Over the six years he’s been doing standup, Tarang Hardikar has earned a reputation among his fellow comedians as one of the scene’s most promising young voices, thanks in large part to his restless on-stage gesturing and his unique delivery. A regular on the Mumbai circuit, Hardikar has been working to perfect his solo debut Line Is Not A Line. A week ahead of his first YouTube release, DeadAnt caught up with Hardikar to know more about his journey so far. From his favourite comedians to the best advice he’s received so far, here’s everything you need to know about the comedian.
1. WHAT WORDS HAVE PEOPLE USED TO DESCRIBE YOUR COMEDY?
Weird, absurd, unique and heh?
2. WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE SCENE RIGHT NOW?
I think after the lockdown, people have really sobered down. Green-room conversations are much more positive. More comics have started opening their own rooms—because many rooms closed down—and [are] making their own stage time however they can. I like that because then you can experiment more.
3. HOW MANY MINUTES DO YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW?
I have exactly an hour of material. I have done this hour as a solo four times till now. Every time I do it, it’s the most satisfying feeling in the world because it feels like everything you have wanted to say through your individual bits is finally coming together.
4. WHEN ARE YOU LAUNCHING YOUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL?
Next week! I am putting out my first standup video on Youtube. It’s a set about chess. I have been doing this set for five years now, and after consulting with my therapist I have finally decided to let it go and move on.
5. A RECENT BIT YOU SAW THAT BLEW YOUR MIND?
James Acaster’s recent special Cold Lasagna Hate Myself 1999 has some bits that fully blow my mind. There’s a bit in there where he talks about how British people don’t like their tea in transparent glasses because they only like to see the top of the tea. He then proceeds to go into an oddly sexual monologue about their love for the top of the tea. Beautiful.
6. YOUR CURRENT FAVOURITE INDIAN COMEDIAN?
Kanan Gill. He just keeps getting better and better. His new special is so inspiring to me as a comic. Biswa also, because I have not seen anyone be so present on stage. Even if I know his joke, I feel like I am watching it for the first time every time because he improvises a lot.
7. YOUR CURRENT FAVOURITE INTERNATIONAL COMEDIAN?
James Acaster. I relate to that man on so many levels. His personality is something I feel spiritually connected to. A kid who has become an adult but has so much of a problem with the real world. Plus he plays around with joke structure so much.
8. AN INDIAN COMEDY BIT ON YOUTUBE YOU’VE SEEN AT LEAST FIVE TIMES?
One Bucket Bath by Kenny Sebastian. I’ve probably seen it over 20 times.
9. AN INTERNATIONAL COMEDY BIT ON YOUTUBE YOU’VE WATCHED AT LEAST FIVE TIMES?
There’s a video called Jerry Seinfeld Does His Best Tight Five. He talks about movie seats, doughnut holes, and babies and it’s too good. It’s my go-to comfort watch.
10. AN INDIAN COMIC YOU THINK IS UNDERRATED?
Shamik Chakrabarti. His writing is so thoughtful and imaginative. I learn so much whenever he’s on stage.
11. AN INTERNATIONAL COMIC YOU THINK IS UNDERRATED?
Guy Montgomery and Zack Zucher. Guy is a New Zealand-based comic. Something about his delivery is so weird and cool. Zach Zucker is an American comic who plays a stand-up comic called Jack Tucker. It’s hard to describe it unless you watch him. I got a chance to see him live when he came to India.
12. DO YOU HAVE ANY RITUALS BEFORE YOU GO ON STAGE?
I don’t talk to anyone for 10 minutes. Right from when the act before me goes on stage, I isolate myself. I have realised that when I am talking to people in real life I have a lot of defences up. When I go on stage having just talked to someone I feel very anxious. I have to put those defences down and then start expressing myself.
13. ARE THERE ANY HYPE SONGS, IN PARTICULAR, YOU’D RECOMMEND?
I have a playlist that I listen to right before and after my solos. But I would for sure recommend – Remember The Name by Fort Minor. Encore by Jay Z and Rigormortis by Kendrick Lamar.
14. WHAT SONGS DO YOU HAVE ON LOOP RIGHT NOW?
I love hip-hop. I get obsessed with albums and right now it is Section 80 by Kendrick Lamar. It is the perfect mix of storytelling, giving a message, and some banger self-esteem-boosting bars.
15. WHO DO YOU TEST YOUR JOKES ON?
I directly take it to the stage. I don’t like telling my jokes to people in person because my real-life persona is very different from my stage persona. I write them down, maybe perform them to myself in my head and then do them on stage.
16. WHAT’S THE FIRST JOKE YOU PERFORMED THAT GOT A LAUGH?
I had written a joke about ordering food at Subway. I used to do a whole act out of me being very nervous and the person behind the counter giving me 400 options of sauces to choose from.
17. WHAT MODE OF TRANSPORT DO YOU USE TO GET TO A SHOW?
It’s changed a lot over the years. I used to cycle to open mics from my college campus at one point. Producers used to feel bad for me and give me a spot even if I didn’t have one, so it was a win-win. Then I used to come to Mumbai from Pune in shared cabs for a couple of years and the same thing used to happen with Mumbai producers. Basically, I’ve got a lot of spots just based on pure guilt. Now I travel comfortably by cab and nobody cares.
18. HAVE YOU EVER PERFORMED A SHOW WHILE HIGH?
Yes. I didn’t drink at the time. I was 19. There was a show called Comedians Do Shots and I just wanted stage time so I asked for a spot. The format was, every time a joke doesn’t work, you take a shot. I did my first joke. And that’s the only memory I have of the night.
19. WHAT’S THE WEIRDEST PLACE YOU’VE PERFORMED AT SO FAR?
Me and my friend, Advit Mohunta, had to go to a hill in Pune during the lockdown when mics weren’t happening. We asked whichever group of people had come hiking if they wanted to hear some jokes. We would then do 3 minutes each. I met some of my harshest critics there. The hills have a ruthless audience.
20. WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED SO FAR ABOUT BEING A COMEDIAN?
Don’t let anyone tell you how to write your jokes and perform them. It’s the best thing I’ve heard and it applies even today. It’s easy to start pleasing comics and producers when you are in the circuit. So when they say something it becomes a big deal to you. But just do your own thing. Stand-up is an individual art form.
21. ONE THING INDIAN COMEDIANS SHOULD STOP JOKING ABOUT?
I get very tired of hearing political jokes that don’t offer a fresh perspective. I’m all for political comedy if you are saying something people haven’t already thought about. But rehashing the same political jokes in different ways to get a reaction from the crowd bothers me.
22. WHAT IS YOUR GOAL WITH YOUR FIRST COMEDY SPECIAL?
The goal is very simple. I want to tell [people] why I think the way I think. All my bits tend to take a certain path of me questioning very basic concepts. I want to get to the bottom of why I do that and convey that to the world. Hence the title: Line Is Not A Line.