt. But the other two times, nothing. Not even a scratch. NOTHING. I just had to go down and get him and we’d behave like nothing happened.

Also, Mangesh, I’d like to clarify, I did name him as a joke. But I did have a cat before—I went to the vet with her and they asked me her name but I didn’t know. So they wrote “Kitty” and that cat died in 10 days and then I got Mangesh. I took him to the vet, and then the vet asked, “What’s his name now?” And I was like, I can’t keep bringing in cats with no names. I’d met my driver the previous day and his name was Mangesh…it’s the first thing that came to my head. He’s not even my driver anymore, I don’t love him THAT much…

21. What was it like acting in 2by3?

Oh god, oh god. I didn’t think anyone would remember this show. It was good, I thought it would work <sobs and laughs>. I thought it would change my life but it really didn’t.

Except for two people in the train, which is where I usually meet people, recognised me as the guy from 2by3. I was like, “Yeah, dude!” Two people.

And once, two girls walked past me, looked at me and said, “That guy!” Yeah, that’s the level of recognition I wanted after a whole web-series.

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