South Asian Times: “Person of the Week”
When Rahul Siddharth isn’t thinking of creative strategies to promote high end brands such as Gucci, Prada or Tiffany & Co, he’s busy in front of the mic spreading smiles and making people laugh. A creative genius he easily shuttles between being a standup comedian and an executive creative director at One Source VMS and excels at both.
Rahul has won seventeen Creative Excellence Awards in the last seven years and has appeared on Oxygen Network, HGTV, WPAX, American Desi TV, and his short
film “A Close Shave” has been seen on Comedy Central and www.iFilm.com. In an exclusive chat with SATimes Rahul revealed his creative and funny intellect.
SAT: How and when did you get interested in comedy?
Rahul: I come from a family that loves to laugh and tell jokes. And everyone has their own style. My dad, mom, grand-father, uncles and my sister everyone is funny. I’d
say that comedy came naturally to me. I started writing my own acts when I was around 16 and I took to the mike. Though my parents tried to talk me out of it, they would have been happier if I had been a computer scientist, a doctor or an engineer - I kind of listened to their advice but I did pretty well and they are proud of me today. The thing I like about standup is that it’s an art form and its all mine. I carry my jokes with me all the time. It isn’t like a painting or a sculpture that you make and then exhibit - your jokes and scripts are a part of you and wherever you go they go with you.
SAT: Do you have a target audience?
Rahul: I perform in front of American crowds, Indian audiences everyone. I try to move my jokes as per the audience. When I say something like ‘I have a mother and she loves to nag,’ everyone identifies with it.
SAT: What is it that about standup that gives you satisfaction?
Rahul: Writing my own jokes and making them work is what gives me immense happiness. When you write your own joke there’s 20 percent chance that it will work,
so it’s a huge risk that you are taking but that’s the challenge. You try it the first time it doesn’t work, you analyze why it didn’t work and then try to make it work. I find that whole process of writing something new and making it work challenging.
SAT: Where do you look for your jokes?
Rahul: To be a good comedian you have to be very observant. I rely a lot on word play, relationships, people watching and conversations for my jokes. Whenever I am
with a group of friends or among family I play the observer and record all of it in my mind and then use it in my jokes. Comedy is all about finding the unexpected surprise. I’m a big people watcher so that’s where I get most of my material.
SAT: Do you have any favorite topics?
Rahul: I love talking about relationships and people. We South Asians are innately very romantic people - look at our movies, films and literature. We all want to be in love and a lot of times we don’t get the love that we want. So we like jokes on relationships, the struggles between a married couple trying to strike a balance or quarrelling siblings.
SAT: When you began your career what are the challenges that you faced?
Rahul: Standup comedy was always considered as an American male sport. So there was this time when you had all these white American guys telling jokes. Most of these jokes were about single guys talking about heart-break or ex-girlfriends or married guys talking about their wives. But now the trend has changed the audiences are looking for diversity. People laugh when they identify with your jokes; they want to hear Indian jokes but not the corny ones. You have to make them think and challenge their intellect. Especially when you are performing in New York City, the crowd there is very smart - if I do something corny they’ll just boo me. They want to be challenged.
SAT: Who are the comedians that you look up to?
Rahul: I love Chris Rock, John Stewart and Jerry Seinfeld and Dennis Miller. I like Seinfeld because he’s so politically savvy, intellectually challenging and polished. I
even admire Jon Stewart, I think he’s extremely professional and his timing is so impeccable.
SAT: You have also worked on a short film, “A close shave” tell us something about it?
Rahul: I’m a very creative person and I love to be associated with creative projects. I’m constantly working on something or the other. I acted, directed, produced and
scripted “A Close Shave,” - the inspiration of the film was how a person feels after breaking-up.
SAT: You work at an advertising agency and you do standup how do you balance both?
Rahul: It is tough and takes a lot of energy. Moreover I got married last year so now I have a third job - my wife. But if you’re passionate about something you find
time for it. Comedy is a part of my everyday life. I get a lot of joy from it. I do wish I could go more on stage, but now I perform for larger audiences and I travel a lot on weekends for my gigs. Recently I performed at the Boston Bhangra event and it was a huge success.
SAT: People say South Asians are too serious and don’t laugh at themselves. What’s your say?
Rahul: I don’t think so, I think most of us have an incredible sense of humor it’s just that we are not always willing to share it which is a shame. Have you ever encountered a Punjabi drinking group - they are hilarious. I think the younger generation has a wicked sense of humor. I think it’s the older generation that is a bit more serious but that is because they have seen some tough times. Most of them came to the US with nothing and struggled to make a living here. They were busy trying to make ends meet and survive here and you got to respect them for that. Our generation is very fortunate, our parents worked hard for us.
SAT: Do you have any message for our readers?
Rahul: I’d like to say that all of us have a very creative side to us and we owe it to the world, to our families and to ourselves to express it. And the Western world is hungry for that. Most of us are so focused in our day jobs that we ignore our creative urges, so my message would be to discover your passion and follow it. Whatever it is that stimulates you creatively - playing guitar, taking pictures, writing a blog, writing a book just do that. You never know where it may lead you to. Cottage industry is taking off in a big way today and those who are dabbling in handicrafts and tribal designs are doing so well. Working at one source visual marketing solutions has been such a boon to me I get to express myself productively and creatively. I think we should all give ourselves a chance, you would never know it unless you try it!