Icon of the Indian comedy scene and University of Oxford graduate, Papa CJ braced the Perth International Comedy Festival with his show NAKED. A shift away from his usual work, CJ brings a layer of vulnerability here, leaving the audience in tears for all the right reasons.
Forbes magazine calls CJ “the global face of Indian stand-up”, and indeed he has been taking the comedy scene by storm. His work has been broadcast on NBC, BBC, Comedy Central, MTV and a plethora of other networks. Most notably, he was a finalist in the American television show Last Comic Standing, besting a pool of over 3000 contestants.
The stage design for NAKED was different to that of a traditional stand-up show. On top of a small table lay a modest looking brown suitcase, and behind that a plain coat rack. This centrepiece became integral to the content of the show, as he pulled props from it to aid his storytelling and delivery.
From the beginning of the show, CJ’S beaming smile graced the audience, and it was hard to feel as if you weren’t already friends with him. The sustained banter with the crowd through the entirety of the show was most certainly a highlight and a success. Although it was a regular part of the show, it never felt like it was compensating for actual material, and in fact only improved the experience.
CJ told stories of his life in Kolkata, the struggles of making mixtapes for girls, and lively adventures of drunk-driving comedians in Leicester. Dotted in-between these zany tales CJ would bring to light a more intimate part of his life, and at the end of each tale would remove an item of clothing and hang it on the coat rack behind him. This resemble being naked in both the physical and emotional sense.
This show thrives in its nakedness. The vulnerability in CJ’s material about his childhood in India, to the downward spiral brought about by his divorce, could at times transcend the boundaries of age and cultural backgrounds. While I certainly thought that the transitions from the humorous and self-deprecating material to the more serious subjects was sometimes jarring, CJ made an insightful point about it all in his closing. Just like NAKED, life has no clean and smooth segue from the good to the bad, and to make an impact in the time that you have. In terms of the show, that is certainly true in more ways than one.
Words by Sophie Minissale