Turning Tragedy Into Comedy: Daahab Chishti On Her Debut Solo Show ‘Alive’

By Shantanu Sanzgiri 15 February 2024 5 mins read

Comedian Daahab Chishti opens up about turning her traumatic COVID-19 experience into comedy and her debut solo show titled 'Alive'.

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For true-blue Indian comedy fans, Daahab Chishti was a name that was on the rise in 2021. It was all going extremely well for the comedian who was also selected for season 3 of Amazon Prime Video’s Comicstaan and was leading the charts. But things went south once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The comedian was diagnosed with the illness and spent four months in the ICU. But she beat all odds and the godforsaken virus and made a stellar comeback! After getting back on stage and releasing her debut YouTube video in September last year, Chishti is now levelling up and performing her first solo show Alive. Currently, the comedian is taking things slow, punching up the hour one show at a time, before going on to announce an India tour. Before the comedian regales Mumbai with her stories on 24 February we spoke with her about turning trauma into jokes, what the new show is about and her personal favourite comedians from the Indian scene.

What’s the show about?

Basically, I’ve divided the show into three parts. It’s about the things I think about now that I’m alive, what I’ve seen in life and about my experience in the hospital. The show ends with me talking about how I’m still here and the friends who helped me power through my illness. I also talk about love, getting friendzoned and a little about sex education in the set. And then I look at what’s going on around us through a political lens in a subtle way. But the core of the show is me being alive and the things that happened with me.

What was the idea behind calling the show ‘Alive’?

The idea was obviously that I was in the ICU for four months when I was suffering from COVID-19 and I’m still alive. Another funny reason I kept this name is because I think I’ve only been saved because there’s a worse fate waiting for me. *laughs* The universe is like, “Itni aasani se tujhe jaane nahi denge.”(We won’t let you go so easily.”)

Are you looking to tour with this show?

To be very honest, currently I’m just working on making this a tight hour. I am planning on releasing some more videos this year as well. If things work in my favour, I’ll definitely tour but as of now nothing is planned as such. It’s not as easy as it sounds to sell tickets now. Previously, tickets would sell only because it was a comedy show. Now people want A-listers on the lineup. It’s not like nothing gets sold but a large amount of promotion is needed to sell tickets for a tour. But if things go according to plan, then why not?

A lot of comedians are using Instagram reels to promote their tours and shows. Are you also going to do the same?

I mainly only release crowd work on Instagram, not my written jokes. But now that I’m also noticing this trend of pushing out material to promote shows, I might do it as well. Personally, I was not very keen on putting out my material on Instagram because it’s not particularly revenue generating. I feel like pushing out a nice video on YouTube and then cutting shorter reels from that is a better approach. Or you can put out a joke which you know doesn’t fit into your set and want to discard it. So, I’m not writing shorter jokes specifically for Instagram like a lot of other comics are. But I might just have to do it later in the year because that’s the only way to market yourself. There’s no other choice.

Is this your first solo show?

Yes, this is the first time I’m doing an hour-long show. Honestly, after my illness it’s difficult for me to do such long shows because my lungs don’t function at maximum capacity anymore. It looks like I’m perfectly fine but I still have some breathing issues. So I run out of breath while standing and talking. So I’m working towards regaining my stamina. While performing the show I have only one motive—kill toh theek hai, khadi rahu bas. That’s how I measure my progress.

Are you also doing physical therapy to regain your lung capacity?

Actually, you know what? Even the doctors are not sure about this. They’re just amazed that I’m still breathing and alive. They still don’t know if I’ll ever fully recover or no. They used to say, “Haan haan, ho jayega.” But now I think they’ve given up. *laughs* But you know what the positive side of this entire illness was? I lost 24 kgs which would never have happened otherwise.

So, as someone who is using their bad experiences to churn out jokes, what’s your take on turning tragedy and trauma into comedy?

It’s not at all easy. Even in my current show I do a small segment about the pandemic and it’s not at all easy to get through it. Not just because of what I went through but there are so many people who also experienced so many hardships. There are audience members who say please don’t talk about it, we have bad memories. So I did cut down a lot of material. But before that I used to do a show called Meri Kahani Sunoge? just to get everything out of my system. It wasn’t a comedy show. It was just a retelling of my story of being on the sets of Comicstaan to being in the hospital to getting back up on stage. The sole purpose behind doing this show was to see if I break down while saying those things. There are still days when I go through PTSD. So it’s all a slow process. It’s definitely not easy to turn your jokes into trauma. Because it also depends on the intensity of what you went through and for me that was pretty much being on the brink of death. But I’m glad I have a medium to vent about it.

So do you think one day you’ll perform a show only about this experience?

I’ll be very honest with you, I look at this from a very selfish perspective. How many COVID-19 survivor comedians do you know who have a special? So the premises I have, nobody else can even imagine that. I’ve also decided that I will make a film about all this. I’ve even thought of the title and everything. But it will obviously have comedic elements. Are you seeing how we comedians think? Even when I was in the hospital my comic friends were telling me, “Solo leke bahar aana.” I was like, “Zinda nikal aau woh zaruri nahi hai?”

Other than working on this show, what have you been up to? Who are some of the comedians you enjoy watching personally?

It’s the same old. Writing comedy and performing. But when it comes to watching comedy, there are 2-3 comedians who I absolutely love. Prashasti Singh, Shreeja Chaturvedi and Devesh Dixit—inn teeno ko dekhne mein mujhe bahut maza aata hai. I can watch them anywhere and at any time. These are the specific comics who can brighten up my mood even if I’m down in the dumps. All three of them are unique, they don’t rush for laughs and have a very different perspective towards their problems. When they’re on stage it doesn’t feel like they’ve only written a premise and a punchline. They are probably the same even off stage and those kind of comics I really like. Obviously, it’s a lot of hard work to get there but I really love them. I also like Varun Grover and got the opportunity to open for him. He not only appreciates your comedy but also pays you to open. Ab mujhe apne saare favourites yaad aa rahe hai. I really like Anirban Dasgupta, Pratyush Chaubey, Abhishek Upmanyu. Mere ko aap ab bura feel kara rahe ho yeh sawal karke.

To catch Chishti live in action, book your tickets here.


Shantanu Sanzgiri


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