Next Big Thing is a series where we talk to comedians who haven’t quite broken out online or as live acts yet. These are the names you want to watch out for if you want boasting rights later about having seen them start out.
Twenty-one-year-old Samay Raina was born in Jammu but grew up in Hyderabad where his family shifted when he was a young boy. He discovered comedy when he shifted to Pune to enrol for a course in printing engineering. Raina competed at an open mic in Pune in August 2017, whose winner was assured a slot at the Pune Comedy Festival that year. He placed second, out of around 100 contestants, and so didn’t make it to the festival.
But he was hooked to comedy, and became a regular on the Pune scene, while also doing slots regularly in Mumbai. Raina was quickly recognised as one of the brightest new talents on the scene. By the next edition of the Pune Comedy Festival, he had made enough of a name for himself that he was picked to perform 8 minutes at a 6 pm slot, before a crowd of around 3,000—a moment he considers a highlight of his fledgeling career.
“By the time this Pune Comedy Festival in 2018 happened, I had already made a name and got a spot without any competition or anything,” he said. “That was one of the biggest audiences I performed to.” He considers it one of his biggest achievements so far. “Pune Comedy Fest 1, I was just watching and getting inspired in the audience and Pune Comedy Fest 2, I was performing,” he added.
1. What words have people used to describe your comedy?
Fresh? A lot of people have said fresh. Impactful.
2. What do you love about the scene right now?
It makes you feel like you’re worth something. And there’s so much hustle. That feeling of hustle always motivates you. There’s so much to learn from everybody.
3. How many minutes do you have right now?
4. A recent bit you saw that blew your mind?
Andrew Schulz’s skydiving bit.
5. Your current favourite Indian comedian?
6. Your current favourite international comedian?
7. An Indian comedy bit on YouTube you’ve watched at least five times?
Manik Mahna’s ‘Classmates’.
8. An international comedy bit on YouTube you’ve watched at least five times?
‘What to do when you see a bear’, by Andrew Schulz.
9. An Indian comedian you think is underrated?
Rohan Desai. He has a bit on YouTube which is very very very smart. It’s just crazy. Not many people in the audience have watched that, only many comics have watched it. But I really wish that the audience would watch it because they would lose their minds.
10. An international comic who is underrated?
Andrew Schulz is just getting famous right now but many people don’t know him. I feel he deserves how much guys like Bill Burr sell, he should be selling that much also.
11. Do you have any rituals before you go up on stage?
For one minute, I isolate myself and look at my material. What am I going to perform today, and how long I’m going to perform. For one minute I need to be isolated. I can’t just be talking randomly and then “Ok bye, I’m going on stage.”
12. Who do you test your jokes on?
My comic friend Tarang Hardikar. And apart from that my roommate, who’s a non-comic. I always feel that there should be one comic and one non-comic. To have different perspectives. This guy who’s not a comic always gives me the true feedback of an audience. There’s always this one comic buddy everyone has. The moment you write a joke, I can’t always call my roommate, he’ll get fed up. But Taran is also doing comedy, so we both share each others’ bits.
13. What songs do you have on loop right now?
Naezy’s ‘Asal Hustle’. Oh my god, what a song. I’ve been playing it for two days, literally every hour.
Apart from that, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ live, oh my god.
14. What’s the first joke you performed that got a laugh?
It was a stupid joke. I’m Kashmiri, and people think Kashmiris get high. But we don’t get high, we get stoned. You can totally mention the joke. I’ve stopped doing it, it’s a silly joke.
15. What mode of transport do you use to get to a show?
My scooter. It’s always there. After a good show, if I’ve killed and destroyed, and the audience is taking photos of me… and then I go back on scooter, then uss vakt ek gaadi honi chahiye.
16. Have you ever performed a show while you were high?
I was once drunk while performing, and I was repeating my jokes. And that was a great misstep that inspired me to write a joke which I used to do.
17. What’s the weirdest place you’ve performed at so far?
I performed at a marriage bidaai (a Hindu wedding ceremony, where the bride leaves her parental home). Oh my god. Her mother had just danced over there, and she was all crying. And I went and bombed. So much so that after five minutes, the organiser had to come and say “Ok, we’ll just stop it right here.” I was like “Paise?” And he was like, “No you’ll get full money. Just you leave.” It was so terribly bad.
18. What social media platform are you most active on?
19. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far about being a comedian?
Don’t listen to what other comics say.
20. One thing Indian comedians should stop making jokes about?
Things that are not genuine. Some comic sees some foreign comic crack a joke about something that suits their culture. And then they go and try to do it, thinking that it will work here. Like you see ek dum desi banda hoga,Dilli wala banda hoga, jo ek dum “Aur bhai!” aise baat karte hai and then he goes on stage and says, ‘So, a paedophile walks into a bar.’ So it doesn’t go with that flow.”